Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Composition and Emergence of an Organizational Code
by Bulger, Emily Patrice, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2018, 134; 13804201
Abstract (Summary)

The very things that provide firms with advantages in the present may undermine their future viability. This dualism pervades the organizational and strategic management literature and leads to theorization of core organizational constructs as embodying trade-offs between stability and change. For example, the concept of organizational code focuses on how organizations structure information representation to enhance coordination effectiveness and efficiency; yet, efficiency comes at the cost of information loss. Economic-based organizational theories treat the code as an integral, yet inertial part of an organization’s invested infrastructure, inseparable from the organization’s historical-cognitive context, and understood across the entire organization. By conceptualizing forces for continuity and change as dualities, I show how the organizational code acts as a mechanism by which organizations manage these tensions. In an abductive, longitudinal case study of communication by and within a large, multi-national pharmaceutical company from 1985 to present, I examine firm-specific language and how this language emerges. I find that, when the code is discernable as firm-specific language, it typically has more to do with change than stability. Codified blueprints for practice are an exception to this, but these play a role more akin to proprietary technology or boundary objects than to theoretical conceptualizations of the organizational code. When an organization recognizes some need to change, there is an emergent or deliberate effort to articulate what that change should look like. The emergence of the code happens through these efforts to create a novel conceptual space with unique words, acronyms, phrases, and visuals (WAPVs). This new language, with its firm-specific meaning, has an important effect on how a firm creates value. It becomes meaningful as ‘use cases’ for it are identified, enabling translation into practice and mindsets. Once an organization generates a use case ‘catalogue’ for new WAPVs, members better understand why change is needed, what work needs to happen, and how that work gets done. By showing how an organization transforms the ‘language we use to get work done’ into new practices and ways of thinking that enrich the organizational code, I explain how dualities of continuity and change are managed over time.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cohen, Susan
Commitee: Alvarez, Sharon, Prescott, John, Swigart, Valerie
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Business
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 80/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Business administration, Management, Organization Theory
Keywords: change, continuity, dualities, organizational adaptation, organizational language, pharmaceutical manufacturing
Publication Number: 13804201
ISBN: 978-0-438-71928-6
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