#OSEditorPicks: Behind Smoke and Mirrors: A Political Approach to Decoupling

[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

In the #OSEditorPicks for August, Behind Smoke and Mirrors: A Political Approach to Decoupling, Anja Kern, Aziza Laguecir, and Bernard Leca respond to calls for more attention to power and politics within institutional theory. They conducted an in-depth study of policy implementation by a Regional Health Authority (RHA) in a French Hospital, and found different patterns of response between surgeons and cardiologists. Surgeons used their sources of power to openly reject the proposed casemix approach. Cardiologists engaged in means/ends decoupling to implement casemix as a way to improve their own interests. Ultimately, the RHA acquiesced to the powerful surgeons and renounced their previous decision to base funding on casemix performance at the clinical level. The authors draw on power dependency theory to explain different types of decoupling that occurred and different ways in which power and politics played out for each group.

I am intrigued with this article for a couple of reasons. First, it is great to see an empirical article that brings power and politics back into institutional theory by revealing important aspects of decoupling. Such an approach is long overdue. Second, this article reminds me of Selznick’s detailed and fascinating account of institutional change in the Tennessee Valley Authority (1949).  Kern, Laguecir and Leca tell a similarly captivating story that holds twists and turns, highlighting the ways that people can act in pursuit of their own interests. I believe that this article holds real value, and I encourage people interested in processes of institutional change to read it.

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You can read Behind Smoke and Mirrors: A Political Approach to Decoupling by Anja Kern, Aziza Laguecir, and Bernard Leca free for the next 30 days. 

Embodied organizational routines: Explicating a practice understanding

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alex Wright of The Open University, UK. Wright recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Embodied Organizational Routines: Explicating a Practice Understanding, which is currently free to read for a limited time.” Below, Wright reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

The recent interest in exploring organizational routines has increased our knowledge and understanding considerably, informing and enhancing how we view organization and organizing. In existing studies, people are acknowledged as contributing to the unfolding of routines when they are described as accomplished by specific people, at specific times, in specific places. My motivation for writing this study was to construct a deeper understanding of what is meant by specific people. Present research, I considered, held the view that while people were important they were inter-changeable without any discernable consequential impact on how routines progress. This was problematic for two reasons. First, I felt it reduced the human actors involved in routines to some machine-like existence. People have been shown to take part in organizational routines, but their influence had been largely underexplored. Second, the claim made that a practice theory of routines has been established always seemed to me to be premature. Too many empirical studies to date have been conducted at a level too abstract from where practice unfolds for such a claim to be accepted. Therefore, the two concerns that provoked my research were focused on the related issues of people and practice.6791821469_13fab38503_z.jpg

One assumption that underpinned my work was that people are inherently unstable. That is, their bodies differ. Routines, therefore, are accomplished by people with bodies, embodied actors, and their very embodiment makes a difference in how routines unravel. Such a nuanced appreciation of routines is only possible if the level of analysis focuses on the human and nonhuman relational inter-acting that sustains them. It is here where a practice understanding of routines can be formed. A further assumption I worked within is that bodies communicate and through such communication do routines emerge. This means that it is not just talk that matters, but gesture, facial expression, movement and silences can also be essential for routines to evolve. The empirical examples from such diverse situations as a police interrogation encounter and an operating theatre I use help illustrate this. A focus on embodied people takes us closer to the promise of a practice theory of routines as it helps depict how: power is exercised through gesture and bodily movement; the spaces where routines unfold cohere with human bodies making a difference in how they are constituted and experienced; and, the routineness of routines is made manifest when mutual intelligibility is discerned in the silences that characterize how embodied actors inter-relate.

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Communication photo attributed to shakakahnevan (CC).

Call for Papers: Organization & Environment


Organization & Environment is currently accepting manuscripts for an upcoming special issue on the topic: Financial Markets and the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy.

Please click the picture above or here to view additional guidelines for submitting.

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Organizational Demands on Productivity, Innovations, and Safety

[We’re pleased to welcome author Marianne Törner of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Coping With Paradoxical Demands Through an Organizational Climate of Perceived Organizational Support: An Empirical Study Among Workers in Construction and Mining Industry” co-authored by Anders Pousette, Pernilla Larsman, and Sven Hemlin. From Törner:]

Most organJABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgizations must be able to combine efficiency, innovativeness, and safe and healthy working conditions, but these demands may appear paradoxical to the employees, and if not handled well by the organization, such paradoxes may create stressful goal conflicts. A large amount of research, not least organizational climate research, has focused on how organizations may promote each one of these goals, but we believe there is a need for research that may help organizations to effectively and simultaneously attain different goals. This was the starting point for this study where we investigated how organizations may support the employees’ ability to reconcile conflicting goals, and thereby promote organizational success as well as employee well-being and sense of worth.

The abstract to their article is below:

Organizational demands on productivity, innovations, and safety may seem paradoxical. How can the organization support employees to cope with such paradox? Based on organizational climate measures of safety, occupational health, innovativeness, and production effectiveness, we explored if a second-order organizational climate could be identified, that was associated with staff safety, health, innovations and team effectiveness, and if such a climate could be represented by an organizational climate of perceived organizational support (POS). Questionnaire data were collected from 137 workgroups in four Swedish companies in construction and mining. Analyses (structural equation modeling) were done at the workgroup level and a split sample technique used to investigate relations between climates and outcomes. A general second-order organizational climate was identified. Also, an organizational climate constructed by items selected to represent POS, was associated with team effectiveness, innovations, and safety. A POS-climate may facilitate employees’ coping with paradoxes, and provide a heuristic for managers in decision making.

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Organization OR Environment?

organization-enviroment[We’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Tosti-Kharas, Assistant Professor at Babson College in Organizational Behavior. Tosti-Kharas recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior for the Environment.” From Tosti-Kharas:]

The origin of this paper came from bridging two different research projects. My co-authors, Tom Thomas and Eric Lamm of SFSU, published a theoretical paper regarding how individuals develop attitudes toward organizational sustainability. Meanwhile, Eric and I have performed research on what motivates employees to perform sustainable behaviors. We look at what we term organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment ¬ OCB-Es for short ¬ which are voluntary actions at work that help conserve resources, things like recycling, printing double-sided, etc. This paper joined these two streams of inquiry to examine how the reasons why people think it is important to act sustainably at work relates to their performance of OCB-Es and we tested it empirically.

Most past research on this topic has used a measure of how important people think sustainability is in general, meaning for broad ecological reasons, but never contextualized within a work organization. In the paper we distinguish between believing sustainability is important in and of itself, what we term an ³eco-centric rationale,² and believing it is important as a means to an end, specifically a business end, which we term an ³organization-centric rationale.² We also differentiate employees¹ own rationales about why it is important for their companies to operate sustainably from their perceptions about why their organizations believe it is important. Perhaps the most surprising finding when we surveyed 489 working adults across a wide range of organizations and occupations was that people were more likely to perform OCB-Es when they believed their organizations valued sustainability, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the importance of sustainability. These findings held for both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales. This to us was surprising, as lots of research would lead us to predict that personal values would trump perceived organizational values. Yet, we find the opposite, which suggests that perhaps people perform voluntary sustainability behaviors at work not just because they think it¹s important, but because their company believes it is important. It is worth noting that we included in our OCB-E measure not only simple, everyday tasks, but also ³higher-level² behaviors, like collaborating with other employees or making suggestions to supervisors to increase organizational sustainability.

These findings raise several interesting and timely implications for organizational leaders looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors. Since employee perceptions of organizational rationales for sustainability were so important in motivating OCB-Es, we advise communicating corporate values around sustainability and resource conservation as clearly as possible. By contrast, trying to screen employees for pro-environmental values seemed to be less important in a company that clearly communicated these values, since even employees who didn’t buy in on their own behaved more sustainably when they believed their employers cared about the environment.


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Is it a ‘home run’ for vertical integration? Organizational Form in Professional Baseball

At first glance, the organizational form of major league and minor league baseball teams may appear straightforward–minor league teams provide training and experience for players, which provides major league teams with a strong recruitment pool. However, a recent paper published in the Journal of Sports Economics by F. Andrew Hanssen, James W. Meehan Jr., and Thomas J. Miceli, entitled “Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball,” the authors suggest that the relationship between major league and minor league baseball teams is more dynamic than previously thought.

The abstract for the paper:

In this articleCurrent Issue Cover, we investigate changes over time in the organization of the relationship between Major League Baseball and minor league baseball teams. We develop a model in which a minor league team serves two functions: talent development and local entertainment. The model predicts different modes of organizing the relationship between majors and minors based on the value of these parameters. We then develop a discursive history. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that when the value of minor league baseball’s training function was low but the value of its entertainment function was high, major and minor league franchises operated independently, engaging in arms’-length transactions. However, as the training function became more important and the local entertainment function less important, formal agreements ceded control of minor league functions to major league franchises. Finally, as the value of local entertainment rose once again in the late 20th century, the two roles were split, with control of local functions accruing to local ownership and training functions to major league teams. This analysis helps shed light on factors that influence the boundaries of the firm.


Charles Snow on the Evolution of Organizations

JLOS_72ppiRGB_powerpoint[We’re pleased to welcome Charles C. Snow of The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Snow recently published his article entitled “Organizing in the Age of Competition, Cooperation, and Collaboration” in the November issue of  Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.]

This article describes how organizations have evolved across three periods of modern economic history. The time in which large-scale organizing began in the United States up until the present can be divided into three eras: the age of competition, age of cooperation, and age of collaboration. The article summarizes my research over the last four decades and covers traditional organizational forms such as the functional, divisional, and matrix structure as well as newer forms such as network organizations and collaborative communities of firms. Organizations evolve as they reconfigure their resources and capabilities to pursue new opportunities and overcome existing challenges. Pioneering organizations develop new organization designs that fit the particular circumstances in their sectors, and the new designs diffuse as managers in other sectors adapt the designs to their own organizations. Overall, the result is organizations of greater complexity but also of greater speed and capability.

You can read “Organizing in the Age of Competition, Cooperation, and Collaboration” from Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest news and research from Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies? Just click here to sign up for e-alerts!

ccs4_bioCharles C. Snow is Professor Emeritus of Strategy and Organization at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the Founding Co-editor of the Journal of Organization Design and currently holds visiting professor positions in Norway, Denmark, and Slovenia.