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...
University of Technology Sydney
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,...
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...
Founder, CEO, Acesio Inc.
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...
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...
RINA TAMBO JENSEN
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...
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...
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...
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.
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...
EMIL STIGSGAARD FUGLSANG
ReD Associates Download PDF
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:...
by CHRISTINE BIRTEL (Senior Vice President), JASON PAJTAS (Vice President) and MICHELLE GREEN (Vice President), Customer Experience Insights, Wells Fargo
Large organizations have been on a quest to harness the power of big data to inform and drive all kinds of decisions—from finance and fraud prevention to product development and marketing. Organizations from the U.S. government, to retailers, to major financial institutions are appointing Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to evangelize the power of big data.
The path of creating a data-savvy organization, however, has complicated turns and roadblocks. Starting with the technological foundation for analytics, there exists a dizzying array of platform and software solutions all claiming to be best-in-class. When success drives an organization beyond this foundation, evolving an existing culture and data infrastructure around things like cloud, big data, machine intelligence and block chain can be an overwhelming challenge that seems insurmountable. Beyond infrastructure challenges,...
by MELANIE REDMAN and TANUSHREE BHAT, Steelcase
It’s not unusual for challenges to arise when organizations and teams undergo transformation. Whether due to natural growth, global expansion, or shift in focus, confusion and misalignment may lead to poor morale and mistrust. In such cases, Human Resources is typically brought in to manage employee, leader and organizational expectations, applying tried and true approaches under the heading “Change Management.” We believe, however, that ethnography offers a better approach.
We were fortunate to work with a Global Procurement Team at a company that was experiencing all of these challenges following a series of organizational changes. The company had tried other, more traditional fixes, including leadership changes and providing a new work space for the team, but the problems lingered. The new leader decided to try something different.
He brought in a team of ethnographic researchers who spent a month collecting survey data and conducting face-to-face interviews with as many...
by KATE SIECK (RAND Corporation) & LAURA A. MCNAMARA (Sandia National Laboratories); EPIC2016 Paper Committee - Ethnography/Organizations & Change Curators
Praxis is the bringing-to-life of a theory or philosophical position. It is the practical application of lessons learned through study and reflection. It is not simply what you do, it’s why you do it. Thus as the organization that specializes in ethnographic praxis in industry, we are the translators of ethnographic theory into action when applied to organizations and their cultures.
As the discipline which specializes in the nuanced and contextual understanding of culture, ethnography offers a much-needed voice in these discussions. However, organizational science has tended to be dominated by industrial/organizational psychology, business management research, sociology and economics. In the resulting literature, ethnographic methods are often lumped into the category of “qualitative organizational research,” subsuming organizational anthropology to the more established...