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Article
Publication date: 12 March 2019

Rachael L. Lewis, David A. Brown and Nicole C. Sutton

The purpose of this paper is to reframe the debate about the tension between management control and employee empowerment by drawing on a theory of paradox. Reframing the…

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2528

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to reframe the debate about the tension between management control and employee empowerment by drawing on a theory of paradox. Reframing the problem in this way draws attention to the variety of ways in which organisations can attend to both control and empowerment simultaneously.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors undertake a conceptual examination of the relationship between empowerment and control using a paradox theory lens. First, the authors bring together two dimensions of empowerment – structural empowerment and psychological empowerment – and combine them to produce three new empowerment “scenarios”: illusory empowerment, obstructed empowerment and authentic empowerment. For each of these three scenarios, the central tenets of paradox theory are applied in order to explain the nature of the paradoxical tension, anticipated behavioural responses and the resulting challenges for ongoing management control.

Findings

The authors find that neither structural nor psychological empowerment alone can account for variation in behavioural responses to management control. The conceptual analysis highlights the interplay of socio-ideological control and systems of accountability in generating psychological empowerment and demonstrates that this does not come at a cost to management control but instead results in a reduction in the scale and scope of ongoing challenges.

Originality/value

This paper contributes a new theoretical perspective on the classic problem of tension between management control and employee empowerment. Rather than positioning control and empowerment either as a managerial choice or dialectic, the authors identify three different ways in which organisations can engage with both paradoxical elements simultaneously.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 27 October 2020

Sujeewa Damayanthi, Tharusha N. Gooneratne and J.A.S.K. Jayakody

This paper explores how management controls of a clustered apparel firm in Sri Lanka (Stitch-It) is shaped by institutional field and societal logics, firm's head office…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper explores how management controls of a clustered apparel firm in Sri Lanka (Stitch-It) is shaped by institutional field and societal logics, firm's head office prescriptions, clusters' own attributes and strategic behavior of cluster managers.

Design/methodology/approach

It follows the research philosophy of interpretivism and embedded case study approach within the qualitative research design, while institutional complexity within the institutional logics perspective and paradoxical tensions, organizational attributes and strategic responses to institutional processes provide the theoretical underpinning.

Findings

The findings suggest that market, profession and state logics in the apparel field, alongside community logic at the societal level, develop a state of complexity in Stitch-It and its clusters. At the cluster level, such complexity is further intensified by head office guidelines (on controls), which gets filtered by the organizational attributes of the particular clusters. At this state, paradoxical tensions are developed within clusters, and to mitigate such tensions, key organizational members employ different strategies, which in turn shape management controls of the clusters.

Practical implications

This paper highlights that practicing managers need to be mindful of different logics in the field, organizational attributes, resulting tensions, complexities, strategies to deal with them and their ramifications on controls.

Originality/value

The paper asserts that management controls is a dynamic and a situational phenomenon, which continuously evolves in light of organizational attributes, multiple logics and head office prescriptions. It conceptualizes the “tensions” evident in the design and implementation of management controls, arising due to multiplicity of pressures as “paradoxical tensions.” Although important and relevant to management control arena, “paradoxical tensions” has been scantly explored by prior researchers.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 21 September 2015

Noora Jansson

– The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between permanent tensions and organizational change.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between permanent tensions and organizational change.

Design/methodology/approach

This study used paradox theory and a case study. The case organization is a public university hospital in Finland involving several stakeholders.

Findings

The analysis suggests that the relationship between permanent tensions and organizational change is a paradox that is part of organizational reality. As an organization learns to live with its permanent tensions, the renewal paradox settles into equilibrium. When tensions are provoked, the paradox is disturbed until it finds a new balance. This flexible nature of the paradox is the force that keeps the different stakeholders simultaneously empowered to maintain their unique missions and cohesive in order to benefit from the larger synergy.

Practical implications

This research suggests that identification and evaluation of each permanent tension within an organization is important when executing organizational change. The fact that certain tensions are permanent and cannot be solved may have an influence on how planned change initiatives are executed. The results show that permanent tensions may be harnessed for the benefit of an organizational change.

Originality/value

This research demonstrates originality by offering an alternative view of tensions, a view which emphasizes not only their permanent and plural nature but their importance for enabling the organization to change at its own, non-disruptive pace. The research also proposes a new concept, the “renewal paradox”, to enhance understanding of the relationship between permanent tensions and organizational change.

Details

Journal of Health Organization and Management, vol. 29 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1477-7266

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Article
Publication date: 12 February 2018

Nicolas Berland, Emer Curtis and Samuel Sponem

The Beyond Budgeting movement has argued that traditional budgets failed to contribute to the management of tensions associated with the increasing complexity of business…

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1268

Abstract

Purpose

The Beyond Budgeting movement has argued that traditional budgets failed to contribute to the management of tensions associated with the increasing complexity of business models. The literature has reported a range of budgeting practices developed to address these problems, which the authors refer to collectively as “non-traditional (NT) budgets.” The purpose of this paper is to consider how the design and use of a NT budgeting system facilitates the management of multiple organizational tensions.

Design/methodology/approach

The study reports the findings of an in-depth case study on three business units (BUs) of the French chemical giant SSB, a company that implemented a NT budget inspired by the Beyond Budgeting Round Table model.

Findings

The authors provide detailed empirical insights into the design and use of a NT budgeting system and analyze the manner in which the new system exposes organizational tensions across multiple axes.

Research limitations/implications

It is a limitation of the study that only three of SSB 21 BU’s which implemented the NT budget project were examined in depth. This limitation is mitigated to some extent by the review of audit reports in respect of the implementation of the NT budget in a total of 15 BU’s.

Practical implications

The study contributes a means of analyzing NT budgets in terms of the different types of organizational tensions generated, which should be of use to both researchers and practitioners in researching, designing, and evaluating NT budgets.

Originality/value

This study provides detailed empirical insights into the design and use of a NT budgeting system and evidence of the success of this system in exposing organizational tensions across multiple axes. The study illustrates how productive tensions can be generated through the analysis of discrepancies between alternative views of organizational performance.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. 19 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

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Content available
Article
Publication date: 11 January 2021

William S. Harvey, Vince-Wayne Mitchell, Alessandra Almeida Jones and Eric Knight

A major part of knowledge management for knowledge-intensive firms such as professional service firms is the increasing focus on thought leadership. Despite being a…

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3647

Abstract

Purpose

A major part of knowledge management for knowledge-intensive firms such as professional service firms is the increasing focus on thought leadership. Despite being a well-known term, it is poorly defined and analysed in the academic and practitioner literature. The aim of this article is to answer three questions. First, what is thought leadership? Second, what tensions exist when seeking to create thought leadership in knowledge-based organisations? Third, what further research is needed about thought leadership? The authors call for cross-disciplinary and academic–practitioner approaches to understanding the field of thought leadership.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors review the academic and practitioner literature on thought leadership to provide a rich oversight of how it is defined and can be understood by separating inputs, creation processes and outcomes. The authors also draw on qualitative data from 12 in-depth interviews with senior leaders of professional service firms.

Findings

Through analysing and building on previous understandings of the concept, the authors redefine thought leadership as follows: “Knowledge from a trusted, eminent and authoritative source that is actionable and provides valuable solutions for stakeholders”. The authors find and explore nine tensions that developing thought leadership creates and propose a framework for understanding how to engage with thought leadership at the industry/macro, organisational/meso and individual/micro levels. The authors propose a research agenda based on testing propositions derived from new theories to explain thought leadership, including leadership, reducing risk, signalling quality and managing social networks, as well as examining the suggested ways to resolve different tensions.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, they are the first to separate out thought leadership from its inputs, creation processes and outcomes. The authors show new organisational paradoxes within thought leadership and show how they can play out at different levels of analysis when implementing a thought leadership strategy. This work on thought leadership is set in a relatively under-explored context for knowledge management researchers, namely, knowledge-intensive professional service firms.

Details

Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 25 no. 11
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1367-3270

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Article
Publication date: 6 October 2020

Cristiano Ghiringhelli and Francesco Virili

Implementing automatic sorting operations in the parcel delivery industry can dramatically improve both capacity and service quality but demands radical and complex…

Abstract

Purpose

Implementing automatic sorting operations in the parcel delivery industry can dramatically improve both capacity and service quality but demands radical and complex organizational change. The present in-depth grounded theory study examined a change process of this kind within one of the few global companies in the parcel delivery sector, focusing on three European hubs where automatic sorting had recently been introduced.

Design/methodology/approach

Grounded theory methodology, which facilitates the gradual emergence and dialogical interpretation of empirically grounded theoretical concepts, was particularly suited to the current project's open-ended research design and the hybrid (prescriptive but also constructive) nature of the change process under study. The investigation comprised iterative cycles of data collection, open coding, selective coding and theoretical coding over a three-year period.

Findings

In keeping with the dual nature of the change underway, a set of tensions were identified between pairs of opposite poles: manual vs automated, planned vs emergent and corporate vs site. The management of these tensions, which leveraged both prescriptive and sensemaking approaches, was found to trigger knowledge production, facilitating a gradual transition from high to low uncertainty and, consequently, progressive movement along the continuum between each pair of competing poles. Within this process, the industrial engineering function acted as an agent of change with a key orchestrating role.

Originality/value

As one of the first in-depth grounded theory analyses of tension management, this study contributes to the relatively recent debate on the recognition, analysis and handling of tensions and paradoxes in organizational change, suggesting innovative criteria for successful change management and identifying promising new avenues for research. From a managerial perspective, the study outcomes suggest that explicit recognition of uncertainty and tensions in organizational change can pave the way for solutions based on agility and continuous organizational learning.

Details

Business Process Management Journal, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-7154

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 12 August 2020

Henrik Pålsson and Erik Sandberg

Grounded in paradox theory, and with the objective of structuring and extending existing knowledge of conflicts of interest (e.g. trade-offs) in packaging logistics, the…

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2211

Abstract

Purpose

Grounded in paradox theory, and with the objective of structuring and extending existing knowledge of conflicts of interest (e.g. trade-offs) in packaging logistics, the purpose of this paper is to identify categories of paradoxical tensions in packaging systems used in supply chains, and to develop a conceptual framework that describes these categories.

Design/methodology/approach

This research uses a theory building approach. It develops a conceptual framework of paradoxical tensions for packed products in supply chains. It revises and extends current knowledge in this domain by applying paradox theory from organisational research.

Findings

The paper develops a generic, conceptual framework that identifies, categorises and describes packed product paradoxes on two system levels: supply chain and company levels. The categories of paradoxes refer to performing, organising, belonging and learning.

Research limitations/implications

The framework provides a new theoretical explanation of conflicts of interest in packaging logistics in terms of paradoxical tensions related to packed products in supply chains. It structures and increases general understanding of such tensions within and between actors in a supply chain. The paper also discusses differences in terminology between tensions which are possible to settle and those which lead to paradoxes.

Practical implications

The framework provides a structure for analysing the organisational impact of strategic packaging decisions. It can help highlight different stakeholders' organisational constraints related to packaging.

Originality/value

The framework's systematic categorisation of four types of paradoxical tensions, with thorough descriptions of the meaning of packed product paradoxes of each type, offers an expanded and in-depth explanation of the organisational impacts of packed products in supply chains.

Details

The International Journal of Logistics Management, vol. 31 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-4093

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Article
Publication date: 11 April 2018

Thommie Burström and Timothy L. Wilson

The premise of this paper is that tension exists among participants and parties engaged in projects. The uniqueness of development virtually assures this. The purpose of…

Abstract

Purpose

The premise of this paper is that tension exists among participants and parties engaged in projects. The uniqueness of development virtually assures this. The purpose of this paper is to propose that tension is a product of the precursors of complexity, uncertainty and equivocality, and an attempt is made to characterize tension as it arises in projects – its genesis and its nature.

Design/methodology/approach

An in-depth case study was conducted in a manner in which the contextually sensitive empirical researches for which Nordic studies are known. Within discussions on the strategy, decision making, intra- and inter-project interdependencies and managing across development sites associated with a flagship project, 77 statements concerning tension were identified for analysis. Through a literature review, 12 tension-driving factors were identified. These factors were used as base for analysis.

Findings

These statements were analyzed for content to produce a model associating tension with its precursors and the literature on tension. It is found that due to innovation turbulence, tension-driving factors are cascaded in and around organization(s). Tension is manifested in various ways for different stakeholders and tension management is performed through cognitive and emotional responses. The texture of tension is characterized by fluidity, multiplicity and parallelism.

Research limitations/implications

Case studies can of course not be generalized; they are valuable, however, in indicating important observations for further studies.

Practical implications

A contribution is made to management theory where knowledge about project context is seen as essential in order to understand best practices for project execution and effectiveness.

Originality/value

Although common, even virtually assured in projects, tension tends to be neglected in successful management. This study associates the genesis of tension through the underlying contributions of complexity, uncertainty and equivocality. It is believed to be the first study of its type.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 11 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

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Article
Publication date: 6 June 2016

Malek Maalouf and Britta Gammelgaard

Through the identification and investigation of the organisational paradoxes in lean, the purpose of this paper is to deepen the understanding of lean implementation…

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1533

Abstract

Purpose

Through the identification and investigation of the organisational paradoxes in lean, the purpose of this paper is to deepen the understanding of lean implementation intricacies, and contribute to sustaining lean in companies.

Design/methodology/approach

Case study based on semi-structured interviews with participants in lean conversion from three companies in Denmark. The companies come from different business sectors: public transport, healthcare and finance.

Findings

This study identifies three types of organisational paradoxes in lean: organising, performing and belonging. The study also points to a range managerial responses used for dealing with the three paradoxes and facilitating lean transformation.

Research limitations/implications

This is a theory development paper which increases the understanding regarding the role of the organisational paradoxes in facilitating or hindering lean transformation.

Practical implications

The study generates insights which help managers identify and deal with the individual motivations for opposing lean practices, and thus facilitates lean transformation.

Originality/value

This study adds clarity to the process of managing lean implementation by identifying three different motivations for people to oppose lean transformation. The study also recommends managerial actions for dealing with each situation.

Details

International Journal of Operations & Production Management, vol. 36 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-3577

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Book part
Publication date: 8 July 2021

Joshua Keller and Ping Tian

The way organizational actors use language to think about and communicate their organizational experiences is central to how organizational actors enact organizational

Abstract

The way organizational actors use language to think about and communicate their organizational experiences is central to how organizational actors enact organizational paradox. However, most inquiries into the role of language in the organizational paradox literature has focused on specific components of language (e.g., discourse), without attention to the complex, multi-level linguistic system that is interconnected to organizational processes. In this chapter, we expand our knowledge of the role of language by integrating paradox research with research from the linguistics discipline. We identify a series of linguistic tensions (i.e., generalizability-specificity, universalism-particularism, and explicitness-implicitness) that are nested within organizational paradoxes. In the process, we reveal how the organizing paradox of control and autonomy is interconnected to other paradoxes (i.e., performing, learning, and belonging) through the instantiation of linguistic paradoxes. We discuss the implications of our findings for research on paradox and language.

Details

Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Organizational Paradox: Investigating Social Structures and Human Expression, Part B
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80117-187-8

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