The purpose of this paper is to understand how employees make sense of a structural change in a public organisation, in order to understand which practices form this change and how individual elements (rules, understandings etc.) may shape the process of such changes.
The research is based on: a two-wave interview method, where the same individuals from different levels of the organisation were questioned in both 2012 and 2014; and an analysis of the formal documents created during the decision-making process. Schatzki’s (1996) approach is used as the basis to identify teleo-affective structures, practical understandings and rules as constitutive elements of the practices that comprised the structural change in the organisation.
The analysis revealed two main practices – structural reorganisation and the sharing of information and involving employees – that shaped the process of structural change within the organisation. These practices are formed of positive and negative ways of doing, some of which have become in-house habits and a few which have become rules of the organisation. There were competing understandings and enactments of named elements in the organisation, indicating that organisational practices exist beyond individuals and that it takes a collective effort to change them.
The retrospective interview technique and use of employees’ subjective sense-making did not allow us to fully grasp how practices unfolded during the process of a change to the everyday workings of the organisation, which could only be accomplished by direct observations.
The research highlighted those processes that influence one of the potentially most important changes to any organisation, that of organisation structure – both extensive and compact – which has thus far seldom been studied. The authors empirically tested Schatzki’s (1996) approach to practices and provided a set of categories for analysing practices during such changes.
The authors thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor of the journal for constructive comments, suggestions and critiques of an earlier version of this article. The preparation of this paper was supported by Grant No. 9017 (Ministry of Education and Research) and by IUT 20-38 (Estonian Research Council)
Rosenberg, A. and Keller, M. (2016), "Making sense of organizational structure change: a practice-based approach", Baltic Journal of Management, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 452-472. https://doi.org/10.1108/BJM-12-2015-0243Download as .RIS
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