Bottom-up constructions of top-down transformational change : change leader interventions and qualitative schema change in a spatially differentiated technically-oriented public professional bureaucracy

Thompson, Robert M. (2006) Bottom-up constructions of top-down transformational change : change leader interventions and qualitative schema change in a spatially differentiated technically-oriented public professional bureaucracy. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

In the face of knowledge deficits in and poor outcome assessments of Organisation Transformation (OT), there is a need for a better understanding of the relationship between change leader interventions and qualitative organisational schema change, the collective knowledge structures that must be replaced or significantly elaborated if OT is to be realised.

Previous research on this relationship has (a) focused on imposed structural interventions and given little attention to large-scale human process interventions, (b) given little attention to the radical structural interventions frequently involved in the transformation of public organisations, (c) given little scrutiny to how organisational schema have been conceptualised, (d) given little scrutiny to recent propositions on schema change dynamics that may be contentious, and (e) given little consideration to the change management contexts in which leader influence may be neutralised.

In the light of these gaps in the literature, this thesis investigates, from the perspective of change recipients, the relationship between complex large-scale change leader interventions and qualitative organisational schema change in change management contexts thought to be inimical to leader influence. In particular, how efficacious are change leader interventions in realising qualitative organisational schema change in such contexts?

An interpretive longitudinal case study design was used to address this question. The case organisation is a spatially differentiated technically-oriented public Professional Bureaucracy located in Queensland. In this context, this thesis investigates, over a three-year period, the creation and evolution of three schema change contexts, or change trajectories, created by two temporally disconnected yet functionally inter-related change leader interventions.

Data collection techniques included focus group interviews, semi-structured interviews, and secondary sources. Data were collected from several sites, including Head Office functions and Regional and District offices, across Queensland. Data were collected on four occasions across the three-year period from early 2000 to late 2002.

The results reveal that (a) while there are no panaceas, public managers need more sophisticated intervention theories based on a knowledge of the relative efficacy of different interventions rather than relying on, predominantly, structural interventions, (b) viewing organisational schema in one-dimensional rather than multidimensional terms masks both the complexity of organisational schema change and the possibility of partial rather than configurational schema change, (c) while inter-schema conflict or dialectical processes were apparent, successful schema change was better explained by teleological processes than by dialectical processes, and (d) change leaders can have a powerful influence on OT in change management contexts thought to be inimical to change leader influence yet their influence is linked to high investments of time and effort.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16425
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Ryan, Neal
Additional Information: Recipient of 2006 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: organisational transformation, leadership, schema change, public sector, ODTA
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Management
Department: Faculty of Business
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Robert Mcleay Thompson
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:03
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2013 07:50

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