Developing Explorative and Exploitative Strategic Intentions – Towards a Practice Theory of Operations Strategy

Pekka Helkiö

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Developing operations capabilities proactively is valuable for the long term success of manufacturing firms. In practice, companies often find themselves stuck in addressing the most immediate problems. Research shows that pursuing both explorative and exploitative development activities is associated with sustained performance. Focusing on the context of operations strategy creation, this study describes and explains how and why the people doing the strategizing work develop explorative and exploitative operations strategic intentions. This study is an inductive theory-building embedded-unit case study of strategy creation teams' activity in developing strategic intentions. The empirical context is an operations strategy process of a global machinery manufacturing company. In theorizing, I draw on practice theory and research on exploration and exploitation. First, I describe the practitioners, practices, and the activity of eleven strategy creation teams. Then through cross-team analysis, I develop an explanation of how and why the organizing practices of team composition and topic definition enable and constrain the teams' activity towards one of four patterns of praxis. The study contributes primarily to operations strategy research. First, the study offers an explanation for how proactive operations capability development can be initiated and facilitated. Proactive operations capability development is central to the highest stage of Hayes and Wheelwright's (1984) model of operations contribution to competitiveness. This explanation is the first step in building the practice theory of operations strategy. Second, the study adds to the stream of research focused on understanding the messy reality of operations strategy. The introduction of the practice perspective to operations strategy provides several opportunities to future research on topics such as the role of context in operations strategy, the effects of operations strategizing tools, and particularly skilled operations strategists.
Translated title of the contributionUutta luovien ja olemassa olevaa hyödyntävien strategisten aikomusten kehitys - kohti tuotantostrategian käytäntöteoriaa
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Holmström, Jan, Supervising Professor
  • Turkulainen, Virpi, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-5436-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-5437-7
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • operations strategy
  • strategy process
  • practice theory
  • exploration
  • exploitation

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Developing Explorative and Exploitative Strategic Intentions – Towards a Practice Theory of Operations Strategy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this