Building bridges and solving Rubiks Cubes : tribalism in engineering and technical environments

Murphy, Glen D. (2009) Building bridges and solving Rubiks Cubes : tribalism in engineering and technical environments. In ICOMS Asset Management Conference, 1-4 June 2009, Masonic Centre, Sydney, New South Wales.

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Engineering asset intensive organisations are typified by the presence of numerous highly cohesive sub-groups derived from elements such as occupation (engineer, trades, management), professional association (e.g. mechanical, electrical), function (e.g. operator or maintainer), and contractual arrangement (e.g. outsourced contract labour). The presence of highly cohesive groups within organisations (termed “tribalism”) affords a number of benefits both for the individual and the organisation. At an individual level being a member of such a group drives professional and occupational identities which is associated with occupational competence, emotional well-being and higher morale. In a broader setting highly cohesive groups also encourage the transfer of tacit knowledge between group members, display higher levels of citizenship behaviour and social support. However at an organisational level the effects of highly cohesive groups are more variable. While on one hand high levels of cohesion are likely to result in higher retention, morale and productivity, tribalism can also have significant negative effects such as the emergence of information silos and inter-group conflict. The case of an innovative management structure implemented into a coal fired power station is used an example of the challenges faced in dealing with the negative effects of tribalism and the difficulties associated with solving those issues. Several recommendations are put forward for others wishing to achieve similar outcomes when faced with the significant negative effects of tribalism within engineering asset intensive firms.

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ID Code: 21139
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: Winner - Best Baper ICOMS 2009
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Knowledge management, Organisational change, Engineering cultures
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > INTERDISCIPLINARY ENGINEERING (091500) > Engineering Practice (091503)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Organisational Behaviour (150311)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Past > Research Centres > CRC Integrated Engineering Asset Management (CIEAM)
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 14 Jun 2009 22:10
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 14:04

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