Beyond Implementation: How and Why Business Practitioners Use Sociotechnical Systems Design

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A lot of research has been done on the adoption, diffusion, and evolution of management ideas in organizational practices (e.g. Abrahamson, 1996). Yet, research about the different uses of management ideas by managers is lacking. This lack is remarkable, since literature explains several reasons of why managers adopt certain ideas (e.g. Sturdy, 2004). This research contributes to filling gaps in existing literature on the consumption of management ideas by not limiting the use of management ideas to direct implementation in organizational borders, and by taking into account the different personal interests, problems, goals, and uses of management ideas of consumers (Heusinkveld et al., 2011; Van Grinsven et al., 2020). To gain more insight in the motives for and uses of management ideas, in-depth interviews have been conducted with alumni of an EMBA programme at a Dutch business school. In this business school, the students specialize in Dutch sociotechnical systems design (STSD), a local and prescriptive management idea. By inductively coding narratives of the alumni, several motives for and uses of STSD in both work and daily life practices have been distinguished. Four common categories of motives for the uses of STSD in work can be categorized, namely to (1) improve organizations, (2) meet personal interests of organizing, (3) enhance reputation, and to (4) confirm thoughts on organizing. Outside of work, STSD is used to get a better understanding of organizations and social structures in general. STSD is used more often as a way of thinking about organizing rather than as an actual solution to organizational problems by implementing specific tools and techniques, and is also used to enhance reputations. Overall, it is argued that this broader understanding of different uses contributes to getting a better understanding of the consumption of management ideas. Furthermore, this insight offers a basis for further research on the accessibility of management ideas and reflection on business schools’ efficacy.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen