Identity in organisations : a methodological study

Crafford, Anne (2015-04)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study examined organisational identity from a substantive and methodological point of view. With the burgeoning interest in the organisational identity construct, there have been a multitude of perspectives and meanings associated with the term. These perspectives formed the basis of three juxtapositions used to evaluate the nature of knowledge generated by various research designs used to study organisational identity. These designs included survey design, content analysis, case study design, ethnography, narrative analysis and discourse analysis. I concluded that the choice for a particular research design does constrain or make possible the generation of different types of knowledge regarding OI. The effect of design type has long been suspected and argued for, and this study provides further substantiation for this view. The choice of research design is not a neutral one but plays an integral role in the nature of the knowledge generated, and should be taken seriously as part of the research process. Also from a methodological perspective, the aim was to explore whether an Internet-based, open-ended qualitative survey could provide a suitable description of organisational identity, and whether it would be possible to develop identity narratives from these responses. Data was gathered in a South African based multi-national engineering firm, the result of a recent merger of two engineering firms. Based on the responses to the survey, I was able to develop descriptive narratives of each of (what had been termed) the heritage organisations, each narrative comprising a series of inter-related identity statements capturing various facets of organisation identity. Three broad narratives for each heritage organisation dealt with the nature of the organisation and its position in the market, the importance of the profession and clients, and the value of people in the organisation. Given the pervasive nature of technology, and that work in many corporate and professional settings is conducted via the internet, an internet-based qualitative survey allows information regarding organisational identity to be gathered fairly easily. The research undertaken in this study thus adds to the body of knowledge surrounding the use of a web-based qualitative survey in accessing organisational identity, and suggests that this form of data gathering in the organisation can be successful, provided that participants are computer literate and have access to the Internet. The organisations in question were chosen as merger partners due to their similarity, and using the descriptive narratives developed from the survey, I was able to examine the question of distinctiveness in similar organisations, which has not yet been addressed. Despite the similarities, the identity of both organisations was arguably distinct, and this could be traced to two factors. The first was an element of social actor, in this case the size of the organisation, which coupled with other factors influenced organisation identity in very specific ways. Secondly, distinctiveness arose from the construction of meaning around specific elements of the social actor by members of the organisations. Thus, much like personal identity, organisational identity is associated with similarity and difference (Buckingham 2008).

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: g Hierdie studie het ten doel gehad om the konsep van organisasie-identiteit te ondersoek vanuit ‘n substantiewe en metodologiese hoek. Die groeiende belangstelling in die konstruk van organisasieidentiteit, gee aanleiding daartoe dat meervuldige perspektiewe en betekenisse aan die term gegee word. Hierdie verskillende perspektiewe vorm die basis van drie naasmekaarstellings wat gebruik word om die aard van kennis, wat geskep word deur verskillende navorsingsontwerpe in die studie van organisasie-identiteit, behoorlik te bestudeer. Hierdie navorsingsontwerpe sluit in opnamestudies, inhoudsanalise, gevallestudies, etnografiese studies, teksontledings en diskoers analise. Ek het tot die gevolgtrekking gekom dat die keuse van ‘n bepaalde navorsingsontwerp weliswaar beperkend of fasiliterend van aard kan wees in die skep van verskillende kennisbasisse rondom organisasie-identiteit. Die impak van die tipe navorsingsontwerp word lankal reeds vermoed, en hierdie studie lewer verdere ondersteuning vir hierdie standpunt. Die keuse van ‘n navorsingsontwerp is nie neutraal nie maar speel ‘n integrale rol in die aard van die kennis wat geskep word en behoort aandag te geniet in the navorsingsproses. Vanuit ‘n metodologiese perspektief was die doelwit ook om te bepaal of ‘n internet-gebaseerde, oopeinde kwalitatiewe opname, ‘n toepaslike beskrywing en begrip van organisasie-identiteit kan lewer en of dit moontlik sou wees om identiteits-ontledings vanuit hierdie response te genereer. Data opnames is gedoen in ‘n Suid-Afrika-gebaseerde internasionale ingenieurskonsultasiefirma, wat bestaan uit twee saamgesmelte firmas. Die response uit die opname het my toegelaat om beskrywende narratiewe van beide die oorspronklike organisasies te ontwikkel. Elk van hierdie bestaan uit ‘n reeks van interafhanklike stellings oor identiteit wat die verskeie fasette van organisasie-identiteit verwoord. Daar was drie narratiewe vir elkeen van die oorspronklike organisasies en hierdie het gefokus op die aard en markposisionering van die organisasie, die belangrikheid van die professie en kliente en die waarde van mense binne die organisasie. Gegewe die deurtastende aard van tegnologie in veral korporatiewe en professionele omstandighede, sal ‘n internet-gebaseerde kwalitatiewe opname die verkryging van inligting rondom organisasie identiteit vergemaklik. Die navorsing onderneem in hierdie studie dra dus by tot ons begrip van die toepassing van internet-gebaseerde kwalitatiewe opnames in die taksering van organisasie identiteit. Dit dui aan dat hierdie vorm van data-insameling in ‘n organisasie sukesvol kan wees indien die respondente rekenaarvaardig is en toegang tot die internet het. Die organisasies wat in die studie gebruik is, het tot ‘n groot mate saamgesmelt aan die hand van hulle soortgelyke aard en waardes. Deur die beskrywende narratiewe te gebruik wat uit die opname ontwikkel is, kon ek die vraagstuk van onderskeidenheid in soortgelyke organisasies ondersoek, wat tot op daardie stadium nie gedoen was nie. Ongeag die ooreenkomste, is bevind dat die identiteit van beide die organisasies wel merkbaar verskil en dat dit toegeskryf kan word aan twee faktore. Die eerste hiervan is geeien as ‘n sosiale agent, in hierdie geval die grootte van die organisasie, wat tesame met ander faktore die organisasie-identiteit op spesifieke manier beinvloed het. Die tweede faktor onstaan uit die konstruksie van betekenis rondom spesifieke elemente van die sosiale agent deur lede van die organisasies. Dit is dus duidelik dat organisasie-identiteit, soos persoonlike identiteit, geassosieer word met ooreenkomste en verskille (Buckingham 2008)

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97031
This item appears in the following collections: