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Investigating the flow of Organisational Obstinacy in Collaborative Balanced Scorecard: An Ethnographic Action Research in Public Service

Authors:
  • Newcastle Business School - University of Northumbria

Abstract

Developing a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for a network of public-private institutions requires interdependent connectivity and information sharing to set commonly agreed performance standards. Such a Collaborative BSC (CBSC) reflects a high degree of socially constructed organizational values, rules, and procedures. In doing so, organizational changes take place to reach to equilibriums among varying (sometimes conflicting) organizational powers. Our research tends to draw a deep understanding of the systemic nature of organizational obstinacy that shapes the success of organizational a change and raises contested values in the provision of public services. The evidence of our findings has been drawn from the local councils in the Metville region that recorded low performance in their public service delivery. The change actors in this project are a team of public-private executives who were responsible for developing an inclusive CBSC where different stakeholder groups contribute to the perceived performance. The above mentioned area of concern raises two research questions that led our research: The first question is; “How organisational obstinacy evolves in organisations undertaking major change for CBSC?” This quest helps map the events of inter-dependencies in Metville’s change programme and identify the extent to which a conceptual understanding of the need to change is or is not shared. The second question is; “What is the impact of organisational obstinacy on the change dynamics associated with building the CBSC?” Answering such a question helps in identifying the dual (positive & negative) impact of organisational obstinacy on the organisational change and its dynamics. It sheds the light on organisational obstinacy as values- laden as well as a restraining factor. Answering these two questions led to three levels of contribution; Theoretical, Methodological, and Practical.
Journal of Management Information System: Special Issue on Action Research
Investigating the flow of Organisational Obstinacy in Collaborative
Balanced Scorecard: An Ethnographic Action Research in Public Service
Nicholas Clifford
Manchester Business School
Mostafa Mohamad
Salford Business School
Peter Kawalek
Manchester Business School
Abstract:
Area of concern: Developing a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for a network of public-private
institutions requires interdependent connectivity and information sharing to set commonly agreed
performance standards. Such a Collaborative BSC (CBSC) reflects a high degree of socially
constructed organizational values, rules, and procedures. In doing so, organizational changes take
place to reach to equilibriums among varying (sometimes conflicting) organizational powers. Our
research tends to draw a deep understanding of the systemic nature of organizational obstinacy that
shapes the success of organizational a change and raises contested values in the provision of public
services. The evidence of our findings has been drawn from the local councils in the Metville region
that recorded low performance in their public service delivery. The change actors in this project are a
team of public-private executives who were responsible for developing an inclusive CBSC where
different stakeholder groups contribute to the perceived performance. The above mentioned area of
concern raises two research questions that led our research:
The first question is; How organisational obstinacy evolves in organisations undertaking major
change for CBSC? This quest helps map the events of inter-dependencies in Metville’s change
programme and identify the extent to which a conceptual understanding of the need to change is or is
not shared.
The second question is; What is the impact of organisational obstinacy on the change dynamics
associated with building the CBSC?” Answering such a question helps in identifying the dual
(positive & negative) impact of organisational obstinacy on the organisational change and its
dynamics. It sheds the light on organisational obstinacy as values- laden as well as a restraining
factor. Answering these two questions led to three levels of contribution; Theoreitical,
Methodological, and Partical.
Theoretical Contribution: While previous studies such as Van Der Zee et.al (1999), Martinsons et.al
(1999), Chiasson & Davidson (2007), and Hoque (2014) addressed the technical view of software
engineers on the processes of developing CBSC, this study reflects the views of team of non-technical
corporate executives (consultants) and officers of local councils who offer a thorough insight on the
social context that surrounds the development of CBSC in public services. To interpret the key events
that took place and illustrate how ideas flow around the organization and where connected
interdependencies might become established, we developed a Winding 8 framework. This
framework identifies ‘nodes of crank’ and a ‘critical mass’ comprising elements that contribute to the
change events associated with the development process (see Figure 1 below). The key findings
suggest that organisational obstinacy can be observed when organisational equilibrium is disturbed by
the strength of the driving forces that are introduced. Under the influence of this obstinacy the
organisation re-establishes the ‘old normal’ with switftness that is surprising to participants in the
process. A duality of attitudes, often held by the same people, which both support driving forward as
well as restraint, suggests that obstinacy can be both positive and negative in its operation.
Figure 1: A Framework for Organisational Interdependencies & Obstinacy
Methodological Contribution: To capture the essence of socially constructed (and contested) values
embedded in the processes of organisational change, a distinct mix of longitudinal action research and
ethnography has been developed to build up a Kantian approach to different stakeholder groups. Soft
Systems Methodology (SSM) (Checkland, 2000) has been adopted to define the problem situation and
draw exist points for every disequilibrium point. Two main elements have led our choice of the
research methodology (See Figure 2 below). Firstly, there is the question of observation - how might
organizational obstinacy be observed? Capturing the strengthening of specific interdependencies
(Lewin, 1947) within organisations and seeing how these emerge as networks within a larger
framework is needed; judging at what point they become ‘thick’ enough connections (Goleman, 2007)
to form a critical mass that is sufficient to achieve change is also needed. Secondly, at what level do
the perceptions of the nature and scale of change required to tip the organisation toward a paradigm
shift in the organisation (Kuhn, 1962), translate into the ‘felt need’ (Dawson, 1996) that triggers
action. To fully understand the organisational framework and the perceptions of change held within
and around the organisation requires rich data sources from individuals and groups. This data set is
significant in that it was collected at the time the events were taking place and because of this the
study was able to gather attitudes, behaviours and thoughts from people as they were experiencing the
issues.
The role of our research team: In order to offer a subjective involvement in creating the
disequilibrium points and argue the organisational changes to map different sorts of obstinacy, we
developed a systematic definition of organisational obstinacy associated with developing CBSC. The
first author was the main actpr in a long association with key individuals involved in Metville
programme, over several years. Through this extended process we were able to capture the duality of
attitudes and feelings. This enabled us to recognise the ambivalent and uncertain nature of driving and
restraining forces as they impact on individuals. In turn this allowed us to understand more fully the
positive and negative effects on obstinacy that makes it such a fluid element in organisational change.
The engagement ultimately constitutes an extended Action Research programme with four fully
worked-through episodes during which the examination of the scale and nature of the Framework of
Journal of Management Information System: Special Issue on Action Research
Ideas; the methodology and the focus on the Area of Concern (the ‘FMA’) has been deep and
extensive and added to the knowledge and experience of using this mechanism in Action Research
(Checkland and Holwell, 1998).
Figure 2: A framework for Methodological Threads
Empirical Contribution: Our research helped the executive in Metville council and their private
partners to systemically map the process of organisational obstinacy and changes associated with the
development of CBSC. In doing so, a more inclusive matrix has been developed (See Figure 3 below)
to consider the public-private concerns of public service delivery. It also offers a starting point for
system analyst to engage with the technical web-development team to build the web-interface the data
management system on the ground.
Figure 3: CBSC Approach to Public Sector Reform
Key Words: Organisational Obstinacy, Organisational Change, Organisational Learning, SSM,
Ethnographic longitudinal Action Research, Collaborative Balanced Scorecard
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