The Creative Use of Insider Ethnography as a Means for Organizational Self Investigation: The “Essence of Tesco” Project

Mary Yoko Brannen, Terry Mughan, Fiona Moore

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This chapter describes a methodologically innovative action research project, the “Essence of Tesco,” in which managers from the Asian subsidiaries of the British multinational retailer Tesco plc worked in concert with an academic team to generate cultural data about their own organization through ethnographic research. The objective of the project for Tesco was twofold: (1) to understand and evaluate the core practices that make up the essence of Tesco’s home country advantage, and (2) to identify sources of learning from Tesco’s Asian subsidiaries to aid in reinvigorating its core in light of increasing competition in its home market. However, from an organization studies point of view, the project illustrated ways in which researchers can work together with managers to document and analyze the culture of an organization, rather than prioritizing researcher perspectives. In this chapter we describe the project, document our methodology and consider the advantages of insider ethnography in providing multiple perspectives and strategically valuable insights for the global firm. In conclusion, we discuss the implications of the study, not only for researchers looking to conduct qualitative research on global organizations and for practitioners looking to apply ethnographic techniques, but also for the relationship between researchers and managers during the process of study.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Anthropology and Business
EditorsRaza Mir, Anne-Laure Fayard
Number of pages23
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9781138496422
ISBN (Electronic)9781003052456
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesRoutledge Companions in Business, Management and Marketing

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