Based on 21 in-depth interviews with chief executive officers (CEOs) and board chairs leading 900,000 people in large financial firms in Europe, this study surfaces the acknowledgment of strategic errors in top executives’ narratives as a broad theme associated with strategy change. This theme is intriguing because errors are typically associated with negative connotations undermining leaders’ self-image and credibility. More specifically, this study identifies in top executives’ error narratives a dialectic process consisting of mobilizing errors and de(if)fusing errors or distancing themselves from them; the paper models seven narrative practices within the process. As a first contribution to narrative research on strategy and change, this study introduces strategic errors as a narrative trigger in top executives’ retrospective accounts of strategy change, frequently associated with the plausible economic failure of their firms. Second, while extant research generally focuses on the coherence of individual narratives, this study adds on the relatively rare studies recognizing a dialectic in individual narratives on change.
Giolito, V., & Golsorkhi, D. (2023). “We made a mistake”: How top executives dialectically narrate strategic errors in situations of strategic change. Strategic Organization, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/14761270231195295