Strategy-making in a loosely coupled system: The guided evolution of the Copenhagen Business School

Nicolai J. Foss*, Peter Møllgaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

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While considerable research interest has been devoted to university governance (i.e., the allocation of authority over
decisions in a university), little is known about the formation and content of university strategy and how it relates to
university governance and organization. To further our knowledge about university strategy and its relation to university
governance, we undertake a process study of the emergence of strategies for the organization of research work
at one of the largest business schools in the world, the Copenhagen Business School (CBS), in the period 1987 to
2009. We find that CBS strategy processes in this period followed a “guided evolution” model, in which the top manager
(president) invited bottom-up (research) initiatives, and supported selected ones. Such processes are likely to
arise in, and be appropriate for, organizations that are characterized by considerable ambiguity, unclear/vague input/
output measures, conflicting interests, and substantial heterogeneity in activities, as exemplified by universities. We
discuss the benefits and costs of the guided evolution approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-88
JournalBeta: Scandinavian Journal of Business Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • university strategy
  • emergent strategy
  • organizational ecology

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