The purpose of this study is to introduce the Human Resources (HR) module of the SAP suite in the Italian branch of a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. This…
The purpose of this study is to introduce the Human Resources (HR) module of the SAP suite in the Italian branch of a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. This study can be re-conducted within the interpretive tradition of information technology studies focusing on the attempt to understand and describe how software users in the HR department interpreted the enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology, how they changed their work practices and the changes that occurred in organizational discourses and meanings alongside the process.
The case study/intervention took start with the impulse of the Italian HR department manager, who was struck by the way that the ERP system technology implementation was affecting work life of the employees in the department. This research/intervention used interviews, focus groups and internal documents as sources of data. The authors conducted and analyzed 20 narrative interviews and 3 focus groups with middle managers, and they analyzed about 120 pages of internal memos.
The implementation of ERP systems is almost invariably accompanied by great expectations of increased process rationalization, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and upper managers’ discourses make large use of what Engeström et al., 2010 have called process efficiency rhetoric. But the ERP technology, most likely, will neither revolutionize management nor will it become a “complete calculation machine” that runs an entire work organization (Quattrone and Hopper, 2005, p. 731).
The implementation of the ERP system has caused conflicts and disturbances, aggravating contradictions that already existed between activity systems and introducing new types of contradictions. Pre-existent contradictions become clearer; there is a stronger interconnection between activity systems. The individual agents could experiment an expansion in their activities if only they will initiate a movement of expansive learning and if they are not prevented from doing so by coercive control. The natural expansion of the subjects’ scope of activity and horizons of possibilities could be sustained by the ERP technology if it is not used as a tool for domination and if the upper management does not try and separate what cannot in actuality be separated: The actors’ capabilities of improvised learning, which makes the institution of a new mode of the activity possible, and their capacity to assume collective control of the meaning and direction of the transformation of the activity. ERPs are technologies that can naturally bring transformations in the activity system and networks where they are introduced, but in some cases, they can easily and in a non reflective manner be intended as tools for oppression by the upper management.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the enactment of safety routines in a transshipment port. Research on work safety and reliability has largely neglected the role of…
The purpose of this paper is to explore the enactment of safety routines in a transshipment port. Research on work safety and reliability has largely neglected the role of the workers’ knowledge in practice in the enactment of organisational safety. The workers’ lack of compliance with safety regulations represents an enduring problem that often involves first-level managers, who are willing to turn a blind eye toward divergent practices. The CHAT conceptual vocabulary and theoretical model is used to explore this issue.
A grounded, empirical study in a large transshipment port in the Mediterranean area is conducted. Ethnographic methods including participant observation and interviews are used, and emerging data are analyzed through an interpretive methodology. The paper explores 30 employees’ narrated accounts of how safety rules are enacted or infringed while living and working in the field in a transshipment port. Data obtained through organisational shadowing provided secondary data. Interview data were analyzed using content analysis, using a CHAT framework. Constant comparison and theoretical sensitivity were pursued through an iterative analysis process.
This study documented the critical role the workers’ knowledge played in practice in ensuring the efficient functioning of the port, and evidenced that the disconnect between safety procedures and technical productivity standards is the most important factor determining the erratic compliance with prescribed procedures. The selective application of safety norms was deliberate in nature, collectively shared and culturally regulated.
This contribution fails to address probably the most important aspect of the activity theoretical approach: its developmental orientation. The initial analysis intervention was meant to lead to a longitudinal process of expansive learning and development in the activity system. The authors had planned to initiate a cycle of expansive learning laboratories involving representatives of the dockworkers, the port management and the safety certification firm, but this had to be postponed to an undefined time due to the significant changes occurred in the international maritime cargo industry and the decision of the multinational company who owns the transshipment port to cut down its cargo traffic and privilege other ports in the Mediterranean area.
The practical implications of the case study concern the conception and design of safety training and management for the port organisation. By acknowledging the disconnect between espoused safety routines and the constraints and affordances of the workers’ everyday work practice, it is suggested that safety training could be more effective if it engaged the workers (or first-level supervisors) in the fine tuning of safety regulations. Workplace learning opportunities could enable the workers to learn and construct situated safety practices.
This paper seeks to highlight how the consideration of local knowledge and context-dependent practices can achieve better comprehension of situated application of safety norms.
The paper contributes to understanding the complexity of enacting and translating safety procedures into everyday work practices.
This paper seeks to provoke thoughts around the possibility of using the lever of practices and situated knowledge to trigger organisational change and to redesign it with…
This paper seeks to provoke thoughts around the possibility of using the lever of practices and situated knowledge to trigger organisational change and to redesign it with the involvement of the whole organisation.
The paper presents connections between a psychosociological approach and a practice‐based approach. The use of ethnomethodology is offered as a way to detect situated practice and meaning at works.
This contribution underlines how change and learning in organisations can find support in investing in local knowledge and in detecting and reflecting around the living practices of daily activities. Knowing in practice requires the involvement and continuous work of connecting among individuals, groups, organisations and institutions in situated contexts. The paper shows how strategic a process this is, presenting a way to work on situated data.
The paper represents a way to work on organisational change grounded on action research.
The paper combines a psychological perspective within the field of practice‐based studies and sustains a specific ethnographic method to create organisational areas of reflexivity.