organizational development

Tutorial: Six Principles for Working Differently

Instructors: MARTHA COTTON, gravitytank SHELLEY SATHER As practitioners, EPIC people continually work to help our teams, organizations and clients understand the value of ethnographic approaches and “the ethnographer” as a team member. We help colleagues and clients to think and work differently, adapting the value we bring to the organization’s existing work flow and process. In this tutorial, Martha Cotton shares the curriculum gravitytank developed to teach their clients—including many Fortune 500 companies—to work differently and in a way that better supports innovation and design thinking. This tutorial gives you concrete strategies and behaviors you can use in your own work practice and for creating change in your organizations. Martha Cotton is a partner at gravitytank, where she helps lead research discipline and external marketing. Her career began at eLab in 1990s, and has included leadership roles at Sapient, Hall & Partners, and HLB. She has worked across a wide variety of industries as an applied...

Donna Flynn / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by LUIS MACHADO, University of North Texas Walking a Different Path The path of American anthropology is becoming ever more diverse. Under the academic umbrella of Anthropology the world has been explored, analyzed, reflected on, and then determined to be wanting of more exploration. The Indiana Jones stereotype of the archaeologist or anthropologist is still a familiar reference in popular culture, perhaps surpassed for recent generations by Dr. “Bones” and her TV show bearing the same name. Anthropology in common parlance brings to mind the bold researcher off in the exotic far away, taking and studying the strange, bringing it back to the university and, after knocking dust off the hiking boots, demystifying it for the social science community and curious students. Yet, explorers of new kinds of anthropology are changing the conversation about who an anthropologist is and what they can do. Donna Flynn is one such anthropologist, creating and expanding these new frontiers. Donna Flynn is Vice President...

A Perfect Storm? Reimagining Work in the Era of the End of the Job

MELISSA CEFKIN, OBINNA ANYA and ROBERT MOORE Trends of independent workers, an economy of increasingly automated processes and an ethos of the peer-to-peer “sharing economy” are all coming together to transform work and employment as we know them. Emerging forms of “open” and “crowd” work are particularly keen sites for investigating how the structures and experiences of work, employment and organizations are changing. Drawing on research and design of work in organizational contexts, this paper explores how experiences with open and crowd work systems serve as sites of workplace cultural re-imagining. A marketplace, a crowdwork system and a crowdfunding experiment, all implemented within IBM, are examined as instances of new workplace configurations....

Strategic Ethnography and Reinvigorating Tesco Plc: Leveraging Inside/out Bicultural Bridging in Multicultural Teams

MARY YOKO BRANNEN, FIONA MOORE and TERRY MUGHAN This paper focuses on a study of Tesco Plc conducted in 2011, in which we trained a multicultural team of nine Asian managers to become in-house ethnographers of Tesco UK for a 3-month period studying 52 stores in the UK with dual objectives of helping Tesco (1) to understand and evaluate the core practices that comprised the essence of Tesco’s home country advantage, and (2) to identify sources of learning from Tesco’s foreign subsidiaries to aid in reinvigorating its core in light of increasing competition in its home market. We believe that the strategic and training dimensions of this project constitute a new contribution to the field of organisational ethnography, particularly with regard to the use of a multinational ethnographic team of non-native speakers of English....

Teaching Organizational Ethnography

NOZOMI IKEYA, ERIK VINKHUYZEN, JACK WHALEN and YUTAKA YAMAUCHI In 2004 Fujitsu asked PARC to carry out an ethnographic investigation of their software business, focusing on their development processes, and while doing so to build an ethnographic capability in their own organization. One of our biggest challenges was to convince Fujitsu’s system engineers – and the development organization more generally – of the value of ethnography for their business. They are used to translating what they hear from customers about the workflow into a standard framework of system requirements and specifications; it was difficult for them to see the relevance of putting any significant focus on understanding what is going on in the workplace at the level of everyday work practices. Moreover, in their work with customers, system engineers commonly proceed in a carefully planned and highly structured manner, where every activity is expected to yield predictable outcomes. For them, the open-ended nature of ethnographic fieldwork seemed dangerously...

Concreting Sustainability: Renewing the Cement Industry through Sustainability Implementation

LAURA E. RESENDEZ DE LOZANO While the cement industry had traditionally been linked to the concepts of modernity and development, the drive towards socially responsible and environmentally friendly business practices has required a revision of the industry mostly in relation to its sustainability programs. This paper examines the logics followed by employees when relating to the concept of sustainability as sustainability programs are implemented in the cement industry. The interaction with different stakeholders in combination with personal convictions about ethics, power, environment and participation in a team influence how an individual understands sustainability policies and makes them concrete....

Ethnographic Findings in the Organizational Theatre

JACOB BUUR and ROSA TORGUET In the quest for engaging ethnographic insight in organizations on a more fundamental level than mere ‘innovation drivers’, theatre offers ways of triggering a change in conversations through emotional engagement. This paper discusses the impact of using theatre with professional actors to convey the outcome of ethnographic ‘user studies’ to industry and academia. In a project on indoor climate control with five company partners, the field studies brought about controversial findings, like ‘Indoor comfort is what people make’ – as opposed to something fully controlled by technology and ‘provided’ to inhabitants. We explore how theatre improvisation can convey such findings and thus support the provoking role that ethnography may play in organizations. Based on the study of two theatre sessions, we will articulate the importance of balance between playful and serious, of explorative discussion, and of supportive event planning and space layout to achieve audience engagement....

Integrating Organizational and Design Perspectives to Address Challenges of Renewal: A Case Study of NASA’s Post-shuttle Workforce Transition

JO AIKEN As organizations become increasingly complex and technology-dependent, likewise their challenges become increasingly complex and technology-driven. In the practice of organizational and design ethnography, the elements of organization and technology design overlap. However, a need remains for an explicit framework to deal with the complex challenges of innovation and change faced by contemporary organizations. This need is evident in a case study of NASA’s workforce transition as a result of the space shuttle’s retirement. NASA’s challenge is both organizational and technological – the end of the Space Shuttle Program left the agency without a clear replacement vehicle and the risk of losing an experienced, expert workforce. An integrated organizational and design approach could foster an environment of renewal by involving stakeholders at all levels of the agency and adopting a future-oriented approach to anticipating change....

Opting Out Of Stasis: Using Integrated Techniques to Create Sustainable Change and Renewal in Healthcare Organizations

LINDSEY MESSERVY and BETH WERNER In recent times, hospitals and healthcare organizations have become more accepting of using human-centered approaches, including ethnography, to lend insight on how to prevent risk, increase efficiency, improve staff experience, and advance delivery of care. But often times, these approaches lack the tools and techniques needed to carry these insights to implementation. This paper identifies and reflects on the hurdles that make change and innovation difficult and how the integration of practices, such as quantitative, co-creative, and change management, with ethnographic methods can help facilitate responsive and sustainable transformation in healthcare organizations....

Ethnography and the “Age Wave”: Knowledge Capture for Succession Planning

KRISTINE MCKENZIE GENTRY The “age wave,” or aging of the population and concurrent increase in retirees, is creating a loss of knowledge unlike that experienced in the American work force to date. Since many Baby Boomers are loyal employees who have worked for the same employer for several decades, the knowledge, both tacit and explicit, contained within this single generation is vast and integral to the continued success of many organizations and industries. While Knowledge Management (KM) has become a priority for many organizations, several studies have shown that current KM methods and technologies have not proven effective as a means of transferring knowledge between workers. Ethnography offers some advantages as a technique to capture, record, and transfer tacit and explicit knowledge. This paper uses two case studies to examine how ethnography and a co-creative method can b e utilized to assist with knowledge management and succession planning....

Ethnography as a Catalyst for Organizational Change: Creating a Multichannel Customer Experience

ROBIN BEERS, TOMMY STINSON and JAN YEAGER This paper describes how ethnography became a catalyst for organizational change in a leading financial institution by providing a collaborative context for functional groups to come together in co-creating a multichannel customer banking experience. While consumers increasingly expect a good cross-channel experience as a de facto element of their engagement, few companies successfully deliver this experience in a compelling way. Because functional groups are siloed, focusing on their own business goals and managing their own discrete parts of the customer experience, there is limited understanding of the experience as a whole and limited interest in bridging units to improve customer experience. Building a 360° view of the customer is an “excuse” for people to step outside their silos. The ethnographic process can become a collective learning platform where people gain a common understanding of the customer and how they’re accountable for delivering the customer experience. However the...

Trajectories of Change in Global Enterprise Transformation

JEANETTE BLOMBERG This paper reports on the efforts of a global IT services company to transform the way it delivers IT outsourcing services. The change initiative was designed to bring about a radical transformation in the how work gets done across the enterprise with the expected benefit of delivering greater service quality and reliability at a lower cost. In addition, the standardization of processes and tools would allow work to move more freely from one location to another thus creating flexibility to meet changing demands. Based on a study of the impact of this initiative on four global delivery centers we explore how change occurs within organizations both as an ongoing achievement and as the result of explicit corporate initiatives. Taking account of the particular historic, geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural characteristics of individual delivery centers we trace trajectories of change with the aim of providing both a broad synoptic view given these differences in delivery centers characteristics and a detailed...

A Case for Ethnography in the Study of Corporate Competencies

CHRISTIAN MADSBJERG, MIKKEL KRENCHEL, MORGAN RAMSEY-ELLIOT and GITTE HESSELHOLT In business thinking, ‘core competencies’ have long been seen as the critical factor that distinguishes great from good. Great companies have strong core competencies that they constantly leverage and develop. On the other hand, companies who do not understand their own strengths and weaknesses cannot execute at the highest proficiency. Their growth initiatives fail, not because they lack commercial potential, but because they fail to apply the same due diligence to their competencies they so naturally apply to their finances. Understanding competencies entails understanding culture, and few companies know how to approach this topic beyond the gut feel analyses of executives or the rare employee survey. In this paper, we use a large-scale study for the medico company Coloplast as a case for how to use ethnography to rigorously study competencies and leverage growth. We show how understanding the effects of culture and competence on market performance...

The Not-So-Blind Watchmaker: Evolution by Design in Corporate Culture

KATE BARRETT This paper provides a framework for “evolving” business, organizations and brands based on the mechanisms of evolution commonly discussed within academic anthropology. It begins with an analysis of the differences between the concept of “evolution” as evoked in corporate and academic settings. Then, placing the burden for resolving this discrepancy in the hands of practicing anthropologists, it offers a model for assessing business challenges and opportunities for growth based on the four primary mechanisms of evolutionary change: natural selection, mutation, flow, and drift. Positing industries as “species,” the paper presents four case studies of financial services companies that used each of these mechanisms to achieve competitiveness and “evolve” the industry. It concludes with more general recommendations as to when and how each mechanism can address specific business and/or organizational challenges....

Evolutionary Matryoshka: Mapping the Dimensions of the Evolutionary Forces Impacting Survival of Ethnographic Insights within a Large Financial Enterprise

ARI NAVE and ZACH LEV Evolutionary forces are applied as a framework for understanding the dynamics that determine which insights, generated from a corporately-funded ethnography, flourish in the organization and which fail to thrive. Using duel-inheritance theory model, the paper explores sui generis elements of the ideas themselves, contextual variables, the mechanics and mediums of transmission, as well as contextual selective pressures such as how organizational structures trigger prestige bias. Leveraging anecdotal data, the paper points to the value of evolutionary theory as a framework for understanding broad patterns of information dissemination....