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ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY VALUES, RATIONALITY, AND POWER: · PDF file 2019-04-12 · athabasca university . values, rationality, and power: developing organizational wisdom . by . bradley

Jul 31, 2020

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  • ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY

    VALUES, RATIONALITY, AND POWER: DEVELOPING ORGANIZATIONAL WISDOM

    BY

    BRADLEY CLINTON ANDERSON

    A THESIS SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE

    DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

    FACULTY OF BUSINESS

    ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY MARCH 2019

    © BRADLEY CLINTON ANDERSON

  • ii

  • iii

    Dedication

    To my beautiful wife, Joelle Bradley, the greatest gift the universe has given me.

  • iv

    Acknowledgements

    There are many people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Dr. Gabrielle Durepos

    devoted a tremendous amount of time, effort, and thought into helping me shape this

    thesis into what it is. This work would be a mere shadow of itself without her guidance

    and support. Likewise, Dr. Janice Thomas made the time to take me on as a graduate

    student despite an already vast array of responsibilities. It was she who introduced me to

    Bent Flyvbjerg’s book, Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and

    How It Can Succeed Again. There are books that change lives, and this book changed

    mine. I also wish to thank Drs. Gloria Filax, Gina Grandy, and Jim Grant, who took the

    time to review my research proposal and manuscript. Their insights and challenging

    questions only made this work stronger.

    There are many within my research setting to whom I owe thanks. To maintain

    their confidentiality, however, I can only refer to them by their code names. The Mentor

    was the first person in the BC Health Authority to introduce me to the Seniors Program.

    From day one, she showed interest and passion for my research. Similarly, the Site

    Director was incredibly supportive, giving me access to a treasure trove of documents.

    These two plus my other interviewees, the MD Lead, Head Coach, Senior Improvement

    Lead, CEO1 and CEO2, gave generously of their time participating in my interviews.

    Associated with many of these individuals and the REBs I interacted with are unsung

    heroes: executive assistants and administrators with whom I worked to arrange meetings,

    organize interviews, and guide paperwork through the labyrinthine complexity of

    bureaucracy. Without the generosity and support of these people, this research would not

    exist.

  • ORGANIZATIONAL WISDOM v

    Abstract

    How do we develop organizational wisdom? The literature highlighted three themes of

    wisdom: values guide wise action; knowledge is required, but insufficient; wisdom is

    action-oriented, requiring acts of power. Focusing, therefore, on the constructs of values,

    rationality, and power, I applied a phronetic research approach, including a narrative

    analysis of texts and interviews, to an embedded, single case study of the development of

    the Seniors Program within a Canadian health authority. Phronetic research seeks to

    develop value-rationality and argues that wisdom is doing the ethically practical in a

    social context. Thus, I used the values of the Canada Health Act as a litmus for wise

    action and assessed whether individuals acted consistently with those values and, if not,

    why.

    Results demonstrated that values guided episodic uses of power. Values interacted

    in complex ways, and even when different stakeholders shared prime values, differences

    in instrumental values and operating timeframes led to resistance. Groups exercised

    power and made appeals to areas where values overlapped to overcome resistance.

    Program developers used rationality to determine how the program would operate.

    Different stakeholder groups, however, relied on different forms of rationality, and the

    rationalities that dominated were the ones supported by prevailing power structures.

    Groups that blended different rationalities discovered that bringing multiple rationalities

    into dialogue resulted in creative problem-solving. Rationality was also the means

    through which individuals reified power. It gave the means and structure that translated

    will into action.

  • ORGANIZATIONAL WISDOM vi

    This study demonstrated that organizational wisdom required individuals capable

    of managing the complex interplay of values, rationality, and power within their

    organization. These individuals were led by values that aligned with the organization’s,

    possessed keen insight into the values different stakeholder groups pursued, and

    negotiated differences to build supportive power networks. They understood the

    rationalities that dominated in their organization yet recognized that other stakeholders

    relied on different rationalities. They respected these differences and sought to blend

    rationalities to solve problems. Finally, these individuals understood how power worked

    in their organization. They knew how to make things happen in their environment, and

    they exercised their power to create action.

  • ORGANIZATIONAL WISDOM vii

    Table of Contents

    Approval page ..................................................................................................................... ii Dedication .......................................................................................................................... iii

    Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................ iv

    Abstract ............................................................................................................................... v Table of Contents .............................................................................................................. vii

    List of Tables ..................................................................................................................... xi List of Figures and Illustrations ....................................................................................... xiv

    List of Abbreviations ....................................................................................................... xvi Chapter 1—STUDY OVERVIEW ..................................................................................... 1

    Introduction to organizational wisdom, values, rationality, and power .......................... 2

    Introduction of theoretical frameworks and research questions ...................................... 5

    Summary of Methodology .............................................................................................. 8 Overview of results ......................................................................................................... 9

    Summary of discussion ................................................................................................. 15 Chapter 2: OVERVIEW OF ORGANIZATIONAL WISDOM ....................................... 20

    Wisdom. What is it? ...................................................................................................... 21 Can organizations act wisely? ....................................................................................... 24

    Do organizations need to act wisely? ............................................................................ 25 Elements of organizational wisdom. ............................................................................. 28

    Chapter 3—VALUES & RATIONALITY ....................................................................... 41 Conceptualizations of values in public sector organizations ........................................ 41

    Conceptualizations of rationality in organizations ........................................................ 47 Chapter 4—POWER AND THE NATURE OF PLURALISTIC ORGANIZATIONS ... 59

    Conceptualizations of power ......................................................................................... 59

    Pluralistic organizations: How wise are they? .............................................................. 77 Chapter 5—THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS .............................................................. 86

    Philosophical framing: Critical Realism ....................................................................... 86 Phronetic research ......................................................................................................... 96

    Chapter 6—METHODS.................................................................................................. 101

    A qualitative approach ................................................................................................ 101

    Case study: The Seniors Program ............................................................................... 102

  • ORGANIZATIONAL WISDOM viii

    Overview of the development & implementation of the Seniors Program ................. 104

    Data sources ................................................................................................................ 113 Data analysis ............................................................................................................... 117

    Chapter 7—THE VALUES INHERENT IN THE SENIORS PROGRAM ................... 126

    What attracted people to the Seniors Program? .......................

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