Senior managers' business knowledge in a transition economy

Woldesenbet, Kassa; Storey, John and Salaman, John (2007). Senior managers' business knowledge in a transition economy. Management Research News, 30(4) pp. 252–270.



Purpose – To explore senior managers’ knowledge and thinking about strategy and organisational capabilities, and developments of both during a time of transition.

Design/methodology/approach – Interpretive case research based on semi-structured interviews with 44 senior managers in a number of business organisations in Ethiopia supplemented by secondary sources.

Findings – Senior managers had a narrow and contingent knowledge of, and interaction with, the external environment. The notion of ‘‘strategy’’ was problematical for them. Managers’ knowing of their environment and organisational aspects were differentiated, context specific and subject to changes and reinterpretations depending on shifting roles, responsibilities and changing contexts.

Research limitations/implications – This research sheds light on how assumptions about the often ‘‘taken-for-grantedness’’ of the strategic ‘‘manageability’’ of change by senior managers may be exaggerated. This was revealed, at one extreme, in this research but it may extend also into other situations in varying degrees. In this and other ways the study of senior Ethiopian managers could be used as a way to reflect back upon conventional thinking about strategizing in other contexts.

Practical implications – The research can help managers gain insight into how their everyday ways of knowing and seeing are unnecessarily limited and constrained.

Originality/value – Work in business knowledge is just commencing and hence its continuity would further both scholars’ and practitioners’ understanding of the knowledge work of managers in varied contexts and environments.

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