Richard Whittington

Richard Whittington

Professor of Strategic Management


Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street
Oxford
OX1 1HP

Profile

Richard is a leader in the field of Strategy-as-Practice research, having published the first paper in the field (1996).

The Strategy-as-Practice movement has revitalised research on strategic planning, with formally-recognised streams in such leading conferences as the Strategic Management Society, the Academy of Management, the European Group for Organizational Studies and the British Academy of Management.

Richard’s own research is exploring the recent ‘opening’ of strategy, as it becomes more transparent internally and externally, and involves a widening range of people from inside and outside the organisation. For example, he has found that companies are increasingly communicating about their strategy, with significant impacts upon share prices, both negative and positive. His study has implications for current public policy debates on short-termism in business, supporting the case for more long-term strategic communications to external audiences by senior executives.

Richard is author of two highly influential textbooks on strategy: Exploring Strategy, the biggest-selling textbook in Europe, and What is Strategy–and Does it matter? winner of the Management Consulting Association prize for the best management book of 1993. Exploring Strategy has sold more than one million copies and its tenth edition is now in preparation. His research has featured in the Financial Times, The Sunday Times and People Management. He has published in leading journals such as the Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science, Organization Studies and the Strategic Management Journal.

Richard is currently Associate Editor of the Strategic Management Journal. He has recently served on the Board of the Strategic Management Society, the international scholarly association of the strategy field, and as Chair of the Strategy as Practice interest group at the Academy of Management, the leading international management association.

Richard has held full or visiting appointments at Harvard Business School, HEC Paris, Imperial College, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Toulouse and Warwick Business School. He has a PhD from Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, an MBA from Aston Business School and MA in Modern History from Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy of Management.

Alongside his current role at Saïd Business School, Richard is a Fellow in Management at New College, Oxford.

Expertise:

  • Strategy
  • Strategy as practice
  • Organisational change
  • Strategic planning

Research

Richard’s writing includes contributions to the strategy field as a whole and more focused research on three themes.

These themes are: the evolution and history of the practice of strategic management; strategy communications; and the performance of strategy using physical artefacts and social skills.

Read Richard's research.

Engagement

Richard is an active supporter of moves to professionalise the practice of strategy making.

With the Strategic Planning Society in the UK, he recently co-convened a meeting at Saїd Business School of practitioners, leading academics, consultants, policy-makers and others with an interest in the field, to explore the issue.

‘There is much to be gained by both companies and by the economy as a whole, from professionalising the practice of strategy’ says Richard. ‘Strategy is changing, opening up and becoming more transparent and inclusive, and is making new demands upon its practitioners. Skills such as coaching, coordination and communication are increasingly central to effective strategy formulation and we must find ways to support practitioners in honing these skills and the others required by the challenging circumstances in which they operate. We must ensure that best practice is communicated, standards are established and a means of assessing the competence and skills of strategy professionals are developed, whether they be external consultants or in-house specialists.

‘It is important that as we move to professionalising strategy, we retain its distinctiveness and qualities. We have the opportunity to develop a model for a new type of profession and to shape the knowledge and skills of the growing number of managers who participate in strategy. We do not see strategy evolving as a traditional profession, to protect narrow vested interests. We see it evolving as an open profession; accessible to all the people that are practising strategy, with or without the title strategist.’

Richard is an Associate Editor of the Strategic Management Journal and serves on the editorial boards of Long Range Planning and Strategic Organization. He has been elected to the Pierre de Fermat Chaire, Haute-Garonne, France, 2007, and won the Management Consulting Association book prize 1993. He won the Award for Scholarly Contribution for his 2003 article ‘The Work of Strategizing and Organizing’, in Strategic Organization. He has had visiting positions at Harvard Business School, HEC Paris, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Toulouse.

Teaching

Richard teaches strategy and strategic management on MBA, EMBA and some executive education programmes.

His teaching is guided by two underlying themes. Firstly, strategy really matters - strategic choices have major impacts within the firm and outside, ones that both managers and citizens should truly understand. Second, strategy is increasingly becoming more ‘open’ - it is something that all levels within the firm and many stakeholders outside the firm need to be able to engage with. The ability, therefore, to enter and maintain good ‘strategic conversations’ is a vital skill in organisations today.

Accordingly, Richard aims for an interactive style in his teaching, where ideally the participants’ own organisations provide the ‘case’ materials and participants come away with new understandings that they can apply to their own work situation.