Beyond belief : Strategic taboos and organizational identity in strategic agenda setting

Hoon, Christina; Jacobs, Claus Dietrich (2014). Beyond belief : Strategic taboos and organizational identity in strategic agenda setting. Strategic Organization, 12(4), pp. 244-273. London: Sage 10.1177/1476127014544092

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A comprehensive strategic agenda matters for fundamental strategic change. Our study seeks to explore and theorize how organizational identity beliefs influence the judgment of strategic actors when setting an organization's strategic agenda. We offer the notion of "strategic taboo" as those strategic options initially disqualified and deemed inconsistent with the organizational identity beliefs of strategic actors. Our study is concerned with how strategic actors confront strategic taboos in the process of setting an organization's strategic agenda. Based on a revelatory inductive case study, we find that strategic actors engage in assessing the concordance of the strategic taboos with organizational identity beliefs and, more specifically, that they focus on key identity elements (philosophy; priorities; practices) when doing so. We develop a typology of three reinterpretation practices that are each concerned with a key identity element. While contextualizing assesses the potential concordance of a strategic taboo with an organization's overall philosophy and purpose, instrumentalizing assesses such concordance with respect to what actors deem an organization's priorities to be. Finally, normalizing explores concordance with respect to compatibility and fit with the organization's practices. We suggest that assessing concordance of a strategic taboo with identity elements consists in reinterpreting collective identity beliefs in ways that make them consistent with what organizational actors deem the right course of action. This article discusses the implications for theory and research on strategic agenda setting, strategic change, a practice-based perspective on strategy, and on organizational identity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


11 Centers of Competence > KPM Center for Public Management

UniBE Contributor:

Jacobs, Claus Dietrich


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 350 Public administration & military science








Claus Dietrich Jacobs

Date Deposited:

01 May 2015 15:45

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:51

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Organizational identity beliefs; strategic agenda setting; strategic options; strategic taboo




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