Strategy Implementation Process in SMEs: Exploring multiple cases from the KSA

  • Moataz Alhilou

Student thesis: Phd


Originating in, and framed by, warfare, the term strategic management first appeared in the business literature in the 1950s (Carter et al., 2008). The term then started to gain more importance as organisations' needs for implementing strategic changes increased significantly. Despite this importance, the concept is still considered to be under-developed, with complications arising from a wide variety of disciplines. In the early literature two major schools of thought could be identified: Porter's economic deliberate content (Porter, 1979), and Mintzberg's emergent process view (Mintzberg, 1979). The literature has shown that the majority of studies have mainly focused on large organisations, taking the traditional Porter's content approach. However, relatively few cases have considered smaller organisations and/or explored cases from the contemporary process view, which is considered more realistic in today's dynamic world, where extra flexibility and speed are paramount.This thesis builds on the work of Pettigrew (1987), who viewed strategy implementation (SI) as a process. His work is extensively analysed and some recommendations are made to strengthen his 'Triangle Model'. These recommendations allow for the development of a primitive framework for SI. The framework provides a deeper understanding of contemporary SMEs and their surrounding contexts, and can be useful for future exploratory studies of undiscovered contexts and/or for organisations of differing sizes.The paucity of research on SI in SMEs in general, and particularly in the non-Western context (e.g. Middle East, and Gulf Cooperation Council), is the major motivation for this research adopting an interpretive, qualitative and exploratory approach. Using inductive semi-structured interviews, data have been collected on the SI process of SMEs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). SMEs represent 96% of the country's enterprises and contribute to almost one third of the national economic activity (Bokhari, 2013). Their development is a major concern of the Saudi government, which aims to reduce the dependency on the oil sector (Bokhari, 2013; Sfakianakis, 2014; McKinsey Global Institute, 2015). In addition, SMEs have the potential to contribute to reducing the accelerating unemployment rate among the ever increasing youth population (Bokhari, 2013).Theoretically, this thesis contributes to a deeper understanding of SI and its enablers/ barriers in the SME sector. Following the approach suggested by Stacey (1996a), Mintzberg et al. (1998), and Okumus (2001), this research provides a more holistic understanding of the SI process. It sheds light on the individual dynamics of strategy implementation, as well as the organisational and external environment perspectives. By exploring these factors over the longitudinal process of SI (including initiation, process, and outcome), this research contributes a SI framework based on Mintzberg's (1979) and Pettigrew's (1985a) emerging process view. In so doing, this research adds to the SI process literature at the individual level, as an epistemological tool, and does so in order to consider the dynamic nature of SMEs and the impact that non-controllable events have on their daily routines, on ontological ground (Hart, 1992). At the methodological level, evidence from multiple cases in different Saudi industries is provided, reflecting a developing country context, rather than the dominant Western views (Okumus, 2003; Van der Maas, 2008). From the empirical research, lessons are identified to inform owners of SMEs, policy makers and future research.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSaleema Kauser (Supervisor) & Ronald Ramlogan (Supervisor)


  • Case study
  • Strategic Management
  • Strategy Implementation Process
  • SME
  • Qualitative

Cite this