Strategic management in the public sector: An interpretive study of the application of strategic management practices in the local authorities in Malaysia

Yusoff, Mazlan

Business
July 2008

Thesis or dissertation


Rights
© 2008 Mazlan Yusoff. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
Abstract

This research examines strategic management practices in local government in Malaysia. It offers an understanding of how actors construe and enact principles of strategic management in their organisations. Taking a qualitative and interpretive approach, and as part of the ‘micro-turn’ in the study of strategy, this thesis presents empirical insights into three important areas in the field of strategic management, namely, strategic positioning; approaches to strategy development; and the nature of organisational strategy in the Local Authorities (LAs) in Malaysia. Its contribution is to illuminate key aspects of local practice within this important part of the Malaysian public sector.An interpretive approach is employed in an attempt to uncover the dynamics of strategy processes in the LAs, by engaging with the discourses of senior managers to grasp the beliefs, intuitions, assumptions and preferences which shape their approaches to strategic management in their organisations and their wider contexts.This research takes LAs in Malaysia as the setting. Effective strategic management in local government organisations is vital, not least given their significant roles in dealing directly with the public at the frontline. Efforts to strengthen the LAs have been placed centre stage by the Malaysian government, manifested by recurring calls to revisit and reexamine various aspects of their management to meet their objectives and fulfil stakeholders’ needs. However, to date, little research has been undertaken on how important elements of strategic management unfold and develop within these institutions. This research seeks to bridge this gap.Part of the originality of this research has been its attempt to conduct enquiry at the intersection of political science and organisation studies, and thus, to advance the interpretive framework in the field of strategic management. This is done by reflecting on and analysing a mélange of complex and diverse actor narratives that give insights into how people understand their organisations, based on their webs of beliefs, signified through their expressions and discourses. This study’s critical engagement with structure-agency debates means that it includes analytical attention to the importance of the wider context in which state organisations are situated.The key argument of the thesis is that strategy making in the LAs in Malaysia is fundamentally a political and contested process. This research provides empirical insights into the practices of public sector strategy, which move away from ‘mechanistic’ and ‘rationalist’ models of strategy making, which dominate much of the literature on strategic management. This study suggests that dilemmas and conflicts – two important constructs illuminating cultures and traditions in the LAs – have a strong link to the contested and political nature of the strategy making process.Looking from an interpretive lens, this research contends that LAs in Malaysia possess different characters; exist in different contexts; deal with different internal and external environments; are made up of different structures, skills and resources; and are run by different styles of leadership. As such, each of the LAs examined is imbued with different traditions; has inherited different legacies; is bestowed with different capacities; and embraces different sets of values and cultures. This research argues that it is from such a complex, intricate and dynamic context that strategic management emerges in these institutions.

Publisher
The Business School, The University of Hull
Supervisor
Orr, Kevin; Common, Richard
Sponsor (Organisation)
Public Service Department, Government of Malaysia
Qualification level
Doctoral
Qualification name
PhD
Language
English
Identifier
hull:1615
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