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Title: What's in it for us? A case study research about micro sense making processes through the eyes of front line employees, during culture change implementation
Authors: Verkerk, S.M.
Keywords: Sense Making
Micro Change
Front Line Employees
Culture Change Implementation
Organisational Change
Change Recipients Perspective
Issue Date: 1-Jan-2016
Publisher: Open Universiteit Nederland
Abstract: Abstract How employees make sense of change is a very complex process. Recently, academics have neglected to research sense making activities in a micro culture implementation context, through the eyes of front line employees. In contrast to a macro view, a micro perspective limits researchers to only look at an individual, departmental or group level. By doing so, we can zoom in on the details of sense making processes that employees use in their daily work life. A macro (organisational) view is based on the notion that there is a general integrated culture that can be found in all organisational units and departments. It is assumed that culture can be researched by using the entire organisation as one single research entity. This thesis challenges this assumption. In case of planned change it is usually the management community who are in charge of the change intervention. Because of their formal hierarchical position, they have the power to abort or initiate change programs. It is perhaps therefore that researchers tend to be focused on the management community rather than on lower level organisational members, such as front line employees. Apart from the micro view, scholars also neglected to research culture change implementation through the eyes of front line employees. This thesis is an attempt to fill these two gaps that currently exists in academic change management publications. The main research question is therefore: From a micro point of view how do front-line employees make sense of the impact of culture change, during the implementation phase? This thesis starts with a literature review which exposes the two main gaps. The most important outcome of this review is that only 2% of the research articles dealt with culture implementation, through the eyes of front line employees. A conceptual research model is built on the integrated sense making theory of Weber and Manning (2001) and the micro variables of Raelin and Cataldo (2011). These theories emphasize elements of sense making in a daily working context. It is likely that front line employees can identify themselves with research elements such as tasks, skills practices, involvement and behaviour. Front line employees were selected, because as lower level organisational members they are usually the change recipients. They are further away from the change initiating scene (usually the management of an organisation) and form a potential sense making ‘hotspot’ that could provide new academic insights. In order to carry out the primary research, two case organisations were selected in the leisure industry. A participative case study research method was chosen. This meant that the researcher worked in the concerning departments of the case organisations. The goal was to observe and interview front line employees, while they were performing their jobs. The most important advantage of this approach is that the researcher temporarily becomes one with the organisation and is therefore able to acquire both formal and informal narratives that front line employees use during sense making activities. It was found that front line employees make sense of organisational change by using a practical approach. They make sense of the change program by carrying out new tasks, developing new skills and sharing best practices. The most noticeable conclusion was that sense making activities predominantly take place at an individual level in relation to change acceptance. Organisational members tend to create a mental equation in order to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. They evaluate whether the concerning change program is beneficial to them or not. For future research a sense making scheme model is suggested that is based on two methods: an introspection and an action method.
Appears in Collections:MSc Management Science

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