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Scaling up and scaling down: Improvisational handling of critical work practices during the COVID-19 pandemic
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Logistics & Quality Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8850-2843
Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre. RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2838-6457
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Logistics & Quality Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4730-5453
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0041-9624
2023 (English)In: Management Learning, ISSN 1350-5076, E-ISSN 1461-7307, article id 135050762211379Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

The aim of this article is to explore improvisational handling of critical work practices during the COVID-19 pandemic and interpret these practices from a learning perspective. Based on an interview study with representatives of private, public and intermediary organisations, the study identified three different types of improvisational handling as responses to the pandemic crisis involving ‘scaling up’ and ‘scaling down’ critical work practices. By ‘scaling up’ and ‘scaling down’, we refer to practices for which, due to the pandemic, it has been imperative to urgently scale up an existing operational process or develop a new process, and alternatively extensively scale down or cease an existing process. The types of improvisational handling differed depending on the discretion of involved actors in terms of the extent to which the tasks, methods and/or results were given beforehand. These types of improvisational handling resulted in temporary solutions that may become permanent after the pandemic. The framework and model proposed in the article can be used as a tool to analyse and learn from the changes in work practices that have been set in motion during the pandemic. Such learning may improve the ability to cope with future extensive crises and other rapid change situations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023. article id 135050762211379
Keywords [en]
Adaptive learning, developmental learning, organisational change, organisational learning, qualitative, responsiveness
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-190534DOI: 10.1177/13505076221137980ISI: 000895511400001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-190534DiVA, id: diva2:1718502
Note

Funding agencies: AFA Insurance (Grant number 200149)

Available from: 2022-12-13 Created: 2022-12-13 Last updated: 2024-07-01
In thesis
1. Exploring the Handling of Critical Work Practices in Rapid Change Contexts: A study of an industrial startup and the COVID-19 pandemic
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the Handling of Critical Work Practices in Rapid Change Contexts: A study of an industrial startup and the COVID-19 pandemic
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The accelerating pace of change in our society requires organisations to efficiently manage day-to-day operations while simultaneously innovating and developing new concepts for the future, all within an environment of rapidly evolving circumstances. Specifically, organisations must quickly be able to handle the work practices that are critical to organisational development, and this thesis focuses on the handling of these practices.

Critical work practices (CWPs) are here defined as operational management practices that are quickly initiated or adjusted – either scaled up or down – in response to new developmental needs or emerging acute situations. Commonly, there are limitations to CWPs ingrained in previous structures, methods, or knowledge. The thesis aims to explore the handling of CWPs in rapidly changing contexts and how this handling is enabled or constrained by the influencing organisational factors of 'active ownership', 'stakeholder collaboration', and 'developmental learning'.

The empirical foundation of the thesis builds on an interactive research approach. It utilises data from case studies in two rapid change contexts: an industrial startup in the green transformation and organisations’ response during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results from the studies show that organisations demonstrated agility by mobilising resources and fostering collaboration in novel ways, guided by overarching objectives that transcended local concerns. Identified CWPs were characterised by their innovative nature and various degrees of newness and time constraints, which necessitated new approaches and provided opportunities for adaptive and developmental learning.

Three conclusions can be drawn from the analysis in the thesis: first, disruptive changes trigger entrepreneurship and innovations through enhanced space of action and seamless cross-collaborations. Second, the interaction between intermediaries, managers, and employees fosters a holistic understanding and proactivity. Third, rapid change contexts stress-test organisations, where strengths, constraints, and new opportunities become visualised.

Theoretically, the thesis contributes with a conceptual model highlighting essential factors of organisational conditions and their interconnections. An additional contribution is made in introducing the concept of CWPs and identifying prerequisites for handling different forms of such practices in rapid change contexts.

The practical implications of this research include that different types of CWPs are a source that can be utilised for continuous improvements, supporting organisations’ ability to handle increasing uncertainties. Moreover, the conceptual model provides analytical support of work practices that intend to contribute to transitions related to development areas such as a circular economy, electrification, digitalisation, and resilience.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2024. p. 110
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 2387
Keywords
Critical work practice, Organisational change, Crisis, Operations management, Human factors, Active ownership, Stakeholder collaboration, Developmental learning, Sustainable development, Industry 5.0, Social sustainability, Sustainable work, Case study research, Interactive research
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-205724 (URN)10.3384/9789180756389 (DOI)9789180756372 (ISBN)9789180756389 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-09-06, ACAS, A Building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Funding agencies: Vinnova and AFA Insurance

Available from: 2024-07-01 Created: 2024-07-01 Last updated: 2024-07-08Bibliographically approved

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Berglund, MartinaElg, MattiasWallo, Andreas

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