Selling the object of strategy: How frontline workers realize strategy through their daily work

Julia Balogun, Katie Best, Jane Lê

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This paper explores how frontline workers contribute to an organization’s realized strategy. Using a workplace studies approach, we analyse the work of museum tour guides as a salient example of workers engaged in frontline work. Our findings demonstrate the subtle and intricate nature of the embodied work of frontline workers as they ‘bring into being’ the strategic aims of an organization. We identified five things as central to this process: (1) the situated physical context; (2) audience composition; (3) the moral order; (4) the talk, actions and gestures of the guide; and (5) the corresponding talk, actions and gestures of the audience. Drawing on these categories, we find frontline workers to demonstrate ‘interactional competence’: assessing and making use of the physical, spatial and material specifics of the context and those they are interacting with, and enlisting interactional resources to uphold a moral order that brings these others in as a working audience, encouraging them to respond in particular ways. Frontline workers thus skilfully combine language, material and bodily expressions in the flow of their work. Demonstrating these dynamics gives a more central role to material in the realization of strategy than previously recognized; demonstrates that ‘outsiders’ have an important part to play in realizing strategy; and highlights the importance of frontline workers and their skilled work in bringing strategy into being
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1285-1313
Number of pages29
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number10
Early online date25 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • frontline workers
  • interactional competence
  • materiality
  • realizing strategy


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