Organization Studies

Published by SAGE Publications
Online ISSN: 0170-8406
Publications
Article
The capability-based view of the firm is based on the assumption that firms know how to do things. Assuming the existence of a thing called 'organizational knowledge', in the first part of the paper we identify its main building blocks and we provide a description of its inner structure. This results in an analysis of the relationships among key concepts like organizational routines, organizational competencies and skills. In the second part, we consider some empirical implications of the adoption of a capability-based view of the firm in dealing with issues like horizontal and vertical boundaries of the firm, innovation and corporate performance. Some implications for strategic management are also discussed.
 
Article
Our study builds on extant theory on embeddness to concentrate on the process of preservation and dissolution of the target firm’s embedded ties in acquisitions. We identify four critical areas - communication, idiosyncratic investments, inter-personal relations and, personnel turnover – where managerial decisions taken during the acquisition process affect the components of the target firm’s embedded ties – trust, joint problem-solving and exchange of fine-grained information. The preservation or dissolution of an embedded tie depends ultimately on two specific tie-contingencies, the balance of power between the target firm and the embedded relation and interpretive processes at the inter-face between the two. Our findings have implications for the study of the dissolution of market ties as they point to different roles played by social and institutional forces, power asymmetries and competition in the dynamics of embedded ones. Finally, we encourage theory development in acquisition studies by positing the importance of interpretive processes and, more broadly, relational elements that span the boundaries of the parent-target dyad.
 
Article
Despite recent emphasis on intra-organizational issues, scholarship on organizations, management and strategy remains unduly reliant on economic models, such as the industrial organization (IO) market structure-based analysis. The focus of such models is on price-output determination by firms and the economy-wide efficient allocation of scarce resources under conditions of full knowledge and certainty. This limits their usefulness for students of organizations who have concerns that are simultaneously wider and also focused on organizations, as opposed to just markets. In this paper, we aim to provide an answer and framework for analysing the most fundamental, indeed existential, issue of organization studies and strategic management scholarship. This is whether and how the pursuit of value capture from economic agents who perceive that they possess appropriable value creating advantages, capabilities and action potential, can motivate the emergence of organizations and their strategies and actions intended to capture socially co-created value in conditions of real life . To do so, we explore (the co-evolution of) value capture and creation and (their relationship to) organizational sustainable advantage (SA). In particular, we delve into the nature, determinants and relationship between organizational value capture and creation and explore causal pathways, trade-offs and their co-evolution, as well as vehicles through which SA can be effected in an evolving and uncertain environment. We also discuss implications for managerial practice, limitations and future research opportunities.
 
Summary of main themes and data sources with illustrations & verbatims. 
Credit derivatives notional amounts per category of actors (in %) by the end of June 2003 
Article
Building on Smith (1989), we describe the social processes surrounding a new financial OTC derivatives market, the market for credit derivatives. We show that in contradiction to more traditional derivatives, credit derivatives generate ambiguities of a cognitive and political nature. By conducting an in-depth longitudinal qualitative study from 1996 to 2004, we document the efforts made by the promoters of the market to alleviate these ambiguities and show how the size of resources needed results in the leadership of the most powerful. We thus provide a socially based explanation for the concentration and lack of transparency of the market. Our research exemplifies the contradictions between the rhetorical justification of financial innovations provided by financial theory and the empirical realities of a modern derivative market. It suggests that the actual structure of the market might best be understood by paying attention to the way different cognitive and political communities react to these contradictions. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
 
Article
In the present text, an institution is understood to be an (observable) pattern of collective action, justified by a corresponding social norm. By this definition, an institution emerges slowly, although it may be helped or hindered by various specific acts. From this perspective, an institutional entrepreneur is an oxymoron, at least in principle. In practice, however, there are and always have been people trying to create institutions. This paper describes the emergence of London School of Economics and Political Science as an institution and analyzes its founders and its supporters during crises as institutional entrepreneurs. A tentative theory of the phenomenon of institutional entrepreneurship inspired by an actor-network theory is then tested on two other cases described in brief.
 
Article
This paper explores the methodological implications of non-representational approaches of organizational complexity. Representational theories focus on the syntactic complexity of systems, whereas organizing processes are predominantly characterized by semantic and pragmatic forms of complexity. After underlining the contribution of non-representational approaches to the study of organizations, the paper warns against the risk of confining the critique of representational frameworks to paradoxical dichotomies like intuition versus reflexive thought or theorizing versus experimenting. To sort out this difficulty, it is suggested to use a triadic theory of interpretation, and more particularly the concepts of semiotic mediation, inquiry and dialogism. Semiotic mediation dynamically links situated experience and generic classes of meanings. Inquiry articulates logical thinking, narrative thinking and experimenting. Dialogism conceptualizes the production of meaning through the situated interactions of actors. A methodological approach based on those concepts, “the dialogical and mediated inquiry” (DMI), is proposed and experimented in a case study about work safety in the construction industry. This interpretive view requires complicating the inquiring process rather than the mirroring models of reality. In DMI, the inquiring process is complicated by establishing pluralist communities of inquiry in which different perspectives challenge each other. Finally the paper discusses the specific contribution of this approach compared with other qualitative methods and its present limits.
 
Article
The concept of culture promised to make organization studies more historical and to provide theoretical relevance for business history. This promise has not been fulfilled. The conventions at various levels of organizational culture studies prevent them from becoming more historical, and the conventions of business history make it difficult to engage with the concept of culture. Corporate culturism imposes a narrative structure that privileges the role of founders in history. Similarly, corporate sponsorship reinforces the tendency for business historians to endorse the unity and continuity of corporate cultures. The influence of economics in business history reduces culture to a residual variable and subordinates narrative to economic models. Organizational symbolists are suspicious of narrative, which they associate with founder-centred corporate culturism. Instead, ethnographies emphasize verisimilitude and the subjective experience of the author at the expense of verifiable historical narratives. Business historians adopt an objective stance that allows them to write definitive company histories, but makes it difficult to engage with the subjectivism and relativism of organizational symbolism or the scepticism of post-modernism. Unlike organizational culture studies, post-modernism in history is identified with a return to narrative. A serious engagement with organizational culture studies might engender the much-needed critical reflex in business history. We use the rare examples of historical deconstruction in organizational culture studies (Boje 1995) and of deconstruction in business history (Church 1996) to highlight the differences between the two discourses. We argue that a more historical approach in organizational culture studies and a more reflexive engagement with the concept of culture in business history would facilitate the deconstruction of founder-centred narratives of corporate culture.
 
A float of the Krewe of T.O.K.I.N. showing a Christ figure and disciples smoking cannabis; inscription reads 'T.O.K.I.N. puts the 'FUN' in FUNduhMENTALISM'
Article
This is an ethnographic study of the Mystic Krewe of Spermes, which does float construction and a parade for Mardis Gras in New Orleans. We compare spectacular and carnivalesque elements of the organization in its preparation for and enactment of the annual parade. We show that both system-maintaining spectacular theatrics and system-challenging carnivalesque protest govern the event, which at once leads to opposition and tension, as well as acceptance and renewal within the krewe and its local audience. We discuss implications for critical organization studies, and the importance of the krewe as an indigenous organizational form.
 
Article
Recently, economists have directed attention to the phenomenon of organization. An important difference between the newly developed economic theories of organization, such as for example agency theory, and sociological theories of organization is the fact that economists explicitly employ an individual utility maximization assumption. In this paper, it is reasoned that this assumption, if used as in agency theory, entails logical inconsistencies if we try to explain the existence of the kind of agreements that purportedly form the basis of organiza tions. However, if the condition of uncertainty — to which agency theorists merely pay lip—service — is taken seriously, the observed inconsistencies can be reconciled. A classificatory scheme of four 'sources of obligation' is proposed for the analysis of the basis of agreements. Taking all four sources into consideration in the analysis of organizational agreements can help to avoid one-sided attention to, for example, formal, legally enforceable agreements. The findings of empirical research suggest that two basic dimensions lie at the root of the proposed classifi catory scheme. Further research is needed to check this supposition and its implications.
 
Article
This study explores the ways in which information about other individual's action affects one's own behavior in a dictator game. The experimental design discriminates behaviorally between three possible effects of recipient's within-game reputation on the dictator's decision: Reputation causing indirect reciprocity, social influence, and identification. The separation of motives is an important step in trying to understand how impulses towards selfish or generous behavior arise. The statistical analysis of experimental data reveals that the reputation effects have a stronger impact on dictators' actions than the social influence and identification.
 
Relationships between formalization, mechanisms, sensemaking, and understanding in an interorganizational context  
Article
Convinced that it will improve their performance, the majority of public and non-profit organizations has developed a formal mission statement. However, despite its popularity, the assumed mission statement-performance hypothesis seems to be barely analyzed nor tested (Weiss and Piderit 1999). We addressed this issue by empirically examining the effectiveness of mission statements from an intra-organizational communication perspective and tested a theoretical rationale explaining the mission statement-performance hypothesis. The study results indicated that mission statements stimulate organizational members to engage in information conveyance and convergence processes, which prove to be positively related with the level of mission motivation. Higher levels of mission motivation, in turn, are assumed to be related with higher organizational performance.
 
Article
Transaction costs, one often hears, are the economic equivalent of friction in physical systems. Like physicists, economists can sometimes neglect friction in formulating theories; but like engineers, they can never neglect friction in studying how the system actually does let alone should work. Interestingly, however, the present-day economics of organization also ignores friction. That is, almost single-mindedly, the literature analyzes transactions from the point of view of misaligned incentives and (especially) transaction-specific assets. The costs involved are certainly costs of running the economic system in some sense, but they are not obviously frictions. Stories about frictions in trade are not nearly as intriguing as stories about guileful trading partners and expensive assets placed at risk. But I will argue that these seemingly dull categories of cost what Baldwin and Clark (2003) call mundane transaction costs actually have a secret life. They are at least as important as, and quite probably far more important than, the more glamorous costs of asset specificity in explaining the partition between firm and market. These costs also have a secret life in another sense: they have a secret life cycle. I will argue that these mundane transaction costs provide much better material for helping us understanding how the boundaries among firms, markets, and hybrid forms change over time.
 
Article
The author claims that the conceptualization of the relation between individual and structure is central to social science. This paper overviews some recent developments in the social theory of structure and agency, and makes a novel addition, based on a concept of habit derived from pragmatist philosophy and sociology and from Veblenian institutional economics. The author shows how processes of habituation provide a mechanism of reconstitutive downward causation where institutional circumstances may affect individual preferences. Finally, special characteristics of organizations are discussed, endorsing an evolutionary analytical approach that combines insights from both evolutionary economics and organization science.
 
Article
In the field of organization studies, two types of theories of the firm exist: "why" and "how" theories. "Why" theories use the instrument of comparative analysis to explain why firms exist despite various institutional alternatives. "How" theories, in contrast, employ intra-organizational perspectives to explore how firms meaningfully connect the actions of many interdependently operating individuals to collective outcomes. Since both theories are complements rather than substitutes, the field of organization studies would benefit from the development of a parsimonious theory that integrates "why" and "how" perspectives. It is argued that Max Weber's writings on bureaucracy, and especially his focus on the organization as a set of decision rules (Urteilsgründe), provide an exceptionally meaningful conceptual background structure for such a theory. The paper demonstrates that a Neo-Weberian, decision rule-based theory of the firm can simultaneously provide reasons for the existence of the firm and explore the nature of coordination and cooperation within the firm itself.
 
Article
Many product innovation studies have described key determinants that should lead to successful incremental product innovation. Despite numerous studies suggesting how incremental product innovation should be successfully undertaken, many firms still struggle with this type of innovation. In this paper, we use an institutional perspective to investigate why established firms in the financial services industry struggle with their complex incremental product innovation efforts. We argue that although the impact of micro institutional forces is often overlooked in innovation studies, these forces matter for innovation success. Our study complements the existing innovation literature and provides an additional explanation why incremental product innovation is highly complex and suffers from several liabilities in established firms. Using qualitative data from the Dutch financial services sector collected over the period 1997-2002, the paper illustrates how micro institutional forces at the business unit level affect complex incremental product innovation and how the interaction of these forces delivers their impact.
 
Article
Based on questionnaire data on a sample of Indian organizations, the paper identifies some of the internal and environmental generators of a vigorous mode of management labelled the pioneering-innovative (PI) mode. The internal generators ? top management goals and policies ? appear to be stronger shapers of PI than environmental variables. The primary generators appear to be management commitment to attracting talented, creative staff; operating autonomy for managers; striving for greater efficiency; opportunistic diversification; and preference for marketing novel products/services. An opportunity-rich environment, a strong stakeholder orientation, commitment to the organization operating in frontier areas, and a mixture of organic and professionalist administrative policies seem to be significant secondary generators of PI. Several implications of the findings for socially engineering PI are developed, and several hypotheses are stated to stimulate further research.
 
Measurement of the Dependent Variable 'Levels of Interactive Learning'
Descriptive Statistics
Article
This paper aims at developing a theoretical framework that explains levels of interactive learning. Interactive learning is defined as the exchange and sharing of knowledge resources conducive to innovation between an innovator firm, its suppliers, and/or its customers. Our research question is: Why do levels of interactive learning of innovator firms, their customers, and/or suppliers vary? Our theoretical framework combines a resource-based perspective with an activity-based account of interactive learning. It starts with a resource-based argument, which is specified by introducing competing and complementary theoretical arguments such as the complexity and structuring of innovative activities, and sectoral technological dynamics. The strength of internal knowledge resources can either hamper or facilitate levels of interactive learning. We assume that more complex innovative activities urge firms to co-ordinate and exchange information between users and producers, which implies a higher level of interactive learning. The structuring of innovative activities, as well as sectoral technological dynamics can foster interactive learning. To test our theoretical claims, we estimated six models predicting the level of interactive learning of innovator firms with: (1) their customers (here the innovating firms are the producers); (2) their suppliers (here the innovating firms are the customers); (3) with customers and suppliers split by size (four separate models). These analyses allow a comparison of the antecedents of interactive learning of innovator firms performing dual roles, and having a different size. Both monotonic and non-monotonic effects of the complexity of innovative activities, the strength of the internal knowledge base, and monotonic effects of the structuring of innovative activities are tested. Our findings suggest that our theoretical model best fits the interactive learning of small- and medium-sized innovator firms. Interactive learning with customers is positively associated with the complexity and structuring of innovative activities, and with moderate scores of the cross-product term of `complexity of innovative activities and the strength of knowledge resources'. Interactive learning with customers is positively affected by higher technological dynamics. Stronger internal knowledge resources yield positive effects on interactive learning with suppliers up to a threshold point. Once this threshold is crossed, the effects of stronger knowledge resources become negative. Interactive learning with suppliers as well as with customers is positively associated with internal and external structuring of innovative activities, but is not affected by sectoral technological dynamics.
 
Article
This paper analyses trust and power as means of co-ordinating trans-organizational relationships. It is argued that, depending on the institutional environment, there are two distinct patterns of controlling relationships, where trust and power are interrelated in quite different ways. First, both mechanisms are generated at the inter-personal level and either trust or power dominates the relationship. Second, power occurs at the level of the structural framework of relationships and is highly conducive to developing trust between individual organizations. Thus, specific forms of trust and power are identified and the institutional environment is viewed as playing a crucial role in shaping the quality of trans-organizational relations. The theoretical background of the paper mainly draws on conceptual ideas of Structuration Theory and System Theory.
 
Article
As a follow-up to the authors' (1986) comparison of the strategic clusters that emerged from a taxonomy of consumer durable businesses to 3 strategies suggested by M. E. Porter (1980), the present paper compares the performance of these groups of clusters, discusses the differences in strategic behavior among them that may explain performance, and elicits some normative implications. Results show that clusters of business units that showed competence in the areas of differentiation, cost leadership, and focus outperformed all others. Also, failure and success apppeared to be systemic. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
 
Article
Organization Studies is closely associated with European Group of Organizational Studies (EGOS) and its traditions. The essays in this Special Issue are deliberately not 'celebratory’ in the sense of providing cheerful and empty accolades of times past. On the contrary, the themes and debates raised and discussed reflect murmurings frequently heard not only at EGOS meetings but also at the Academy, and thus raise important and challenging questions about the role, purpose and possibilities of, and for, Organization Studies; but, also, by implication, for the wider field of organizational scholarship. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
 
Article
Exploiting the potentials and tackling the problems of resource-based and competence-based research, this paper develops a proposal for a competence-based theory of the firm (CbTF). The CbTF is based on the fundamentals of market process theory and is independent from existing approaches to explaining the nature of the firm. The paper addresses the basics of the theory in terms of the philosophy of science by referring to the Lakatos model and CbTF's positioning in organization theory. The fundamental question of the nature of the firm is approached by the notion of an organizational 'ambiente' and by using findings of entrepreneurship research.
 
Hypothesized Model
Article
How do organizational factors influence knowledge retention and storage within companies? In this study, we examine the influence of organizational structure on organizational memory. We are specifically interested in the effects of specialization and standardization - dimensions of the organizational structure - on organizational memory as conceptualized by Walsh and Ungson (1991) and Argote (2005). This study is based on recent survey data from 122 respondents of multi-unit organizations that are mainly from the consulting, financial, automotive, and electrical industries. The results suggest that structural organizational factors, i.e. specialization and standardization as well as organizational processes such as codification and personalization of information and electronic communication influence organizational memory. Furthermore, the results show that codification of information fully mediates the relationship between standardization and organizational memory and that electronic communication partially mediates the relationship between specialization and organizational memory. Overall, the results suggest that the processes of codification of knowledge as well as electronic communication are conducive to the formation of organizational memory and that respective organizational memory bins have unique associations with the organizational structure factors. Our study is one of the first to empirically test propositions with regard to the concept of organizational memory.
 
Article
A study of 157 nursing subunits located in 24 hospitals suggested that technological and environmental characteristics combined in a complex manner to influence (1) role specificity, decentralization, and adaptive processes; (2) decentralization in decision making; and (3) the extent of formalization by role definition. Results indicate that the analytical framework of contingency models must be expanded to include strategic choice and other related concepts. (61 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
 
Article
Interest in organizations first appeared between World War I and World War II, with the American studies led by Mayo. Since then, interest has grown and spread to most industrialized countries. In the sixties, in Anglo-Saxon countries and especially in the United States where research was first conducted, organiza tional analysis developed into an independent field of investigation. Economic growth, the proliferation and expansion of organizations and a marked tendency 'to rationalize the world' have compelled an increasing number of West ern researchers to question the social dynamics of organized groups. This interest has been reinforced over the past few years by the failure of collectivist solutions, the growing popularity of private enterprise as well as by the type of management thinking that presently predominates in Western countries, but more generally by the prevalence of thinking about the world in organizational terms. Given this general tendency, which is observable in most industrialized countries, this paper aims to demonstrate how Francophone analysis has evolved and remains distinct to this day from Anglophone — and more particularly from the American main stream — analysis.
 
Article
In an excellent recent paper on Ludwig Lachmann’s contributions to entrepreneurship, Chiles, Bluedorn and Gupta draw parallels between Lachmann’s work and later contributions in the entrepreneurship literature, including Sarasvathy (2001), suggesting that, ‘Sarasvathy’s economic approach to entrepreneurship is decidedly Lachmannian’ (Chiles et al. 2007: 487). Our purpose in responding to the Chiles et al. article is twofold. First, our interpretation about how effectuation works differs in certain ways from the interpretations placed on it by these authors; we therefore wish to clarify our views on these matters. Second, we view the relationship between effectuation and Lachmann’s perspective on entrepreneurship somewhat differently than Chiles et al.; in this note we lay out this alternative view. The crux of our presentation is that, although Lachmann and Sarasvathy have much the same starting point (entrepreneurial action in the face of true uncertainty) and several overlaps in terms of the overall implications for dominant economic theories, there are crucial differences that draw upon recent developments in our understanding of how the human mind works and what knowledge is constituted of.
 
Article
Over the past five years, PowerPoint has emerged as a powerful piece of communication technology, having profound consequences on presentations (business and educational), classroom communication and, possibly, on the nature of lecturing itself. An analysis of the ways in which PowerPoint is used offers considerable insights into, first, the nature of educational technologies and their organizational implementations, second, the effect of these technologies on the construction and dissemination of organizational knowledge, and, third, on the qualities and skills of a society of spectacle, where a great deal of organizational knowledge assumes the form of visual representations. Using illustrations from his personal experience, the author examines some uses to which the software is put and some of its potential short-comings. These include the parcelling of knowledge into bullet-points, reliance on visual aids to support weak analysis and the forced linearity of argumentation that limits improvisation, digression and inventiveness. The author, however, argues that PowerPoint can be used more creatively, to build on our culture’s emphasis on spectacle and image and related multi-tasking skills that lecturers and students develop. In this manner, PowerPoint can redefine the nature of a lecture, from the authoritative presentation of a text into a multi-media performance that elicits a critical, creative and active response from its audience.
 
Article
The circulation of ideas across academic communities is central to academic pursuits and has attracted much past scholarly attention. As North American-based scholars with European ties, we decided to examine the impact of Organization Studies in North American academia with the objective of understanding what, if anything, makes some Organization Studies articles more likely to have impact in North America than others. To set the stage for better understanding the role of Organization Studies in this academic community, we first present the key characteristics of North American academia. Secondly, relying on archival data spanning the first 29 years of Organization Studies (1980 to 2008, inclusive), we identify an apparent dynamic of select re-importation of exported ideas. Put otherwise, top North American journals tend to re-import ideas authored (and exported) by select North American scholars in Organizations Studies. Thirdly, we discuss the implications of this process on the field of organization studies and on the circulation of ideas across academic communities.
 
Article
Full-text of this article is not available in this e-prints service. This article was originally published following peer-review in Organization studies, published by and copyright Sage Publications. The focus of this paper is on the ‘institutional work’ (Lawrence and Suddaby 2006) of disrupting institutions, examining the rhetorical strategies employed to construct and justify meanings and interpretations. This work is explored in the context of the contemporary academic labour process; specifically, research approaches within the management discipline. A total of 45 individuals involved in funding, conducting, publishing and using qualitative management research were interviewed. From our analysis of their arguments, we focus specifically on the discursive positioning of quantitative research as illegitimate institutionalization of academic working practices and of qualitative research as legitimate resistance to this institutionalization. We identify a number of rhetorical strategies which construct and justify these discursive positions including: the undermining of success criteria; the legitimizing of interests (through claims of institutionalized discrimination) and actors (through identity claims); attributions of political action (including the construction of counter-institutions); claims to agency; and the invocation of alternative institutional logics. We argue that examining institutional work as rhetoric adds to our theoretical understanding of the discursive disruption of institutions, particularly with respect to the manipulation of contradictory meanings and the functions of agency–structure discourse; and contributes a political dimension to our understanding of the qualitative–quantitative ‘divide’ within management research.
 
Article
This paper presents a qualitative inductive analysis of attempts to re-order the bases of legitimacy in fields of professional organizations. Concepts from institutional theory, political science and social movement theory are integrated to provide a model of the antecedents, processes and implications of this phenomenon. Findings from a study of US academic health centre mergers illustrate each element of the model. They show that as part of the political agenda to repress the prevailing institutional logic and structures of professionalism (Scott et al. 2000), executives are expected to adopt certain managerial innovations to maintain organizational legitimacy. Against this new basis of legitimacy, powerful agents have promoted merger so successfully that it has achieved mythical attributes of widespread and uncritical adoption (Meyer and Rowan 1977). The paper explains why the intended outcomes of this innovation emerge rarely when it is 'sedimented' (Cooper et al. 1996) uncritically upon enduring aspects of the logic and structures of professionalism.
 
Article
The relationship between theory and practice has been discussed in the social sciences for generations. Academics from management and organization studies regularly lament the di-vide between theory and practice. They regret the insufficient academic knowledge of mana-gerial problems and their solutions, and criticize the scholarly production of theories that are not relevant for organizational practice (Hambrick 1994). Despite the prevalence of this topic in academic discourse we do not know much about what kind of academic knowledge would be useful to practice, how it would be produced, and how the transfer of knowledge between theory and practice actually works. In short, we do not know how we can make academic work more relevant for practice or even whether this would be desirable. In this introduction to the special issue we apply philosophical, theoretical, and empirical perspectives to examine the challenges of studying the generation and use of academic knowledge. We then briefly describe the contribution of the seven papers that were selected for this special issue. Finally, we discuss issues that still need to be addressed, and make some proposals for future avenues of research.
 
Article
In this paper we seek to show how aspects of the thinking underpinning the relevance debate can be self-defeating. We consider the relationship between academics and practitioners from a dialogic perspective and perform a textual analysis of the ways in which 'pro-relevance' academics write about research. We use role analysis techniques to highlight the potential for mismatched expectations between academics and practitioners, and then consider an illustrative dialogue between practitioners and academics to develop our view that relevance has its roots in generative dialogic encounters. We conceptualize a modified view of dialogue in the context of organizational research relationships, which we believe offers a useful starting point for co-production of knowledge and understanding.
 
Article
Material mediation and medium specificity are constitutive dimensions of a practice, having critical implications for the constitution of practical knowledge and the forms of institutionalization. This article explores their critical importance in a bureaucratized professional setting. Based on research findings from an in-depth study of the introduction of video-recording technology in criminal courts, the article investigates what happens in a practice when practitioners migrate to a different medium to perform their work. The findings indicate that when the practice is characterized by high medium specificity, the new medium may cause disruption in the domain of expertise, affecting the familiar objects, tools, routines and representations of the practice. In their efforts to make sense of the new medium and integrate the new work tool, practitioners reshape their practice by directly engaging with the medium and questioning the grounds of their domain of expertise. The article discusses the phenomenology of disruption and redesign, draws implications for judicial work and, more broadly, contributes to an understanding of how practices and practical knowledge are entangled with material mediation.
 
Article
Institutional theory and structuration theory both contend that institutions and actions are inextricably linked and that institutionalization is best understood as a dynamic, ongoing process. Institutionalists, however, have pursued an empirical agenda that has largely ignored how institutions are created, altered, and reproduced, in part, because their models of institutionalization as a process are underdeveloped. Structuration theory, on the other hand, largely remains a process theory of such abstraction that it has generated few empirical studies. This paper discusses the similarities between the two theories, develops an argument for why a fusion of the two would enable institutional theory to significantly advance, develops a model of institutionalization as a structuration process, and proposes methodological guidelines for investigating the process empirically.
 
The elemental categories of business enterprise
Article
Recent contributions to the organizational literature see the radical subjectivist and disequilibrium framework of Ludwig Lachmann as providing a suitable foundation for strategic entrepreneurial studies, in that his approach seeks independence from conventional equilibrium-based reasoning. In a Lachmannian spirit, this article suggests that strategizing can fruitfully be viewed as choices made by the entrepreneur in terms of the organization’s constituent resources, activities and routines together with their recombinations and complexifications. Cast in a general, disequilibrium setting, the strategic goals that guide the organizational entrepreneur’s strategizing can be formulated in terms of the construction and capture of resource complementarities, the pursuit of increasing returns through activities reconfiguration; and the generation of learning and dynamic capabilities through reconfiguration of routines. Once formulated in this way, the strategizing issues may be seen to make sense not just in the comparative static and imperfect equilibrium frameworks within which they have hitherto been posed, but in a more general dynamic and disequilibrium setting that corresponds to the real conditions in which firms are required to make entrepreneurial decisions. The simplified framework offers some hope for overcoming the balkanization of management scholarship that is so widely deplored.
 
Recursive practice in social theory and strategic management literature
Social theory contributions to the study of strategy as practice
Article
In this article, a social theory framework is developed to explain the common themes of recursive and adaptive practice underpinning the existing strategic management literature. In practice, there is a coexistent tension between recursive and adaptive forms of strategic action that spans multiple levels from macro-institutional and competitive contexts to within-firm levels of analysis to individual cognition. This tension may be better understood by examining how management practices are used to put strategy into practice. Such practices span multiple levels of context and are adaptable to their circumstances of use, serving to highlight both general characteristics and localized idiosyncrasies of strategy as practice. The article develops the concept of management practices-in-use into a research agenda and nine broad research questions that may be used to investigate empirically strategy as practice.
 
Article
This paper examines a failed change initiative (the implementation of economic value added, EVA™) in an in-depth case study of a major UK retailer (RetailCo, a pseudonym). The paper locates this change initiative within inter-professional competition between on the one hand the finance managers and on the other hand the buyers and merchandisers in RetailCo. Finance managers sought to strengthen their professional jurisdiction and enhance their financial and symbolic rewards by imposing stricter controls over buyers and merchandisers, which the latter resented as an undesirable intervention into their work practices and mobilized their influence and work knowledge to ensure the abandonment of EVA. This boundary work involved the use of a multiplicity of entry points centred on control strategies and the fundamentals of retailing. Implications for professional competition and organizational change are considered.
 
Article
Despite growing scholarly interest in aesthetic dimensions of organizational life, there is a lack of literature expressly engaging with the methodological mechanics of 'doing aesthetics research'. This article addresses that gap. It begins with an overview of the conceptual idiosyncrasies of 'aesthetics' as a facet of human existence and maps out the challenges these pose for empirical research methodology. A review of methodological approaches adopted to date in empirical studies of organizational aesthetics is then presented. The remainder of the article draws on the author's experiences and suggests methods and techniques to address both conceptual and practical challenges encountered during the execution of an organizational aesthetics research project. The article calls for a firmer focus on the aesthetic experiences of organizational members in addition to those of researchers and concludes with some suggestions as to the future of such 'sensual methodologies'.
 
Article
This article is concerned with the changing premises of human involvement in organizations underlying current employment and labour trends. The appreciation of these trends is placed in the wider historical context signified by the advent of modernity and the diffusion of the bureaucratic form of organization. The article attempts to dissociate bureaucracy from the dominant connotations of centralized and rigid organizational arrangements. It identifies the distinctive mark of the modern workplace with the crucial fact that it admits human involvement in non-inclusive terms. Modern humans are involved in organizations qua roles, rather than qua persons. Innocent as it may seem, the separation of the role from the person has been instrumental to the construction of modern forms of human agency. An organizational anthropology is thereafter outlined based on Gellner’s conception of ‘Modular Man’. Modernity and bureaucracy construe human beings as assemblages of relatively independent behavioural modules that can be invoked individually or in combination to respond to the differentiated character of the contemporary world. While the occupational mobility and organizational flexibility currently under way presuppose a model of human agency that recounts basic attributes of the modular human, they at the same time challenge it in some important respects. Keywords: bureaucracy, contingency, employment and organizational forms, human agency, selectivity, work
 
Success scores for all interviewees Legend Now = current score for the private equity entity Alliance Boots Boots = Boots prior to the merger AU = Alliance Unichem prior to the merger AB post merger = Alliance Boots after the merger Ideal = ideal for any business organization
Comparison of success scores for UK versus continental European interviewees
Article
In this paper we argue that MacIntyre’s virtues-goods-practice-institution schema (MacIntyre 1985) provides a conceptual framework within which organizational virtue in general, and virtue in business in particular, can be explored. A heuristic device involving levels of individual agency, mode of institutionalization and environment is used to discuss why some businesses protect practices, develop virtues and encourage the exercise of moral agency in their decision making, while others struggle or fail to do so. In relation to conventional shareholder-owned capitalist business, both the mode of institutionalization and the environment are shown to be largely antithetical to the development of practices. Other businesses may meet the necessary internal conditions for the sustenance of practice-like features but remain dependent upon features within their environments. To illustrate this, we use participant observation to show how one particular organization—Traidcraft plc—meets the relevant conditions.
 
Article
Existing theories of the firm exhibit significant shortcomings when questions turn to intra-organizational power and extra-organizational relationships - two issues central to understanding firm operations. Here I advance an alternative view, founded on the Montreal School of organizational communication’s conception of conversation-text relations, yet extending it in several ways. In developing a communicative theory of the firm, I highlight the functions of, and relations between, ‘concrete’ and ‘figurative’ texts, paying particular attention to their participation in the construction of an authoritative (yet never monolithic) system for cooriented and distributedaction. Using examples drawn from struggles over power, strategy, and organizational form at GM, I show that seeing the firm in textual terms presents a very different view of its operations. Doing so, portrays individuals and collectives as engaging in sophisticated games where firms marshal consent and attract capital through textually mediated practice. Moreover, through game playing, the firm’s trajectory is authored. Building on these arguments, I present two novel and testable propositions about the nature of organizational change in interfirm and stakeholder relationships.
 
Circuits of Power (adapted from Clegg 1989, figure 8.1)
Circuits of Power in Practice with the Foundation as Agency
Article
Most power relationships between organizations and stakeholders are episodic circuits of power whereby resource dependence is exacerbated by prohibitive rules. Such relationships are usually constraining rather than empowering and generate resistance and reluctant compliance rather than co-operation and creativity. Clegg’s (1989) concept of facilitative circuits of power, however, suggests that some power relationships, particular where high amounts of discretion are delegated, can result in innovation by stakeholders. Public sector agencies have multiple and diverse external stakeholder groups that they need to influence in order to implement their strategies. In this paper, we explore a facilitative circuit of power using a case study of a public sector research funding organization that employed strategic ambiguity to delegate considerable authority to stakeholders, stimulating a variety of creative responses during a period of major system restructuring. Risks associated with such a practice include the generation of active and passive resistance as well as a propensity for the system to revert to an episodic power circuit over time. Despite these risks, we propose that the deployment of strategic ambiguity is a previously unrecognized mode of high discretionary strategic agency in authority delegation that can generate creative responses on the part of stakeholders within a facilitative circuit of power.
 
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This paper explores the moral dimension of corporate greening. Drawing on extensive case-study evidence from three organizational types, the proposition is advanced that there is a tendency in corporations for greening to be accompanied by a process of amoralization, i.e. a lack of moral meaning and significance for organization members in relation to the natural environment. By presenting corporate greening in terms of issue selling, specific processes of amoralization are identified in the symbolic action and impression management behaviours of policy champions. Variations in these processes across organizational types are explored and potential explanations are advanced with recourse to the organizational politics, power and culture literatures. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of the actual and potential role played by morality in advancing corporate greening.
 
Article
Our understanding of organizations is being advanced by a diverse range of practice-based approaches. Many of these approaches are inspired by what can be called a life-world perspective, although they do not necessarily adopt this perspective throughout the research. In this article, we propose that adopting a life-world perspective can bring us closer to how practice is constituted. We argue that the performance of organizational practices can be more closely examined by bringing to the fore the manner in which practice is constituted through our entwinement with others and things in our world. In order to discuss how a life-world perspective can be used as a basis for such empirical and theoretical investigations, we compare it with one of the more advanced frameworks for practice within strategy research.
 
Article
Embargoed by publisher until November 2010. Full-text of this item is not currently available on the LRA. The published version is available at http://oss.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/30/11/1281. DOI: 10.1177/0170840609339828 This paper suggests that one of the first influential legitimations of hierarchy comes from the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, about 1500 years ago. Despite the fact that he was ordering angels, he suggests both ontological and political reasons for accepting that organization must equal hierarchy. This is an assumption that is rarely contested even today, and the idea of hierarchy is central to theories of organization, and justifications of managerialism. However, angels have been mutable creatures, and I employ some of their various incarnations in order to open up this 5th century common sense. I conclude by suggesting that angelic obedience should be treated with suspicion, and that other sorts of angels, particularly the fallen ones, might lead us away from the tyranny of hierarchy.
 
Article
This paper reports on research that tells the story of nurse managers’ attempts to provide a 24-hour service. Although research was contextualized within the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, the outcomes are not merely about the NHS. It is argued that middle managers, possessing delegated responsibility, are considered to be empowered. Such empowerment is accompanied by widely experienced anxiety. An escalatory and contagious process is observed which exaggerates ‘normal’ stress and challenge among middle managers into a state of selfperceived angst. It is argued that anxiety is, in effect, delegated, a process which serves to partially relieve superiors of anxiety-generating responsibilities. In contrast to arguments that players in bureaucracy ‘conspire’ to ensure that responsibility and consequent anxieties are largely held by the organizational elite, this paper argues that this traditional Weberian notion is worthy of challenge. Findings are based on qualitative data from an ethnographic research project that immersed itself in the minutiae of middle managers’ organizational lives.
 
FIGURE ONE: How Individual Beliefs Motivate Participation In Change
Article
Beliefs and values are hard to alter; yet they strongly influence employees’ attitudes towards strategic changes. Using a longitudinal case study in the oil industry, we show how to distinguish between ideological beliefs (justified by ethical values) and mundane beliefs (substantiated by knowledge structures). We explain that the willingness of workers to participate in change was promoted by a dynamic interaction between these interdependent belief sets. More critically, we show that acceptance of change did not require a change in values, but rather a change in the way that values were applied. We develop propositions that move theory forward and point to future directions for research.
 
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The adoption of the incorporated form of ownership in preference to partnership is linked to the shift to a more modem organizational archetype in professional firms. Yet existing empirical research offers insufficient insight into the organizational processes of this transformation in different professional arenas. Where ownership and control become separated, there is a clearer theoretical explanation of the implications for the way the firm is run. Where ownership and control remain inside, the firm, however, the consequences are not so clear and have not been well explored. Using survey and interview materials derived from a study of architecture practices, we examine the processes by which differences based on ownership emerge. Then, by drawing on Weberian theories, where they are concerned with professionalization as a project with material and social rewards, we specify more clearly the context for change in professional firms' archetypes. This, we conclude, provides a stronger basis for understanding the change trajectories of firms within professions and comparative organizational analysis between professions.
 
Article
This article is concerned with the introduction of the agenda of New Public Management (NPM) within the board of a UK Hospital Trust: West London Hospital (WLH). We discuss the literature on New Public Management, including its limitations for analysing the organizational reality of implementing NPM. But we will also be drawing on discourse theory and the literature on rhetoric. The main argument in this article is that in order to understand the reality of the NPM paradigm, we need to study the rhetorical strategies of protagonists involved in the negotiation of the NPM agenda. Rhetorical strategies are means of making general viewpoints more convincing, for example, by comparing ‘our’ organization with similar organizations. Rhetorical strategies show patterns, which reappear in conversations and arguments made by protagonists. Specifically, we identified three rhetorical strategies justifying why and what kind of a more ‘rounded picture’ was required: widening the argument to include national productivity comparisons with other hospitals; widening the argument away from a narrow focus on finance toward a strategic and political perspective; and, lastly, widening the argument to look at innovation in the whole clinical process.
 
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In response to Barry Wilkinson's (1996) criticisms of the culturalist and institutionalist explanations of the structure of business in East Asia, this paper examines the influence of culture at the macro- and meso-level of business activity in Hong Kong. Aspects of Wilkinson's critique are criticized as unhelpful, whereas other aspects of it are taken as valid and are addressed. A theoretical framework is outlined which synthesises culturalist and institutionalist explanations constituted by combinations of models from formal market and hierarchy perspectives and informal network perspectives. This enables sufficient complexity to identify cultural influences, and reflects a general submission that only complex models contain the multiple social, political, economic and other influences inherent in cultural investigation. Simple organizational models, based upon assumptions of the market, are shown to be culture-bound in Anglo-Saxon ethnocentrism and of little validity in the Hong Kong context. The considerable methodological problems and research issues associated with this desirable synthesis of the culturalist and institutionalist explanations are discussed. Particular emphasis is placed upon the relevance of a 'network' approach, along with implications for 'strategy'. In addition, the implications for the promotion of 'intercultural' and interdisciplinary approaches amongst social scientists interested in Hong Kong and other 'Confucian Dynamic' economies are outlined.
 
confirm the present classification of the comparison nations.
Zero-Order
Article
Based on an information-processing perspective (Galbraith 1972), a theoretical pro position is advanced which predicts that for work units performing non-routine tasks, the effect of unit coordination on output attainment is contingent on the sources from which the unit acquires information for task performance. This proposition is tested using a cross-national research design. Data from four national samples — Austria, Belgium, Hungary, and Poland — of academic research units support the proposition. The results reinforce the need for a contingency approach to the study of coordination and performance in organizations. They also provide some insight into the interplay between society and organization. Peer Reviewed http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/68600/2/10.1177_017084068500600102.pdf
 
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Sara L. Rynes
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