Langley, A., Kakabadse, N. K. and Swailes, S. (2007) Longitudinal textual analysis: an innovative method for analysing how realised strategies evolve. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal.2(2), pp. 104-125. 1746-5648.
Purpose – This paper aims to present an innovative methodological framework developed out of primary research that will lead to new understanding about patterns in the strategic actions realised by firms within an industry. The framework is to be applied to increase understanding of how realised strategies evolved in the pharmaceutical industry and overcomes some of the limitations of other methods. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative approach was developed adapting techniques from text, thematic and content analysis to identify and categorise strategic actions realised by pharmaceutical firms (referred to as grand strategies). Strategic actions were not pre-selected but allowed to emerge during the data collection process from public announcements by firms in the industry's main journal, Scrip. Building upon the work of Pearce and Robinson grand strategies can be understood as the packages of strategic actions that firms had planned and/or realised in order to achieve long-term objectives. Findings – A framework of realised strategic actions and grand strategies in the pharmaceutical industry was developed with 23 mutually exclusive categories. The paper shows how the framework can be used as an analytical tool to explore patterns in strategic action and grand strategy evolution, temporal patterns in strategy development and strategic action coevolution. Research limitations/implications – A limitation of the categorisation is that it is based on material collected from two years of empirical data from Scrip in order to develop the methodological framework. The framework was applied to data collected over an 11 year period in order to explore how the strategic actions of individual firms had evolved and co-evolved. Data sources were limited to published sources. Originality/value – The qualitative approach presented here offers a level of depth that has not been achieved by methodological approaches previously used to explore and compare patterns in realised strategic actions by firms operating in the pharmaceutical industry. The innovative approach contributes to management research in two key ways: providing a methodological framework that overcomes the limitations of previous studies into strategy evolution; and providing a systematic approach to data collection and analysis that can contribute to theory building with regard to strategy evolution.