This paper presents an analysis of ethnographic data collected by researchers as part of the process of rewriting an institutional learning and teaching strategy in an English university. The research was driven by a desire to understand what work a learning and teaching strategy might accomplish, and the form/s of address in strategy documents. The data for the study comprised in‐depth interviews with staff, focus groups with staff and students, documentary analysis of the existing institutional strategy documents from equivalent higher education institutions, and data from notes, memos, minutes and a personal reflective diary of events. These data did not provide the basis for an evaluation of the effectiveness of the strategy, rather they played a role in informing the development of the strategy, interrogating the limitations of strategy and exploring the ways in which such strategies discursively position pedagogic and academic identity. We conclude that strategy is non‐linear and the site of multiple contradictions, and that the work of strategy documents is accomplished through rhetorical forms in which desiring is as important as rational argument. How academics are discursively positioned, therefore, becomes a matter of power. Tensions between different approaches to teacher improvement, in the name of improving student learning, are acted out in the process of authoring strategy documents.