Yuan Li

Assistant Professor, Strategy and Organization
Yuan Li
Contact Information
+1 514 398 2054
Email address: 
yuan.li [at] mcgill.ca
Alternate email address: 
kathi.murphy [at] mcgill.ca

Bronfman Building, [Map]
1001 rue Sherbrooke Ouest
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 1G5


PhD, Business Administration, University of Southern California, USA
MA, Tsinghua University, China
BA,Tsinghua University, China

Strategy and Organization
Teaching areas: 

Strategic Management


Yuan Li is an assistant professor of Strategy and Organization in the Desautels Faculty of Management at Mcgill University. She earned her Ph.D. in Business Administration from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Professor Li’s research is broadly concerned with the symbolic aspect of management and strategy. She analyzes the role of language in the construction of motives, actions, meaning, and institutions. She employs various analytical lenses, such as discourse analysis, rhetoric, and semiotics, to study (1) how symbols shape material reality; and (2) how the symbolic and the material co-evolve.

The empirical setting most suitable to the study of meaning and symbols seems to be changes that are radical in nature and settings characterized by conflicting or contradictory logics. An earlier study examines the diffusion of Total Quality Management, a managerial revolution that completely reversed American managers’ belief about how quality is related to costs. Currently, Professor Li is conducting research on the rhetoric of China’s market-based transition, the evolution of organizational forms of Chinese companies, and the history and present condition of Chinese private entrepreneurs. Contemporary China has undergone fundamental transformations of its economic outlook, yet is still struggling with naming the change and making meaning. How and why organizations and institutions change beliefs and navigate contradictions remains a mystery and lies at the center of Professor Li’s intellectual curiosity.

Professor Li has received a one-year New Scholar Research Grant and a three-year Standard Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). She has presented her work at the annual meetings of the Academy of Management (AoM), European Group of Organization Studies (EGOS), American Sociological Association (ASA), National Communications Association (NCA), and Critical Management Studies (CMS) workshops.

Professor Li teaches Organizational Policy, a capstone strategy course for undergraduate students (MGCR 423).


MGCR 423 Strategic Management 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Area of expertise: 

China's political culture, market-based transtion, entrepreneurship, and state-owned-enterprises;

Neoinstitutional thoery, social constructionist perspectives;

Discourse, rhetoric, and semiotic analysis

Research areas: 
Selected publications: 

Papers in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Green, S., Li, Y. 2011. Rhetorical Institutionalism: Language, Agency, and Structure in Institutional Theory since Alvesson 1993. Journal of Management Studies, 48(7): 1662-1697.

Green, S., Li, Y. and Nohria, N. 2009. Suspended in Self-Spun Webs of Significance: A Rhetorical Model of Institutionalization and Institutionally Embedded Agency. Academy of Management Journal, 52(1): 11-36. 

Davison, R.M., Martinsons, M.G., Li, Y. and Lo, H.W.H.2009. The Ethics of IT Professionals in China. Communications of the ACM, 52(9): 153-155.

Davison, R., Li, Y. and Kam, C. 2006. Web-Based Data Collection in China. Journal of Global Information Management, 14 (3): 70-89, reprinted as a book chapter in Hunter, G. and Tan, F. (Eds.) International Perspectives in Information Management: Global Adaptations, Idea Group Publishing, 167-188. 

Books and Edited Volumes

Chapters in Books

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 


2011-14: Principle Investigator. “The Coevolution of the Symbolic and the Material in Radical Change: China’s Transition to the Market.” SSHRC Standard Research Grant.

2010-11: Principle Investigator. “The Coevolution of Discourse and Practice while Implementing Radical Change: China’s Transition to the Market.” SSHRC New Scholar Research Grant.