organizational development

Let’s Shift Power Together! An EPIC Co-Creation Activity

To shift power in a complex system, try these power-shift techniques with power holders in different layers of the system
CHELSEA MAULDIN Public Policy Lab NATALIA RADYWYL Today This wildcard session was a conference-wide co-creation activity. Together, EPIC attendees reflected on the dynamic relationship between resilience and power. Then, through a facilitated, real-time activity, we collectively generated an actionable power-redistribution framework—a set of strategies for EPIC members to embed social resilience in their work, whether at a major tech or consumer firm, a government agency, or a consultancy. A designed artifact that captures this framework was produced and distributed to the community. Citation: 2022 EPIC Proceedings pp. 338–344, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

How a Government Organisation Evolved to Embrace Ethnographic Methods for Service (and Team) Resilience: The Case of the Canadian Digital Service

Presentation slide: photograph of a diverse group of people waiting outside a building with a "Service Canada sign", most are wearing masks.
MITHULA NAIK Canadian Digital Service, Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada COLIN MACARTHUR Universita’ Bocconi Government websites and online services are often built with limited input from the people they serve. This approach limits their ability to respond to ever changing needs and contexts. This case study describes a government digital team built from the ground up to embrace ethnographic methods to make government services more resilient. The case study begins by tracing the organisation’s origins and relationship to other research-driven parts of its government. Then it shows how the organisation’s structure evolved as more projects included ethnography. It describes various approaches to locating skilled researchers within bureaucratic confines, as well as what responsibilities researchers took on as the organisation grew. It then summarises researchers’ experiences with matrixed, functional and hybrid organisation schemes. The case study concludes explaining how embracing ethnographic approaches...

Creating Resilient Research Findings: Using Ethnographic Methods to Combat Research Amnesia

Kristen Guth speaking at EPIC2022. Slide reads "Organizations can learn by reflection on memories, or shared understandings and beliefs, of specific events and contexts
KRISTEN L. GUTH Reddit, Inc. Product teams, including those I work with, struggle to connect the challenges observed in prior research to issues that endure in the field and market space. As a shortcut for efficiency gains, product partners rely on researchers to succinctly summarize deep insights, sometimes preferring reductive quantitative interpretations to enable a bias toward action in product development cycles. Challenges facing researchers in product development include maintaining the relevance of prior research, providing a way to make it evergreen and accessible, and building on it to deepen and expand an existing model of behavior. This case introduces the concept of Research Amnesia, which poses a threat to organizational resilience. Using core ethnographic methods, a strategic methodological approach is outlined to frameshift the value of existing research within a company to develop new insights, bring together disparate analyses and teams, and propel product partners forward by offering more questions as a means...

Anticipating Headwinds: Using “Narrative Tacking” to Build an Inclusive Future

KATE SIECK This paper proposes a framework for addressing entrenched resistance to change. It borrows a metaphor from sailing to suggest that the best way through unwanted transformations is by “narrative tacking.” Drawing a parallel to how sailors navigate through headwinds by “tacking,” I argue that “tacking” through the narrative of change calms the resistance and enables forward motion. Specifically, it requires shifting the locus of attention from behaviors or the future state to the values and intentions of the actors. In attending to intentional states, we create space and flexibility in the narrative of change that enables the “wiggle room” needed for forward movement. I demonstrate the process through two case studies of complex, high-stakes transformation efforts that succeeded above and beyond what anyone expected. I suggest how these maneuvers provide a template for other kinds of change projects as well. In the end, by anticipating and harnessing resistance, we can craft change processes that are more...

Software Quality and Its Entanglements in Practice

JULIA PRIOR University of Technology Sydney JOHN LEANEY University of Technology Sydney Effective software quality assurance in large-scale, complex software systems is one of the most vexed issues in software engineering, and, it is becoming ever more challenging. Software quality and its assurance is part of software development practice, a messy, complicated and constantly shifting human endeavor. What emerged from our immersive study in a large Australian software development company is that software quality in practice is inextricably entangled with the phenomena of productivity, time, infrastructure and human practice. This ethnographic insight — made visible to the organization and its developers via the rich picture and the concept of entanglements — built their trust in our work and expertise. This led to us being invited to work with the software development teams on areas for change and improvement and moving to a participatory and leading role in organizational change. Keywords: ethnography, entanglements,...

The Org Chart as Political Map-Making

by JASMINE CHIA & SAMUEL HAGEN A senior leadership team gathers in the executive boardroom. The doors are closed; the glass is opaque. Sparkling water is served. Projected on the conference screen is not a financial statement, or an operating report, but instead, an intricate diagram resembling a map or relational lineage. The subject of the meeting is the company’s reorganization – a “reorg.” Perhaps a desperate cost-cutting measure, or perhaps a tactfully planned efficiency boost, this reorg is led by a team of outside management consultants who drew the diagram slide and now lead the meeting. A confluence of rectangular boxes – “heads” – are organized according to hierarchy, with the CEO (and her board) on top; one notch down are the leaders of each business unit – Product, Sales, Finance, Human Resources. But the way these organizational charts will be re-drawn is not a purely functional exercise – like map-making, it is deeply symbolic and imbued with power. Figure 1 (left): First organizational chart...

Who and What Drives Algorithm Development: Ethnographic Study of AI Start-up Organizational Formation

RODNEY SAPPINGTON Founder, CEO, Acesio Inc. LAIMA SERKSNYTE Head of Behavioral and Organizational Research, Acesio Inc. The focus of this paper is to investigate deep learning algorithm development in an early stage start-up in which edges of knowledge formation and organizational formation were unsettled and contested. We use a debate by anthropologists Clifford Geertz and Claude Levi-Strauss to examine these contested computational forms of knowledge through a contemporary lens. We set out to explore these epistemological edges as they shift over time and as they have real practical implications in how expertise and people are valued as useful or non-useful, integrated or rejected by the practice of deep learning algorithm R&D. We discuss the nuances of epistemic silences and acknowledgments of domain knowledge and universalizing machine learning knowledge in an organization that was rapidly attempting to develop algorithms for diagnostic insights. We conclude with reflections on how an AI-Inflected Ethnography perspective...

Acting on Analytics: Accuracy, Precision, Interpretation, and Performativity

JEANETTE BLOMBERG IBM Research ALY MEGAHED IBM Research RAY STRONG IBM Research Case Study—We report on a two-year project focused on the design and development of data analytics to support the cloud services division of a global IT company. While the business press proclaims the potential for enterprise analytics to transform organizations and make them ‘smarter’ and more efficient, little has been written about the actual practices involved in turning data into ‘actionable’ insights. We describe our experiences doing data analytics within a large global enterprise and reflect on the practices of acquiring and cleansing data, developing analytic tools and choosing appropriate algorithms, aligning analytics with the demands of the work and constraints on organizational actors, and embedding new analytic tools within the enterprise. The project we report on was initiated by three researchers; a mathematician, an operations researcher, and an anthropologist well-versed in practice-based technology design, in collaboration...

Revitalising Openness at Mozilla: A Mixed Method Research Approach

RINA TAMBO JENSEN Mozilla Case Study—This is a case about how Mozilla, the open source browser company, set out to reconnect with ‘collaborating in the open’ to regain its competitive advantage. This case describes how a multi-disciplinary research team used ethnographic, market, and data analysis to articulate and clarify the problem, and build a strategy towards revitalizing Openness at Mozilla. It will aim to prove that the subsequent change achieved could only have been accomplished by a mixed method research approach. And importantly show, how the team used data to prove the distribution of findings, coupled with ethnography to shine light on the why and how of those findings. The case study will do this by discussing the key insights and how these fueled recommendation and subsequent change in the organisation. The project presented many problems: from convincing stakeholders of the need to fully explore the problem, to connecting widely different research methods and gleaning insights that built strongly on all strands...

Ethnographic Tools: From Insight to Intervention

WAFA SAID MOSLEH SDU Design, Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, University of Southern Denmark As a social researcher rooted in the traditions of participatory innovation, I set out to take a design anthropological approach to study the early unfocused phases of organisational innovation processes, and explore ways of both challenging and supporting these. With an interest in understanding how the tangibility of design coupled with the analytical nature of anthropology can provoke richer insights concerning organisational practices, my research team and I designed an artefact, called ‘the tangible brief’, aiming to elicit real stories about the challenges practitioners experience in dealing with innovation. The artefact resembles the content of a design brief and aims to bring together practitioners around the task of creating briefs prior to evaluating the potential of new ideas.The paper sets out to address the challenge of ethnographic researchers navigating a complex landscape of organisational...

Merging Institutional Logics and Negotiated Culture Perspectives to Help Cross-Sector Partnerships Solve the World’s Most Wicked Problems

SARAH EASTER Abilene Christian University MARY YOKO BRANNEN University of Victoria Showcasing a sixteen-month ethnographic study of a coalition to end homelessness in Western Canada, we show how the integration of two theoretical perspectives—institutional logics and negotiated culture—can be used as complementary, yet distinct lenses to better inform the practice of cross sector partnerships which tackle the world’s wicked problems. In doing so, we highlight how we were able to holistically capture the meaning systems at work in such multi-faceted partnerships resulting in a better understanding of how partnerships can work across difference to affect positive social change. In particular, we capture how multiple stakeholders make sense of a partnership’s identity in a variety of different ways based upon meaning systems with which they identify at multiple levels as well as how they enact bridging skills across meaning-related boundaries to promote more effective partner interface. Keywords: cultural dynamics, negotiated...

Cultural Change Management in Organizations from Competing Perspectives

ALLEN W. BATTEAU Wayne State University GLADIS CECILIA VILLEGAS Universidad de Medellin Since the 1980s, it has generally been accepted that corporations have cultures, and that corporate culture bears an important, if poorly understood, relationship to corporate performance. Figuring out how to measure, fine-tune, and adjust corporate culture has been a cottage industry within management consulting ever since, employing numerous psychologists, sociologists, management theorists, communication specialists, and occasionally anthropologists. Corporate cultures have been variously characterized as strong, weak, open, closed, flexible, rigid, innovative, traditional, or (more typically) some mélange of all of these. To better understand the relationship between corporate culture and corporate performance, perhaps it would be better to understand culture as a living, breathing entity, not a museum specimen to be examined under laboratory conditions – ethnographically, that is, in a natural rather than artificial environment. In...

How ‘Doing Ethnography’ Fostered Collaboration in Two Organizations

DANIELA CUARON Empathy Case Study—This case study discusses the role ethnography played in fostering collaboration across two organizations during a research project. It explores how the opportunity for collaboration emerged, why it was seized upon, and what it meant for the project. The case study looks at the project challenges and mishaps and clarifies why in spite of this it is believed to be successful. It analyses the impact on people's perceptions of the project outcome and what this meant for our client. Keywords: organizational culture, agency collaboration, design research, government...

Tutorial: MBA Basics – How to Think Like a Business

Tutorial Instructors: CAROLYN HOU ReD Associates EMIL STIGSGAARD FUGLSANG ReD Associates Download PDF SUMMARY This tutorial will provide you with a foundational understanding of how businesses operate from financial, organizational, and strategic standpoints. However, rather than providing you with only a list of terminologies or a toolbox of frameworks, the goal of this course is to help participants gain an intuition around how to think like a business – especially when coming from a social science background and practice. The course is designed for social scientists, designers, academics, corporate innovation teams, and other non-MBA professionals looking to enter the corporate world or make a bigger impact in their organizations. Throughout the course, participants will learn how to feed this knowledge back into their own work and ethnographic approaches, particularly around framing a project and turning insights into credible and impactful recommendations. Using Whole Foods as a case study, this course will cover:...