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Tackling organisational change with an interdisciplinary approach

When tackling the complex issue of organisational change, Van de Ven and Sun claim, that people prefer to implement their own plans rather than plans mandated by external parties.
Tackling organisational change, interdisciplinary thesis approach and research methodology

That being said – How can an organisation actually involve its people and their plans regarding organisational change processes?

IDBM master student S. Katharina Schilli explored this topic of organisational change and employee involvement. The Focus of her study were the routines, which employees undertake in their daily work in organisations, and how the employees modify some of these routines over time, potentially affecting organisational change.

To do so, Schilli conducted a case study in a `German Transportation Company´ and followed an interdisciplinary approach, combining the domains of organisational science, design and generative design research. On the one hand, her interdisciplinary study is characterised by profound conceptual frameworks, building on the “Practice Theory” and on fundamental organisational process theories by Van de Ven and Poole. On the other hand, the case study and the applied generative design research methodology provided an employee’s perspective and a close relation with real case issues.

 “As an IDBM student, I have experienced the benefits of interdisciplinary team work. Without a doubt, I wanted to tackle this complex thesis also with an interdisciplinary approach combining human centred design and organisational science.”

As a main result, the study suggests a process theory, which displays the diverse stages of an employee-driven routine modification. The first four stages of the process theory represent a rather universal modification process, which employees conduct up to date consisting of context/trigger, problem identification, problem solving, and solution. These stages are usually undertaken in an isolated manner by the employee, not involving other stakeholders. The process theory turns more context-specific when delving into the fifth stage, putting the solution into practice. Here, the process theory considers and illustrates four different modification types within the organisational context: silent, resource-based, interdivisional, and system-level modification.

Taking the developed process theory as a guideline, Schilli combined the stages of the modification process with design methods. These methods are related to the field of design thinking and are usually applied in new concept, product, and service development. In respect to the thesis, the design methods were considered to potentially enhance the routine modification process.

At the end of the case study, Schilli simulated a routine modification with the involved employees. Here, they’ve applied the developed process theory and the design methods. Schilli reflects on the practical outcome: “In the facilitated simulation, the employees perceived the process theory and the usage of design methods positively. The process theory raised awareness about the modification and supported constructive discussions. The design methods not only enhanced the modification process of routines; they also encouraged the employees to collaborate with each other and to involve other stakeholders in an earlier stage. Taking these insights further, the routine modification process could change over time towards a more transparent, collaborative approach. ”

After explaining the manifold aspects of her thesis, Katharina Schilli concludes: “It was great being able to collaborate with diverse stakeholders from different domains, exploring organisational change on a conceptual level as well as on an applied level. I highly value the combination of organisational science, providing theoretical frameworks, and generative design research, enabling to gain human cantered insights and ensuring a hands-on approach upon the conceptual work. When tackling complex topics, such as organisational change, this interdisciplinary approach is truly promising and powerful.”

MA Thesis in Department of Design; International Design Business Management

S. Katharina Schilli: Organisational Routines and their Endogenous Modification

 

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