Corporate Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management: Insights from a Process Study

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Authors: R. A. Burgelman

Publication Year: 1983


Journal: Management Science

Volume: 29

Issue: 12

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Qualitative


This paper presents a model of the strategic process concerning entrepreneurial activity in large, complex organizations. Previous empirical and theoretical findings can be integrated in this new conceptual framework. The paper makes the following key points. First, firms need both diversity and order in their strategic activities to maintain their viability. Diversity results primarily from autonomous strategic initiatives of participants at the operational level. Order results from imposing a concept of strategy on the organization. Second, managing diversity requires an experimentation-and-selection approach. Middle level managers play a crucial role in this through their support for autonomous strategic initiatives early on, by combining these with various capabilities dispersed in the firm's operating system, and by conceptualizing strategies for new areas of business. Third, top management's critical contribution consists in strategic recognition rather than planning. By allowing middle level managers to redefine the strategic context, and by being fast learners, top management can make sure that entrepreneurial activities will correspond to their strategic vision, retroactively. Fourth, strategic management at the top should be to a large extent concerned with balancing the emphasis on diversity and order over time. Top management should control the level and the rate of change rather than the specific content of entrepreneurial activity. Finally, new managerial approaches and innovative administrative arrangements are required to facilitate the collaboration between entrepreneurial participants and the organizations in which they are active.