An exploration of external environmental scanning and the strategy process
Robinson, Craig Vincent
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This thesis is concerned with ways in which organisations scan their external environments and how this scanning is related to the process by which they make and implement strategy. The aim of this thesis is to use a qualitative approach to elaborate on existing theory relating to external environmental scanning and to consider its relationship with the strategy process. Prior academic literature bases for strategy process and for environmental scanning were reviewed and synthesised. From this an integrated conceptual framework incorporating strategy process, environmental scanning and the external environment was proposed. Seven case studies, encompassing small, medium and large businesses, were selected for empirical study using a theoretical sampling approach. Qualitative data from interviews and secondary sources were collected and in-case analyses conducted for each organisation, the final outcome of which was a causal network of factors that resulted in scanning of the environment in each organisation. A validation exercise that involved feeding back parts of the analysis to selected respondents suggested that the analysis was robust. The cross-case analysis revealed that size of organisation had a significant impact on various aspects of scanning activity, including scope, mode and formality of scanning. The impact of perceived environmental uncertainty on scanning was affected by both company size and type of uncertainty. The research uncovered six drivers of scanning activity that were present in different ways depending on the strategic approach of the organisation. Finally, with the integrated conceptual framework as a foundation, a model of environmental scanning and the strategy process was developed using empirical evidence from the seven causal networks. This research contributes an understanding of how and why environmental scanning activity relates to the strategy process in organisations. In addition, this research contributes to knowledge of environmental scanning through its qualitative, multiplecase study approach and its perspective on scanning as an organisational rather than an individual activity.