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Defence of dissertation in the field of industrial engineering and management, Lic.Sc. (Tech.) Timo Punkka

Title of the doctoral thesis is "The bottom-up agency in driving institutional change: A case study in a corporate environment"

Organizations experience a growing demand for the ability to maneuver in a dynamic operating environment. As an answer, agile product development processes have moved into the mainstream. They rely on experimenting with rapid incremental and iterative cycles. However, it is the entire organization that is facing these challenges. Conventional organizing models seem inadequate to benefit from the responsiveness that agile product development provides. Practitioners have identified scaling agile thinking beyond product development as challenging, yet it remains a relatively unresearched topic.

This research concentrates on the dynamics of a bottom-up organizational change. The case organization exploring venues for unfolding agile thinking within the entire organization beyond the product development function provides the research context. During the research, the case organization implemented a novel team-based model for organizational structuring as a route to scale agile thinking.

The research findings show that such an organizational change can be initiated in a bottom-up fashion and steered through experimenting rather than laying out a planned change at the outset. The crucial ingredient is that the model contains elements for dynamic governance of the organization. Therefore, it embeds change management as everyone’s everyday job. However, the change in the case organization faced new challenges whenever crossing an organizational boundary. The research shows how institutional theory and concepts of institutional logics and agency provide tools for solving these challenges. Further, the research shows that the team-based organizational model works as one possible way to unfold agile thinking. The experimented model follows similar principles for organizing as agile development processes and, therefore, provides a natural continuum to change efforts in product development function.

The main contribution is a three-level model which illustrates the role of bottom-up agency in institutional change. The institutional theory initially explained why organizations remain seemingly stable and resemble each other. This research strengthens the potential of utilizing institutional theory in understanding organizational change as well. The research findings are readily available for practitioners involved in organizational change in general. They provide practical guidance in efforts to unfold agile thinking within an organization beyond product development.

Opponent: Professor Kari Smolander, LUT University, Finland

Custos: Professor Matti Vartiainen, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management

The public defence will be organised via Zoom. Link to the event

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The dissertation is publicly displayed 10 days before the defence in the publication archive Aaltodoc of Aalto University

Electronic dissertation

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