Exploring the qualitative differences in basic assumptions about information sharing across various hierarchical employee levels in the service industry and the perceived strategic value of information of frontline employees: Bottom-Up Information Processes in Service Organizations: A Study of Differences in Basic Assumptions about Information Flow between Hierarchies

Nanna Schøn Martinussen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Background: Limited research has been conducted in relation to the strategic use of lower level employees’ knowledge. For the importance of strategic decision-making this thesis is therefore moving within an under researched area of the strategic management and organizational behavior literature. This thesis explores the qualitative differences in basic assumptions about information and knowledge sharing across various hierarchical levels in two capital intensive service organizations. Furthermore, this thesis investigates the possible applicability and strategic value of the basic assumptions and sensing of frontline employees in strategic decision making purposes. Aim: This master thesis seeks to explore the differences in information sources and knowledge accumulation according to hierarchical organizational employment level. It further investigates how these differences can result in differences in fundamental basic assumptions. These basic assumptions are seen to provide a discrepancy in understanding of operational tasks on various levels according to which level one is employed at. Moreover the thesis aims at determine whether or not the middle level managers of an organization creates biases in knowledge and information which is passed on through the organization and if consequently the most correct and updated knowledge and basic assumptions about the operating environment is found at the lower level of an organization. Methods: The thesis is written from an interpretivist and inductive approach. As it seeks to investigate the differences in basic assumptions according to hierarchical level and the possible strategic use of lower level employees’ basic assumptions, it is further seen to be exploratory. Primary and secondary sources are used in the research. The primary sources include 14 open ended semi structured interviews, which are divided into six bulks in accordance to the hierarchical level of the employee. Two executive managers, four middle level managers and eight frontline employees are interviewed. Secondary sources include books, academic articles and journals as well as web pages. The setting of the research is the service industry in Copenhagen, Denmark. Two capital intensive service organizations, which are not seen to be direct competition with one another, participates. One company operated within the cruise industry and the other within the telecommunications industry. As a starting point two executive managers were contacted and given a detailed explanation of the study, they were further asked to provide contact information within the companies. The interview objects were not given any information about the research or the topic of the study before the interview was terminated. This was a conscious choice made by the author as it is assumed to have given the most honest and least biased answers. All interview objects were informed about confidentiality and anonymity. It was explained to all 14 objects that it would only be the author who would be able to see a connection between answers given and their identities. When interviews were transcribed they were sent to the objects for approval and signature. The answered given together with four developed propositions then formed the ground for the analysis which began immediately after transcribing. Conclusion: The thesis has shown that there is a fundamental difference in employees’ basic assumptions about information sharing according to hierarchical level. Further it has been concluded that the position of the middle manager tends to block for effective knowledge and information sharing in the service organizations. It is therefore suggested that in this area the middle manager should be eliminated. It has moreover been postulated that the sensing and basic assumptions of frontline employees can have significant importance for strategic decision making purposes. It is assumed that the information accumulated by the frontline employees is updated and correct and can aid an executive manager in making strategic decisions.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages239