OMT WebOrganization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management
The second annual “OMT New and Returning Member Networking and Research Forum” was a huge success in Anaheim. We all know that OMT is the place to be, but for new members and those who have been away for a while, becoming integrated into such a large division can feel daunting. We organized this forum to help members to feel “at home” in the OMT division; network with other new, returning, and regular members; and discuss challenging and interesting topics with some of the leading scholars in our field.
Through this PDW, we successfully brought together more than 20 senior faculty members and over 90 new and returning members. Following the session, we all rolled into the Meet OMT Social Hour, another rollicking event.
A special thank you to our esteemed table anchors (with apologies if we have accidentally left you out!):
ARUNA: Congratulations on your award!
JOHN: Thank you.
ARUNA: I thought it would be really interesting to start at the very beginning of your career and talk a little bit about what motivated you to go to grad school in sociology at Columbia.
JOHN: I came from an academic family. When I was in college, I knew I was going to be an academic and the question was in what. And sociology was a natural interest. My father had been a sociologically inclined professor of history. So in college, I shifted from a hard science major to taking more interest in sociology. It was quite a natural transition.
ARUNA: I noticed that you had done your Bachelor’s degree in psychology, was it common then to switch between the disciplines?
JOHN: I went to a small religious college and choosing psychology as my major was convenient. I had no interest in being a psychologist, but in fact, the college had different people teaching various courses in psychology and I could do some independent study too, whereas if I majored in sociology, there was less choice. So I was interested in sociology and I wrote my thesis under a sociology professor’s jurisdiction but I majored in psychology, which was very convenient.
ARUNA: Okay. That makes sense. And were you always interested in organizations right from the start?
JOHN: Well, organizations as a field didn’t really exist at that time — it arose as a field slowly in the fifties and sixties. Before, there was public administration, business administration, in effect bureaucratic management. But organization as distinct from bureaucracy as a phenomenon didn’t really exist, and as an academic specialty, was only gradually emerging. So the typical sociology department wouldn’t have had courses.
JOHN: So when I came here [to Stanford], I tried to avoid it [the study of organizations] a little bit. Later, in the seventies, I got back in and I went to Richard Scott and I asked “what do I have to read now to catch up after five years?” There wasn’t very much, but I got involved. Partly because there was funding. Jim March came to Stanford and then Dick Scott had raised money. So there was some action and a number of us took more interest in the field. It was pretty dull … you wouldn’t be familiar with the literature at the time. It was contingency theory. But there was a transformation - some of it occurred at Stanford -- to make it more interesting and probably a lot of it, intellectually, was liberated by Jim March. It was his extensions on bounded rationality that attacked rationalistic models, and liberated the field, especially at Stanford, which is why Stanford was a creative center at that time. Richard Scott raised money for continuing research in organizations, and training programs, and brought people together. Those were quite influential times for the field.
ARUNA: That’s great. So your paper with Rowan, in particular, is considered one of the foundational pieces in neo-institutionalism. It would be great to hear some more about how that paper came about. Was this around the same time period?
JOHN: Yeah. The early seventies - it was during this period that you could make arguments and reflections of this nature. Prior to that, I had been thinking in terms of institutions — what is now called institutional theory -- and I had been thinking about that in relation to education, with ideas that were institutional in spirit. And I was thinking through the significance of taking-for-granted institutionalization. But to keep things going, I mean, to raise research money and support graduate students (that was very crucial then, more than now), we worked our way into the education research institute -- several sociologists, including Scott and me, and worked up a couple of more standard research designs to study education. And those were also periods when data were rare. Now data is everywhere and you don’t have to leave your office. But getting data on organizations or anything interesting was tough.
And in the course of our research in the Bay Area, it became clear that the answers to many policy questions were poorly correlated across people we asked - so what the principals say, what the teachers say, was poorly correlated. Like on basic questions — is there a policy for reading in the school? Some say yes. Some say no. You can call that unreliability, but it was — these were, obviously, important things in education, you’d think. But despite the inconsistencies, schools are quite orderly places. And they don’t have very high conflict. Everybody’s getting along. But they don’t agree.
So we wrote these findings up in a couple of papers. One is the one you referred to and there’s another, fairly highly cited one also on educational organization. The storyline was — wait a minute, these people run perfectly normal organizations, but they don’t do what organization theory says. I mean, a hot book of that time was Thompson ’67. And you could see what in that model was really wrong. Getting order, and what maintains order, is external definitions. You have to have the certified teachers, you have to have the school accredited, it has to have the appropriate numbers of windows per kid and toilets per kid and play space per kid, and you have to have a third grade. It doesn’t matter what’s in it, you have to have one, and the teacher has to be certified.
So we started thinking through what does it take and then, is there a problem if nothing good happens? Well, we learned that not unless the parents complained. So it must give the appearance of being okay. So qualitatively, you know like a school where the principal didn’t much care what the teachers did, but at the end of the day he wanted every blind halfway down so it looked like an orderly factory. And that was important. And a number of teachers might tell you that a crucial person in their school is a janitor. He was famous for being ordered. He paints a circle on the floor, here’s where the wastebasket should be. Okay. And so you get a strong sense of the maintenance of structures, legitimate enterprise, and so that led us to generalize that and think about what that means, and later I think people understood that there was a connection between that kind of thought and much earlier institutional theory.
But at the time it looked new, because it was such a striking reaction to the functionalist ideas built into contingency theories and those kind of theories. And there was a fairly sharp reaction. And that picture of our theory being a little crazy remained for five to ten years. When the version generated six years later by DiMaggio and Powell came out, it was already seen as more normal. Of course, now it’s standard storyline, probably one of the most important storylines, but it’s, of course, spread out in meaning.
ARUNA: Fascinating! I particularly enjoy reading some of your work on the global diffusion of institutions such as educational institutions. It has informed some of my earlier work on the diffusion of western plumbing institutions to India. So one question that I was particularly curious about is how you became interested in globalization much before it became a popular field of study?
JOHN: Again, these were all separate interests around 1970, almost independent from my emerging institutionalist kind of thinking, theoretically, and my interest in organization and education. I was interested in comparative stuff, and my interest there was partly methodological. I had always been interested in contextual analyses, with aggregated data. Now routine, but then rare, those were. And it was clear to me there was more and more data on countries and I knew there were all these different propositions and functions in sociology about the relations between the institutions of the modern system of modernization. And of course, national data were more manageable because there were only so many countries and there’s only so many things you could do. I tried a couple of analyses, exploring, not thinking globalization, but okay, what could you do with this stuff.
Many, many findings showed that the traditional functionalist propositions during this period did not hold. Education was expanding everywhere, not where it was supposed to, in terms of the economy. Political change was going on everywhere and not where it was supposed to. And it looked like isomorphism. By 1978 or ’79, or ’77, or ’78 we started to do papers on this. One of the first was on childhood -- national conventions, and what did they say about childhood. And it has nothing to do with national development. It has everything to do with time period. And the new countries that came copy the currently fashionable. Child labor, child protection, education, compulsory education, you know, basic stuff. And the paper showed that.
By the 1990s I was heavily involved -- in the eighties, increasingly with world global data and countries, nation states and such. But remember the field of organizations didn’t include that. So those lines of thought, although intellectually in my mind linked, are separate literatures, separate sections of the American sociological association. The people who study globalization are different than the ones who study organizations. That may decline a little bit.
ARUNA: Building on that, what advice would you have to scholars like me who are working at the intersection of organizations and economic development and doing work in the global economy?
JOHN: Well, there’s been a merger since - there are more people with such interests and I was describing a time when these were separate discourses, that’s decreasingly the case and it’s routinely the case that you have collections with chapters for countries and a few of them comparative. It’s a very natural evolution that’s happening and increasingly routinized and legitimate, I think. I mean, there are books that have come out that are collections of sometimes country-by-country chapters, and sometimes more exclusively comparative. So if somebody did what you were doing in your dissertation ten years ago, that would have been more exotic. Now it’s less exotic and I think you can present in conferences that are not about India.
ARUNA: I agree with that. You mentioned earlier that you think that some of the current work that’s falling under the organizations field is quite boring, so I was wondering whether you could speak more to what would be more exciting.
JOHN: Yeah. I think it’s a major problem that the field is so strongly dominated by people working in applied professional schools. That means that some of the cultural elements get understated and the actor-focused elements get emphasized, because you’re teaching students to imagine—MBA students, especially -- that they’re actors in the world, not that they’re creatures of a cultural system.
Concretely, for example, I mean, if you look at citations you would find Americans are less likely to cite Meyer & Rowan and more likely to cite DiMaggio & Powell. The difference is that DiMaggio & Powell are talking about why did they do it, whereas Meyer & Rowan talk about why it is done to them. They’re very similar arguments, but with a different perspective. In Europe, I guess, I have never checked, but I would assume that citations to Meyer & Rowan would be more than DiMaggio & Powell; the Europeans imagine the history occurring in a more collective level.
And then the endless logics discussion, which is, why did they do it. And well, this reason, or this reason, which do they do. I remember a few years ago a guy came from Indonesia. He said he had been teaching in Australia. I asked, “what’s your dissertation?” His dissertation was on human resource management in Indonesian multinationals. But he takes for granted there are more Indonesian multinationals and that they have human resource management! Wait a minute. You’re transforming huge areas of organization into something called human resources. Wow. All right. I’m interested in those changes and I think the field tends to take them for granted. I think a lot of the logic stuff is perfectly good research, it’s just not, I mean, it’s not real exciting.
ARUNA: That’s interesting. As a final question, I wanted to ask if you have advice to incoming graduate students who want to do an exciting dissertation on organizations - what advice would you give them?
JOHN: The problem is that they have to start thinking about the dissertation rather quickly. These different programs here all expect you to do papers and things. I come from a time when you thought, you weren’t supposed to be thinking about writing papers for several years. And it wasn’t on the agend -- what you were supposed to do was pay attention, think about what is going on in the field. I was at Columbia so there were several senior people there, who played dominant roles in the field so you could really react to that.
And I would think at Stanford there are a lot of influential participants in the field and you could see how they’re thinking and react to that. And then you’re more likely to do creative work, but I don’t know that the career structures of such an education now permit that. Students have to write a paper at the end of the second year, so I find myself advising students on papers they shouldn’t be doing. They’re not ready for that. So then they lower the standards of what they can publish and end up publishing minor papers in very minor outlets.
And then some give up. There are some very thoughtful people who give up and decide they’ll get a terminal PhD and go to Facebook. You have some students who come with such strong intellectual visions and preparation that they can get fairly quickly into critical productive enterprise and some people just have gifts for doing that.
But I think it’s also very much a problem in business schools. There’s a kind of hyper professionalization that arises and one of the consequences is that any two people can write a paper together after meeting each other for one day. And that happens when one visits business schools..People that I don’t know propose writing papers. And I think that’s part of the problem. I don’t have any solution for it, but it is a problem.
But that doesn’t mean I would give advice to anyone. That is the real world they’re living in and so I would be very careful about flipping out and giving advice about how to make your career go well starting in 1955, because they’re not starting in 1955, they’re starting now!
ARUNA: Thank you very much for your insights! I’m sure the OMT community will learn a lot from your words of wisdom. I sure did. It’s always very interesting to get a historical perspective on the field, it gives me a new sense of purpose. Thank you!
University of Cyprus and University of Warwick
(view video of thank you here)
I am very sorry that, for family reasons, I am unable to be with you at Anaheim. I am humbled to receive the Joann Martin Trailblazer Award. Thank you for this great honor. Coming especially from the OMT Division, the flagship of AoM, it means a lot to me.
I have long taken the view that an important aim of our research is to renew the vocabulary through which we understand the problems we explore. As the late Richard Rorty remarked, the world does not speak; only humans do. And the way we speak deeply matters for how we seek to understand.
Complex problems like those formal organizations and, more broadly, organizing projects of all kinds face today – ranging from the traditional problems of structuring, coordinating and designing organizational processes to developing innovative, resilient and responsible responses in a dynamic, open-ended world - call for a complex language of analysis. It seems to me that such a complex language will likely emerge to the extent organizational researchers are willing to forego the narrow confines of their own discipline to reach out for insights from other disciplines.
For example, how can we understand change better unless we renew the underlying philosophical vocabulary through which change has been traditionally understood? How can we incorporate time in our analyses unless we engage with those disciplines (e.g. history, historical sociology) that have sought to do so long before us? Or how can we better understand the ethical ground and the cultural roots of all organizing unless we creatively incorporate insights from moral philosophy and anthropology?
For me, starting new conversations by drawing on extra-disciplinary vocabularies has always been enormously important, leading to what I call (after Edgar Morin) the “conjunctive style of theorizing”. The latter seeks to make connections between diverse elements of human experience through making distinctions that will enable the joining up of concepts normally used in a compartmentalized manner. A new vocabulary, if rich and robust enough, makes us see new things and see old things in fresh ways.
Of course, starting a new conversation may turn out to be unproductive or not as promising as one might have hoped - like similar attempts at a dinner party, others may not be interested! Blazing a new trail may lead to nowhere. Realizing the contingent nature of such an accomplishment makes one more aware of the complexities involved and the need to be attentive to context, timing, and history. It seems to me that an important part of the role of journal editors and authoritative figures in our multi-disciplinary field is to create conditions for new conversations to emerge, which will, in turn, make it possible for new trails to be blazed. After all, let us not forget that, as John Dewey reminded us long time ago, reflective thinking begins with a sense of “mental unrest”, or, to change the metaphor, with an aporia – the inability to find one’s way. Like a traveler in a jungle, we need to blaze new trails when we are confronted with an aporia. And the scholarly game is the only game in town which is designed to preserve this dialectic: the creation of aporias - the blazing of new trails in the jungle of understanding - the creation of new aporias - and so on.
No blaze trailing is a solitary effort – the lonely pioneer who pushes ahead is a figment of our individualistic imagination. I have been particularly lucky in my scholarly life to have come across colleagues without whose trust and cooperation I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything. I am grateful to the EGOS Board for entrusting the editorship of Organization Studies to me in 2003. The editorship gave me the opportunity to self-consciously shape the intellectual agenda of the journal and contribute indirectly, even a tiny bit, to the broader discourse of the field.
I am grateful to Ann Langley for joining forces with me to create the International Symposium on Process Organization Studies and the accompanying Oxford University Press book series. Without Ann’s enviable scholarship and rare collegiality, none of these projects would have come to fruition as successfully as they have. Thank you Ann for this rewarding intellectual companionship. This award is as much for me as it is for you.
And, again, my sincere thanks to the OMT Division for this great honor. In scholarship, recognition is more important for the activity it draws attention to than the persons engaged in it. Eucharisto poly.
First awarded in 2012, the Best Paper on Environmental and Social Practices (E&S) recognizes research that advances our understanding of environmental and social dimensions of organizing. The 2016 winner is A. Wren Montgomery (University of Windsor) with her paper “Think Global, Drink Local: Field Configuring Interactions and the Detroit Water Crisis”.
Congratulations on winning the OMT Best E&S Paper Award! Can you briefly highlight what your paper is about?
Thank you very much! I am thrilled to have received the award, and I am also excited about the other papers nominated and the research that is being done on such important topics in our division.
My paper examines multi-level field change processes, specifically how a macro-level change – the passage of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation at the United Nations in 2010 – impacted micro-level and individual actions and change. I undertook this study in the city of Detroit, Michigan, from 2013 through 2015. In the spring of 2014 the bankrupt city began to shut off water services to households who were behind on their bills. Over 33,000 households had their water disconnected in 2014 alone. I made use of a variety of qualitative data, including interviews with key local actors, observations and discussions at demonstrations and meetings, media sources, meeting minutes, and reports and press releases. By combining these sources, I identify several specific stages of change in the understandings, positions, and rules of the field at the local level. I then go on to develop theory on the key events and mechanisms that led to shifts from one stage to the next, highlighting the importance of interactions between ideas and actors across levels of the field.
How did this paper evolve and how did you become engaged with this great project?
That is a great question as I started out in a slightly different direction than where I ended up with this paper. I was broadly interested in field change and in the emerging water crisis. As there are numerous issues around water, I narrowed my focus down to municipal water services, i.e. the utilities that provide your drinking water. These water services had been publicly owned in the U.S and much of the Western world for over a century, but were beginning to face pressures to privatize, especially in the economically depressed U.S. ‘rust belt’ states of the Midwest. So I chose two cities where I had heard rumors of privatizations, Detroit and Chicago, for my dissertation research. While I was in the field, the Detroit water shutoffs began and made international news for several weeks as 33,000 households had their water disconnected in 2014. I hate to say I was ‘lucky’ to be in the right place at the right time and gather such interesting data, as it was a tragedy for so many people and for the city and state more broadly, but I was fortunate to be able to capture and tell the story of what happened before and during these important events.
Your paper undertakes a qualitative multi-level analysis of how understandings, positions, and rules of a field change. Can you briefly elaborate on your key learnings for undertaking such an analysis?
One of the key learnings of the paper is something that struck me shortly after going into the field to collect my data, and that really inspired this paper. I went into my initial interviews with a few questions about the Human Right to Water and how it was impacting organizing on the ground, public understanding, etc. What I was met with were a lot of blank stares, which I was not expecting! Very few people, even those working in water management or social and environmental justice issues at the local level had even heard of the passage of the U.N’s Right to Water. Those who had heard of it often said it was “too abstract” and they didn’t have time to figure out how to use it in their work on the ground. Yet, while I was in the field key interactions (visits, press releases, media coverage) with the United Nations and other global movements began to spread this idea quite rapidly. Within a few months I was seeing signs at protests, hearing chants, and even seeing graffiti stating that “Water is a Human Right”. What I try to capture in this paper is this disconnect between changes at the macro- and micro-levels, where what I thought was a huge change had in reality not yet had an impact at the local level, at least in Detroit. I then explore how the change came about and examine both the importance of interactions across the field and a series of unique mechanisms that allowed macro-level changes to be understood and begin to make structural changes at the local level. These local events in turn fueled global attention to, and interest in, water access and affordability issues.
Would you like to share any challenges you faced during the research process? If so, how did you overcome them?
As you can imagine, there were a number of challenges here. First of all the people of Detroit have been poked and prodded by numerous journalists and academics, so can understandably be a bit hesitant to share their time and trust. Of course this is exacerbated by severe income inequalities and a long history of racism and race-based conflicts in the city. With all this in mind I was very unsure how I would be received as an outsider – a white, female, Canadian – coming into the city. I overcame this in a few ways. First, I went to great lengths to find introductions from my personal network. For example, the name of one key contact who had been involved in environmental and social justice causes was able to get me a meeting with a key local organizer in Detroit, and everything snowballed from there. Without that connection, and the introductions, stamp of approval and trust that came with it, the great access I had to key local organizers and leaders would have been almost impossible. But knowing I had this contact was one of the reasons I chose the site I did, so thinking this through ahead of time was key.
Second, I read up on everything I could ahead of time but mainly just listened. This is always important but I think was especially so in this case. I needed to build trust, and people’s stories were so rich and their histories and perspectives so different than mine that I found I got the best response with just a few fairly open-ended questions. I also think it was clear to participants that I wanted to hear their stories and was genuinely interested in what they had to say, which I think built the trust that was essential to gathering this data.
Third, while I thought being an outsider would be a detriment it turned out to be a positive. I actually had a few participants tell me that they and others were willing to trust and speak to me because I was a Canadian, and therefore wasn’t seen as in any way linked to the difficult history of the city. I also often had many questions after interviews about the Canadian healthcare system, social programs, gun ownership etc. With Detroit just across the river from Canada I certainly didn’t expect my participants to be as curious about me as I was about them.
Lastly, I think one of the biggest challenges is one I am still facing. How to tell these stories respectfully with the complexity and nuance they deserve, but still get it all into 40-page papers and make a theoretical contribution. I am still struggling with overcoming that one!
The empirical setting of your study is the city of Detroit, Michigan. How do public managers respond when you tell them about the results of your research?
I have had a great deal of interest from across sectors. Public managers are mainly very appreciative of any growing interest in water services, and water more generally. Policy-makers at various levels have been frustrated for a long time with the lack of public interest and investment in water infrastructure, which is in a state of decay in most municipalities. For a long time water was also very inexpensive for citizens, but it is getting increasingly expensive due to shortages, pollution, and needed infrastructure investments, which leads to another set of challenges for municipalities. Some of my work inspired the State of Michigan to include discussion of access and affordability issues in their draft water strategy for the state, even before the Flint crisis.
Private managers are very aware of many of these issues and the impact that water scarcity and access challenges will have on their businesses. From these managers there is a great deal of interest in better understanding behaviors around water, some of the emotional attachments to water which I describe in this paper, as well as the factors that influence local interest and attention to water issues which I am investigating in related research.
From NGOs and social movement managers and leaders there is also considerable interest in increasing public awareness of water quantity and quality issues, resource and infrastructure management and control, and the human and environmental impacts of water crises.
Again, congratulations for winning the award! Are there any comments about the paper and its development that you would like to share?
I am very glad that the OMT division has introduced the award on environmental and social practices as a dimension of organizing, and recognizes their importance. However, I think it is essential that we not continue to think of these issues as distinct from general management. One thing that struck me with this research is that the many top executives I spoke with about water issues, many at large global and Fortune 100 companies, are keenly aware that the water crisis and the social and environmental implications of water scarcity will have massive and direct impacts on their bottom lines. Understanding and managing many social and environmental issues is not philanthropy, symbolic management, or corporate social responsibility, it is quite simply corporate strategy and good business. If we as researchers do not fully grasp the vital importance of many of these issues---water is just one---we are doing ourselves, our students, and managers a disservice.
Finally, do you have any advice for colleagues who aspire to receive the award in the future?
I really want to emphasize that this paper is far from finalized and there are still many theoretical holes, but despite this it has attracted a great deal of interest. I think there are a few reasons for that, and I hope they may inspire others to take a chance on something a little different. First, people are intrigued by the context. We hear a great deal about Detroit but rarely get much insight into what life is like on the ground, how organizations are impacted, and how people organize, and how they survive. It was a challenge to do research here but was very rewarding. Second, when I started this research I was driven by my personal interest in emerging challenges around water. Because this interested me and I followed these issues, I noticed that little if any management research was addressing the huge impact water crises, in various forms, will have on business, society and the environment. Third, I think my genuine interest in both the topic and the context really came across to interview participants. This helped with access and trust and I believe the data, as a result, are very open, honest, and raw and give unique insight into people’s lives and the real impact of this crisis, which readers find intriguing.
All in all, my advice is to follow your interests and not be afraid to choose a context or topic that is slightly off the beaten path. So much of the research that I love has great theory but is also just plain interesting to read and gives me insight into something new. I think if you find a context or topic that inspires you, your passion will come through in the richness of the data and in your writing, and will make for unique research and insights that people want to read – even if the theory isn’t yet perfect!
You just finished your fieldwork. The outcome of your data collection is tremendous. You conducted and transcribed over thirty interviews, collected over fifty documents, wrote rich fieldnotes on your observations and, last but not least, kept a thorough research journal capturing your initial impressions and thoughts. The next step?: diving into the data and beginning to analyze it. It’s funny (not really) how just a short time ago you were pleased as pie at how much data you were able to collect. Now, you look at that very same mass of data but with a paralysing sense of overwhelm. Doubts arise. You feel like you are drowning in a vast sea of data. Questions arise: What now? Where do I possibly begin?
Rest assured, whether you are a PhD student or a more experienced researcher, facing the data behemoth is always overwhelming. Every time. Yet, the task is likely to be even more intimidating for early scholars. It is at this very point – approaching your dataset after collection – where we hope this blog post will be helpful. The insights provided in this post, aimed to help answer the questions of “What now?” and “Where do I possibly begin?”, are based on a qualitative methods workshop given at the University of Alberta by Prof. Trish Reay (who has, by the way, given us permission to share her wisdom).
True, there is a large body of literature on qualitative research design - how to collect, organize and analyse data. Yet, despite this vast amount of information, what’s ironically yet glaringly missing, in our humble opinion, is practical advice on how to actually (and very specifically) begin analysing one’s data towards the goal of (hopefully) turning an initial idea, and subsequent data, into a paper…that’s published (but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves).
The goal of the data analysis is to climb up the ladder of abstraction – from minute details to broad themes - enabling you to convincingly convey, to an audience, a new (theoretical) understanding of a phenomenon. Related to foundation of this climb, it is said that a great theoretical story begins with an intriguing empirical puzzle. Consider the work of Reay and Hinings (2009) as an example. The intriguing empirical puzzle in this case was to understand the significant change that took place, over time, in the Alberta, Canada healthcare field. The theoretical story that emerged from this study was in answering the question: How did individuals, and ultimately organizations, deal with the imposition of a conflicting “business management” agenda into an agency traditionally steeped in a focused agenda of “medical profession”? Part of why this question is intriguing is because so many organizations around the world have been faced with such a situation. Theoretically, this paper added to the literature a better understanding of how actors deal with co-existing and competing institutional logics.
Assuming that you marched out to collect your data with a similarly intriguing question in mind, we now provide you with the specific (and practical) steps to begin attempting to answer your question through the analysis of your data. The following illustration is an overview of Trish’s suggested steps on how to approaching this analysis:
Getting started is the single most important action you can take. In very practical terms, this means choosing four or five key interviews and documents. How do you know if the interviews or documents are “key”? Let the answers to the following questions be your guide: Which ones stand out to you the most? Which ones intrigue you the most? Above all, keep in mind that what is far more important, at this point, than picking the “right” interviews and documents to start with, is simply starting. This means that, in the absence of having a sense of which interviews or documents to start with, you can just randomly pick any four or five. Really.
One of Trish’s core recommendations is this: stay as close to your data for as long as possible. What, exactly, does this mean? It means that the most important phase of your data analysis is arguably in giving yourself plenty of time (weeks, months) to just read (and reread) through your data. Be with your data long enough so that it can begin to speak to you. Muse about your data broadly until you begin to notice one or two (or more) themes or patterns beginning to emerge among the details of your data. What seems, initially, like an incoherent jumbled mass of words will, given enough time and attention, start to reveal itself albeit in a whisper at first.
Before you know it, you will have already begun the coding process, which in simple terms is whatever helps you to get from data to theory. And while “coding” may sound intimidating, boring and/or highly technical, it is - quite to the contrary - an inherently creative and fun process, especially once you relax and simply begin spending time with a small number of interviews or documents. In fact, this nature of data analysis – the opportunity to dive deeply into some aspect of a social world and to make sense of it - is exactly why researchers prefer qualitative research in the first place.
Because this phase of data analysis is essentially a creative process, we offer a quick suggestion: at this early stage, it is important to refrain from using a computer because of the possibility (probability) that it will hamper the creative process. This artist insists that “using your hands” is key for the creative process. Using your hands can involve printing out your data and collecting various types of paper, along with scissors, glue, colored markers or pens, and a flipchart or pin board. Now, play with your data. Some suggestions to get you started are to make coloured notes in the margins with thoughts that jump out at you or to cut out quotes and paste or pin them up, beginning to identify aspects of your data that are either similar or dissimilar. This “play” time is actually the beginning of the categorization process using a sample of your data. Let this be a fun and even seemingly messy process. Allow the information that emerges on the canvas of your flipchart or pin board to give you an overview of your first glimpse on the data. It may be helpful to have someone work alongside you at this point, because it can provide much needed validation that someone else also sees what you see. Conversely, it can be invigorating to discuss the ways in which you see the same data differently. The thrust of this phase is just to begin generating thoughts and ideas about your data.
After this creative process, and from the viewpoint of your research questions, what similarities or dissimilarities have begun to emerge from within the first set of data that you selected? Given these, you can begin developing codes. Gioia et al. (2012) suggest working with 100+ codes is okay. Others, such as Creswell (2007) advise using not more than 30 – 50 codes. Trish sides with Creswell’s approach because too many codes may be overwhelming and your codes should be broad enough so you can find them in the data repeatedly. Nevertheless, Trish points out that the debate on the number on codes, like many other topics in qualitative research, have their root in different philosophies. Hence, you should expose yourself to as many research philosophies as possible to find out what works best for you.
At this point, your research question is still broad and at a provisional stage (e.g. How do actors deal with institutional change over time?), which is perfect for providing you with a general direction of where to continue your search within your additional data. Over time, as you go through your data, allowing categories or codes to emerge, your research questions will become more focused. At this point, your theoretical knowledge on the topic is still broad but noticeably more developed than when you initially proposed your research.
2. Test ideas with friendly others
At this point in the process, you need to carve out a space where you can experiment with your data by testing your ideas, and receiving feedback, from friendly others. These friendly others can be your co-authors, your supervising team or fellow PhD students (potentially even from different disciplines) with whom you discuss your ideas and interpretations. The feedback you receive may be constructive in pointing out different interpretations of your data than what you had initially interpreted. The most important thing to be aware of at this stage is that the creative process of developing new ideas requires a nurturing environment. New ideas, in particular, are tender and require a culture of encouragement and support (Amabile, 1997). Harsh criticism at this point will slow down, if not stop, your greatly-valued momentum. At this and the following stages, you increasingly need to dig deeper into your data in order to leverage the richness of your entire research database.
3. Compare and contrast with the literature.
After testing your ideas with friendly others, you will have written down the resulting ideas in the form of a first (rough) draft of an in-depth case description or process story. Now is the time to become more critical. How does your story fit with extant theory and literature? What counterfactual explanations can you imagine? This is the point where you turn to the literature, get a better understanding of the current debates related to your research questions. Most importantly, this is where you identifying a gap within the literature. Although you definitely do not need to re-invent the wheel of the literature (e.g. contribute something that turns it on its head in an evocative yet plausible way), you do want to begin to understand what it is that you can add to the existing body of literature. Friendly others (e.g. peers and more experienced researchers) can also be of use at this point, helping to point you to relevant literature.
4. Test ideas with external others
Now that you have initial ideas from a part of your data and you also have ideas on where you might be able to make a contribution to the literature, it is time to test your ideas via conferences and workshops. This is a great opportunity to see how your potential audience responds to your work and can also be a great source of inspiration. In general, feedback is delivered with friendliness and clearly supportive intentions. Sometimes, however, the criticism may feel harsh. But keep in mind that any feedback from external others, even if it’s not delivered in the most diplomatic and encouraging manner, may include useful nuggets or challenge you to think in novel ways about your paper. Presentations at these types of events are not only part of the collective creative process of developing your paper, they are also a opportunity to position yourself within the community. What this means is that, as you present, you will begin to make a name for yourself related to your empirical setting and/or theoretical focus.
Speaking of theoretical focus, at this point it is this and your research question that take the main stage. Information that seems interesting to you, yet is irrelevant to the main story, needs to be pushed backstage and not visible to the audience. Even in a study that relies on a small number of interviews, you cannot tell everything – it would confuse and overwhelm the audience. Streamlining your argument in accordance with the data is crucial for crafting a convincing argument. Once again, friendly others can be of great help here. You can present to several willing peers to get feedback on how to best tell the story of your research-in-progress.
5. Submit your manuscript
Finally, you have analysed your data and received really helpful feedback, which you’ve incorporated into an actual paper. Now you can submit your work to a suitable journal. Before you do submit the paper, use multiple search engines to find your own paper. Make sure that you remove any full papers and references that may have been posted on the web following conference and workshop presentations. This will help to uphold the double-blind peer reviewed process. Also, it is important to state clearly, in your letter to the editors, if you used the dataset that had been used, by you or by others, for a separate paper that was submitted for publication. If this is the case, you will need to convince the editors that your submitted paper is different from the other(s), whether this is because you used a different part of the data set or because your research questions and/or theoretical framing is clearly different. Be aware, however, that if you are using a similar data set for a different paper, you won’t be able to reuse your methods section. Rather, you will need to rewrite it.
Present your data and your approach in a rigorous way. This may involve using, as role models, a handful of highly cited papers that use the same methodology as you did and that have been published at top-journals. This will give you an idea of much attention needs to be placed on clearly articulating and illustrating your analysis process so that your audience is convinced of the claims you have extracted from your data. Clearly, it not possible that several different researchers who are given the same data set would arrive at exactly the same results or conclusions. However, if we, as readers, were to follow the steps of data analysis that you describe in enough detail, in your methods section, it needs to be plausible that we would arrive at a similar conclusion. For your findings section, what’s most important is that you convey a compelling story. Finally, in your discussion section you must be very explicit about how you contribute to theory. Even if you not have actual propositions in the text, Trish suggests developing propositions within your discussion section in order to distil the essence of your work. The use of propositions can serve as a structure for writing the discussion section and can guide you in explaining your key arguments to your audience.
Ideally, you will receive the joyous news of a “revise and resubmit”. But it’s also likely, regardless of the stage of your academic career or even given a history of R&R success, that you may be rejected. Although this initially feels like failure or defeat, it is important to take a brief break from this particular project. This means that you should take a while to process the rejection. There are many factors that determine acceptance or rejection at a particular journal, and some of these factors are completely outside of your control. After taking time away from your project, look at the reviews again. Very normal response after reading reviews for the first time include some variations of the following: I am such an utter failure; I am not cut out for this career; Those reviewers are jerks! After taking a break from your project, you hopefully start to see them as helpful. Consider that these individuals took their precious time to carefully read your paper and to express, the ways in which it can be better. They essentially put effort into helping you along in your career, even if that help was an honest “this idea has no future”. Now you can go and integrate this very helpful feedback into a rewrite of your paper and submit it elsewhere or you can place the paper ever so gently in your desk drawer and re-orient your attention towards another project that just may have more potential. It’s been greatly comforting for us to hear stories from several highly published authors about their “failures” (having had their papers rejected). These stories tell us that it is part of the process and it really is a process, one that we will be in throughout our careers as academicians.
Amabile, T. M. 1997. Motivating Creativity in Organizations. California Management Review, 40(1): 39–59.
Creswell, J. W. 2007. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Gioia, D. A., Corley, K. G., & Hamilton, A. L. 2012. Seeking Qualitative Rigor in Inductive Research: Notes on the Gioia Methodology. Organizational Research Methods, 16(1): 15–31.
Reay, T., & Hinings, C. R. 2009. Managing the Rivalry of Competing Institutional Logics. Organization Studies, 30(6): 629–652.
The OMT Membership committee is seeking new enthusiastic members to join its ranks. The membership committee is a small group of dedicated OMT members who serve the division through membership outreach, new member engagement and the development of innovative new activities (building on the success of past events such as OMT yoga, eats, runs). We also get to be in charge of the drink tickets! If you are looking for an easy and fun way to get more involved with OMT, the membership committee is for you! For more information or to sign up, please contact Emily Block at
The Economic Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association would like to invite OMT members to consider joining ASA and the Economic Sociology Section, which was formed “to promote the sociological study of the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of scarce goods and services.” There is substantial overlap in the research interests of members of the Section with many OMT members, for example, among those who study the new economy; economic inequality; money, credit, and markets; culture and the economy; neoliberalism; globalization; and many related topics. The 2017 ASA conference will be held in Montreal, Canada, August 12-15, just after the AOM meetings. The submission deadline for papers will be in early January. Please check out the information on the Economic Sociology Section at the ASA website at: http://www.asanet.org/communities/sections/sites/economic-sociology. To join the Section, one must be an ASA member for the current year. Membership is now being solicited for calendar year 2017.
Nancy DiTomaso, Chair, Economic Sociology Section, ASA
The OMT Executive Board thanks all of our members who have submitted and volunteered in prior years to make OMT the place to be! We are counting on you to continue submitting your best research papers and most creative symposia. We also welcome PhD students and faculty who have not yet submitted research to the Academy or OMT Division before. OMT encompass a diverse range of theories, topics, and people. Our membership is eager to engage with new ideas and welcome new members.
Specific Domain: Organization and management theory involves a building and testing diverse theories at multiple levels including organizations and organizing processes, intra-organizational relations, organization-environment relations, and the role of organizations in society. Some popular topics in recent years have included networks and embeddedness; innovation and change; entrepreneurial organizing; organizational design and new organizational forms; inequality; diffusion, learning and knowledge; social change; environmental and social practices; culture; capabilities and competencies; institutional theory and legitimacy; categories and categorization; corporate governance and top management teams; routines and routine dynamics; power and dependence; work and occupations; identity and identity work; social movements; alternatives to capitalism; practice and process theories of organizing. More information about the division can be found on the OMT website (http://omtweb.org).
Special Instructions: OMT encourages the submission of symposia or papers that develop new theory or that apply our existing theory base to emerging management domains. The division celebrates theoretical novelty, methodological pluralism, international research collaborations, and linkages between theory and practice. Submissions focused on this year’s Academy theme – At the Interface – are particularly encouraged. If you have questions about the appropriateness of your submission for OMT, please feel free to contact the Program Chair. The submission system is now open. It closes on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 5pm ET (NY Time).
Looking forward to receiving your submissions. Please do not hesitate to contact me at
for any additional ifnormation.
Cass Business School
OMT Program Chair
The Organization and Management Theory (OMT) Division invites proposals for PDW sessions for the 2017 Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, August 4-8. The OMT division is a community built from a common desire to develop and promote understanding of organizations and organizing. We stand at the intersection of micro and macro analysis, providing a context for mutually beneficial intellectual engagement across disciplinary and other boundaries.
PDW sessions provide excellent opportunities for exploring emerging research questions or methods, trying out new workshop formats, and kindling conversations on important but understudied phenomena, and building communities. They can take a variety of formats – methods workshops, tutorials, debates, roundtable discussions, town hall meetings, to name a few – and can address ideas or phenomena that might not (yet) fit in the regular program. PDW sessions are also intended for professional development of the participants, so active engagement of the participants is essential. Sessions that look like standard paper presentations or symposia are more appropriate for the regular conference program.
We aim to offer a wide variety of innovative, diverse, and interactive PDWs that engage as large and as broad a representation of the OMT membership as possible. We encourage proposals that address the overall AOM 2017 conference theme, “At the Interface.” The conference theme description explicitly mentions several topics that are highly relevant to OMT scholars, including but not limited to networks, organizational form and design, organizational goals and boundaries, inter-organizational relationships and alliances, organizational change, and innovation. Further, the notion of interfaces more broadly points to the role organizations play in both connecting and separating—we believe OMT scholars have much to offer here.
Acceptance of proposals for OMT PDWs will be based on (a) relevance to the interests of the Division's membership; (b) novelty and creativity; and (c) plans for creating an interactive and engaging session. We further welcome proposals that are of interest to members of other AOM divisions (e.g., ENT, BPS, OB, MOC, TIM, etc.), although that is not a requirement for acceptance. Please indicate in the submission document what divisions and interest groups may be suitable as potential co-sponsors.
PDW sessions will be held on Friday, August 4 and Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 8am-8pm. The submission system opens Tuesday, November 15, 2016. All submissions are to be submitted electronically through the AOM Submission System. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday January 10, 2017 at 5:00 PM ET (NY Time). We encourage you to submit early to enable the possibility of feedback to maximize your chance of acceptance.
I hope that all of you who attended Academy this year enjoyed the overall program. After the business meeting, several members expressed an interest in getting more details about the numbers this year, so I thought I’d quickly share some of the interesting statistics from this year’s OMT program, prior to sending out a full report later this Fall. The numbers speak well on their own for the future of OMT:
Looking forward to seeing you all next year in Atlanta!
Marc-David L. Seidel
Academy of Management
OMT Division Chair-Elect 2017
ASQ's new editor-in-chief, Henrich Greve’s coffee chat for OMT was met with resounding success, with Forrest Briscoe and Marc-David L. Seidel (ASQ associate editors) showing up to help field questions. Many interested scholars showed up to inquire about the future of the field and to get advice on how to publish a paper in ASQ.
Below are quick highlights of the Q&A that occurred, followed by more details:
Many of the questions at the coffee chats revolved around – “what should an ASQ article look like?” These include a wide range of sub-questions regarding the length of an article (the introduction section), different standards pertaining to qualitative papers and etc.
What is the role of associate editors?
Can we submit an abstract or something of the sort to speed up knowing if ASQ is a suitable place to publish our paper?
What does it take to become a reviewer?
Are you interested in papers using new big data techniques and technologies?
Summarized by Daphne Teh (Insead) & Amy Zhao (Insead)
We have had an amazingly enthusiastic response to the OMT Events, which are back by popular demand providing an off-program calendar of events self-organized by OMT members off-site in non-official venues.
These off-program events are the perfect way for both new and established members to casually meet with a smaller group of people who share common interests.
Bookmark: Off-Program OMT Events Calendar
Here are some highlights:
OMT ASQ Editor Chat
Full OMT Events details: OMT Events Calendar
Please spread the word to anyone you think may be interested in joining the events, particularly those who are not yet OMT members. All are welcome!
All of us at OMT are looking forward to welcoming you and thank you again for making OMT the Place to Be!
OMT Division Program Chair 2016
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