Embedded Self-Managing Modes of Organizing: Empirical Inquiries into Boundaries, Momentum, and Collectivity

Anna Stöber

Research output: Book/ReportPhD thesis

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Abstract

This dissertation empirically examines self-managing modes of organizing (SMOs) embedded within hierarchical contexts of established organizational settings. Although SMOs in various forms have long been experimented with in practice and extensively explored in research, realizing the promised potential of SMOs remains a complex challenge. Fundamental questions regarding how best to introduce such modes of organizing and how to sustain them over time still present a puzzle for researchers and practitioners alike. These challenges are particularly complex in the context of established organizations experimenting with self-managing and participatory modes of organizing since sustaining SMOs embedded within traditional hierarchical settings inevitably generates tensions and paradoxes. In exploring these questions, I adopt a constitutive approach that emphasizes how organizational phenomena are continuously renegotiated through communication. Proceeding from this perspective, the three papers of this dissertation delve into three aspects of embedded SMOs.
Paper I, entitled A constitutive paradox view of boundary work: How self-managing modes of organizing within hierarchical organizational settings can be sustained, approaches the question of how to sustain embedded SMOs by conceptualizing this challenge as a matter of constitutive paradoxical boundary work. In highlighting the importance of boundary work, this first paper adds to the literature on SMOs while also adding to the literature on boundary work by showing how paradoxes are not merely a side effect of such work but can play a constitutive role in sustaining (intra-)organizational boundaries.
In Paper II, entitled From fleeting enchantment to embodied commitment: How bottom-up momentum can emerge and persist, again applies a constitutive view to expand upon the concept of “momentum” in the context of introducing and sustaining SMOs. This paper contributes to the theorization of momentum by evidencing and elucidating the role of what I call “embodied commitment” in perpetuating momentum to sustain embedded SMOs, especially from the bottom up. The findings further highlight how the emergence of new meanings can shift momentum away from the path originally intended by the initiators of SMOs.
Paper III, entitled Cultivating dispersed collectivity: How community participation matters for employee activists, is positioned at the nexus of employee activism and alternative forms of organizing. This paper explores how the participation of employee activists in communities located outside of their companies, but which center on a shared social purpose, shapes how these employees experience their change agency. This in-depth qualitative study contributes to the literature on employee activism by offering a nuanced view of the potentialities and limitations of inter-organizational communities for mobilizing and sustaining their members’ employee activism.
My PhD thesis makes two overarching contributions to organization scholarship. First, the dissertation contributes to ongoing discussions about issues of democratic forms of organizing more broadly with findings from contemporary and foundational empirical research. These findings evidence how employees may come to view self-managing and participatory modes of organizing as an opportunity to claim more participation and decision-making authority, thereby revealing how efforts to introduce and sustain SMOs hold potential for engendering forms of democratic participation not initially intended or envisaged by those responsible for their inception. Second, the constitutive view I apply throughout this doctoral project contributes a new understanding of how embedded SMOs can endure in spite of their inherently paradoxical setup. In particular, my analysis from this perspective reveals how alternative modes of organizing can be (re)produced alongside prevailing hierarchical modes by showing that the inherent paradoxes and tensions of embedded SMOs can themselves become co-constitutive of alternative modes of organizing as these tensions are negotiated through the continuous meaning-making processes of actors engaged in co-constructing and sustaining embedded SMOs.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederioksberg
PublisherCopenhagen Business School [Phd]
Number of pages170
ISBN (Print)9788775682454
ISBN (Electronic)9788775682461
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024
SeriesPhD Series
Number07.2024
ISSN0906-6934

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