While organizations have reason to value member proactivity, their responses to it are not entirely known. A form of proactivity, issue selling, “is the process by which individuals affect others’ attention to and understanding of the events, developments, and trends that have implications for organizational performance” (Dutton & Ashford, 1993, p. 716). While research into issue selling is considerable, it has focused on what causes issue sellers to sell, how they sell, and what happens to them after they sell. Less studied are the organizational reactions to issue selling. The present study asked the research question: How do organizations respond to issue selling?
Working from a conceptual framework informed by the theory and research on issue selling (Dutton & Ashford, 1993), strong structuration (Stones, 2005), and organizational response (Bansal, 2003), this case study of a multinational medical device company examined responses to issue selling in three strategic situations relating to the organization’s product development and management activities. By interviewing associates at multiple levels and with varied roles in each issue, the study found that rather than being defined as issue buyers, participants in an issue are better thought of as responders who play varied roles in the issue, including as second-order sellers themselves. Their responses follow patterns including complex, negotiable definitions of success; influence by responders at all levels; actions within existing positions and mechanisms; and “single-option decisions”—up-or-down determinations of whether to proceed with an issue as raised.
Participants disclosed cognitive practices and actions placing responders, colleagues, the issue, and the organization in focus as the organization made progress toward results on the issue. The findings blurred the boundaries between issue sellers and issue responders and challenged the validity of a merely transactional model of issue selling. The results suggest that response in issue selling is a form of community building that can be examined through theories and methods in fields as diverse as leadership, organizational change, organizational culture, and social learning. Responders and issue sellers alike will benefit from continuing research and practice application of how responses to issue-selling events today shape what an organization will become tomorrow.
|Advisor:||Casey, Andrea J.|
|Commitee:||Schwandt, David R., Olivera, Fernando|
|School:||The George Washington University|
|Department:||Human & Organizational Learning|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Organizational behavior, Organization Theory, Social structure|
|Keywords:||Agency, Issue selling, Organizational response, Strong structuration|
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