This paper draws upon critical discourse analysis to analyse an empirical study of strategy practices in a military organization. The recent practice-turn in strategy research emphasizes the meaning of discourses, routines and activities in a strategy formation process. Strategy is not understood only as an attribute of an organization, but also as activity; it is something people do and say or leave undone and unspoken. Research concerning strategy practices has, however, ignored military organizations and concentrated mainly on private enterprises and public administration. In this paper we argue that there is a need for a practice-turn in the military context as well. Just as practice theory has proven its usefulness in examining corporate strategies, it can also contribute to our understanding of the actual strategy process in military organizations and help us understand the practices behind formulated strategy.
We focus on the high-level strategic planners in the Finnish Defence Forces and analyse their conceptions of the strategy process. Based on the data of 14 in-depth interviews, the paper's goal is to analyse the discursive elements of strategy talk in a military organization. This paper will concentrate on three central issues. (1) What is the relationship between civil and military strategists while formulating strategy in a military organization? (2) Who are defined as strategists? (3) Are the high-level strategy planners aware of a variety of hidden agendas and power relations that shape the strategy formulation process? Although the discourses and practices we have found are, of course, context-specific, we claim that similar kind of strategic discourses and practices can be found in other military organizations and possibly even in non-military organizations.
Research on civil-military relations has traditionally concentrated on examining the interaction between civil and military organizations but neglected the interaction within these organizations. Our study shows that formulating strategy in military organizations is a complex process far from the Clausewitzian conception that delimits the concept of strategy only to conventional war. Direction-setting, monitoring and allocation of resources are all outcomes of a constant debate between political, military, technological, economical and cultural aspects. Getting to know this kind of process can be beneficial for strategy researchers and managers working in the corporate field as well.
In addition, the Finnish Defence Forces constitute an interesting field for strategy research, as it is one of the three European armies that relies on compulsory military service. The fact that almost every male citizen has served guarantees a special position for this institution in society and particularly in strategy discourses.