The Institute of Management & Strategy (IoMS-HSG) has invited Prof. Dr. Eero Vaara to a research seminar at the University of St. Gallen. Eero Vaara is a Professor of Organization and Management at Aalto University School of Business in Helsinki, Finland.
Uncovering socio-historically embedded informal strategic decision-making practices: Evidence from Cold War Finland
To advance our understanding of the socio-cultural and historical embeddedness of strategic practices, this paper focuses on the informal – and partly illegitimate and questionable – practices of strategic decision-making among the political and corporate elite in Cold War Finland. In the focus of our analysis is the elite surrounding the long-term president Kekkonen to deal with bilateral Soviet trade involving large Finnish companies. Based on an extensive analysis of cases of strategic decision-making, we adopt a microhistorical lens to elucidate strategic practices that played a key role in this strategizing. They include the sauna as the special place where often most important decisions were made, skiing in terms of trips where selected participants made important plans and decisions, and alcohol as a special practice that was often a ritualistic part of the joint work. This analysis reveals how specific informal socio-cultural and historical practices can be a significant part of strategic decision-making, elucidates the power effects of these practices (e.g. no female participants in the sauna), and points to the mastery of these practices and skills needed to remain at the center of decision-making (e.g. somewhat surprisingly, not avoiding drinking but keeping some control). By so doing, our analysis extends contemporary strategy process and practice research, establishes links with strategy and political history, and shows the potential of microhistorial analysis in strategy research.