‘It Sends a Cold Shiver down My Spine’: Ghostly Interruptions to Strategy Implementation

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This paper offers new theoretical and empirical understanding of interruptions to strategy implementation by drawing attention to their ghostly nature. The paper proposes a theoretical framework for thinking about the ghostly by combining Freud’s concept of the uncanny with theorizing in cultural geography on collapses of linear time as well as with Avery Gordon’s sociological work on ghostly matters. Empirically, the paper examines the ghostly nature of strategy interruptions through a detailed analysis of conversations between middle managers at a strategy seminar in a Danish local government. I portray the uncanny moments where the familiar account of organizational purposes is not so self-evident anymore, but all of a sudden appears rather disturbing. I show how middle managers envision other, darker futures and express the feeling that something else, something different from before, must be done, although they cannot say exactly what. Going beyond previous accounts of strategy interruption, for example as deliberate resistance by middle managers, the paper contributes with new insight into the moments where the neat ordering of organizational realities performed by corporate strategies breaks down and middle managers come into contact with the broader social and political stakes of their work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1641-1659
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Avery Gordon
  • Ghostly moments
  • Local government
  • Middle management
  • Organizational time
  • Spectral turn
  • Strategy
  • The Uncanny

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