Turning First-line Managers into Owners of Digital Transformations through Engagement: A Qualitative Study of First-line Managers’ and Project Managers’ Experience with the Engagement of First-line Management Digital Transformations

Anton Emil Bjerager Arnesen & Stinne Höegfeldt Andersson

Student thesis: Master thesis


Purpose – Digital transformations are becoming increasingly important although 70 percent are considered unsuccessful. At the same time, first-line managers are gaining an increased responsibility and influence in organizations and have also been found to have a key role in the success of digital transformations. Consequently, the purpose of this study is to explore and understand what factors affect first-line managers’ engagement in digital transformation and how this relates to them taking ownership of the change.
Design/methodology/approach – Inspired by hermeneutic phenomenology this study interprets the lived experience of both project managers and first-line managers involved in digital transformations through nine semi-structured, in-depth interviews. As such, the study adopts an inductive method of inquiry to investigate an exploratory research question. Lastly, the lived experiences are through a thematic analysis systematically interpreted and structured before they are discussed.
Findings – The study finds that six factors affect first-line managers’ engagement in digital transformation. In short, they revolve around IT systems and complexity, personal interests, first-line manager buy-in, autonomy, accountability and support. The factors cannot be perceived as independent elements but must considered collectively to be understood. Also, first-line managers’ engagement relates to ownership through personal interests and human motives as well as autonomy and decision rights and responsibilities. Lastly, the study finds that first-line managers taking ownership may not be beneficial for digital transformations if change is perceived as planned and fixed.
Research limitations – The study is based on a small data sample and only one data source. At the same time, the study operates under both a broad definition of digital transformations and first-line managers. Future research should attempt to narrow down the focus and expand data sources.
Paper type – Master thesis

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and E-business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages105