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Implementing Institutional Change: Flexible Work and Team Processes in a White Collar Organization

Work and Family in the New Economy

ISBN: 978-1-78441-630-0, eISBN: 978-1-78441-629-4

Publication date: 17 February 2015



The purpose of this chapter was to examine the implementation of a flexible work initiative that attempted to challenge two institutionalized precepts of contemporary white-collar workplaces: the gendered ideal worker norm, with its expectation of the primacy of paid work over family and personal life, and the assumption of managerial control over employees’ schedules and work location.


Using ethnographic and interview data, how the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) was experienced by employees in four different teams within the Best Buy, Co., Inc. corporate headquarters was explored.


Comparing more and less successful implementation across teams, results suggested that collective institutional work is required for the emergence of new norms, expectations, and legitimated practices. Findings indicated that managers’ task-specific knowledge – their deep experience with the tasks that the team is charged with completing – is a structural condition that facilitates managers’ trust in employees and encourages team experimentation with new practices.

Research limitations

Data for this study was limited to one organization and four teams. Future research should include similar organizational change efforts in other organizations and in larger teams.

Practical/social implications

These findings may promote a better understanding, among researchers and practitioners, of the importance of manager knowledge and background and how this appears to be key to achieving institutional change.


This research is an example of an innovative approach to workplace flexibility and applies an institutional theory lens to investigate variation in the implementation of organizational change.




This research was conducted as part of the Work, Family and Health Network (, funded by a cooperative agreement through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant # U01HD051217, U01HD051218, U01HD051256, U01HD051276), National Institute on Aging (Grant # U01AG027669), Office of Behavioral and Science Sciences Research, and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Grant # U010H008788). The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of these institutes and offices. Special acknowledgment goes to Extramural Staff Science Collaborator, Rosalind Berkowitz King, Ph.D. (NICHD), and Lynne Casper, Ph.D. (now of the University of Southern California) for design of the initiative. Additional support was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (#2002-6-8) and the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Minnesota. Thanks to Rachel Magennis for project management and the audience at the Minnesota Sociology workshop for comments. We especially thank the employees who participated in this research, the managers who facilitated our access to the organization, and Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler.


Chermack, K., Kelly, E.L., Moen, P. and Ammons, S.K. (2015), "Implementing Institutional Change: Flexible Work and Team Processes in a White Collar Organization", Work and Family in the New Economy (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 331-359.



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