Accepted Paper:

Vision meets muddle: : an investigation of how vision statements affect decision making in a Swedish municipality  


Peter Parker (Malmö University)

Paper short abstract:

The purpose of this paper is to investigate how an organization’s stated vision connects with practice and decision-making on different levels, particularly the muddling through of daily practice. The study takes its empirical starting point in the municipality of Malmö and their vision to become a sustainable and attractive city.

Paper long abstract:

A clearly communicated vision of where the organization should be headed is often seen as an integral part of leadership and necessary in bringing about development in large organizations. However, even in seemingly successful formulations of organizational vision, it is not entirely clear how the high level goals of a vision statement connect with the everyday decisions in daily practice of the organization. Many times daily practical decisions are limited in scope and often characterized by struggles to find acceptable solutions to pressing problems rather than consistent work toward overarching high-level goals. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how an organization's stated vision connects with practice and decision-making on different levels. Special attention is given to the connection of different kinds of organizational logic. On the one hand the importance of vision in creating reflection and identity as a basis for renewal and on the other hand the daily practice of muddling through complex decisions.

The empirical starting point of the study is the municipality of Malmoe that formulated a vision of sustainability and attractiveness. This vision has been operationalized in the municipality's decision to become the first certified fair trade city in Sweden. This decision is in turn translated into operational goals for different parts of the municipal government. However the implementation of these goals in guiding local decisions is neither clear cut or simple. A detailed study of these decisions processes is intended to shed light on the complex social nature of decision-making in organizations.

Panel W003
Towards an anthropology of decision making