While more and more organizations commit to transformation projects with the aim of redesigning simultaneously their workspaces, work organization, and technologies, the…
While more and more organizations commit to transformation projects with the aim of redesigning simultaneously their workspaces, work organization, and technologies, the design process supporting such projects remains largely understudied. This paper examines the political tensions that occur when such processes unfold as well as their implications for project management. By doing so, the paper counterbalances the prescriptive and normative literature on “New Ways of Working” which largely overlooks the political complexity of such projects.
The paper is based on a qualitative study of a triple design process in a media company. Data collection mainly consists of a nine-month process of non-participant observation of weekly meetings held by the strategic group in charge of the project. Semi-structured interviews with members of the executive committee have also been conducted.
The analysis illustrates how space, organization and technology are gradually designed and structured. Four interconnected and often concealed mechanisms that support triple design processes are identified: political tensions, unexpected twists, conflicting temporalities and arbitration measures.
The originality of the paper lies in breaking down the concept of design in three separate objects – organization, space and technology – and examining how these objects were conjointly problematized by an organization in transformation, whereas existing studies often investigate organization design, space design or technology design in isolation.
Several studies have recently documented projects of organizational transformation and modernization which, commonly clustered under the umbrella term “New Ways of…
Several studies have recently documented projects of organizational transformation and modernization which, commonly clustered under the umbrella term “New Ways of Working” (NWoW), simultaneously entail material, technological, cultural and managerial dimensions. Academic contributions, however, have paid little attention to the mechanisms allowing such projects to progressively become legitimized in organizational discourses and practices. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the distinctive features of the legitimation process underlying the implementation of NWoW projects.
This paper relies on a longitudinal, three-year analysis of a large insurance company. Data were collected through qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews (48), periods of observation (3 months) and document analysis (78).
The paper develops a grounded and integrative framework of legitimation processes underlying “NWoW” change projects. The framework emphasizes four decisive operations of translation in “NWoW” design and implementation: translating material constraints into strategic opportunities; translating strategic opportunities into a quantitative business plan supported by the top management; translating compelling discourses around “NWoW” into an organizational machinery; and translating a transformation project into discourses of unequivocal success, conveyed by legitimate spokespeople within and beyond the organization.
Besides contributing to the understanding of a managerial fashion, which has received little academic attention so far, the paper also offers an original integrative framework to account for legitimation processes that combines two theoretical approaches – the sociology of translation and research on institutionalist work.