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Exploring the Handling of Critical Work Practices in Rapid Change Contexts: A study of an industrial startup and the COVID-19 pandemic
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Logistics & Quality Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2838-6457
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 [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-205724DOI: 10.3384/9789180756389ISBN: 9789180756372 (print)ISBN: 9789180756389 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-205724DiVA, id: diva2:1880483
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
List of papers
1. Designing for sustainable work during industrial startups-the case of a high-growth entrepreneurial firm
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Designing for sustainable work during industrial startups-the case of a high-growth entrepreneurial firm
2021 (English)In: Small Business Economics, ISSN 0921-898X, E-ISSN 1573-0913, Vol. 57, p. 807-819Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

New firms face challenges regarding pace, time, scalability, and societal changes, requiring increased attention to sustainable work prerequisites. However, this dimension of social sustainability is less studied than economic and ecological sustainability. This paper addresses how sustainable work is considered in an entrepreneurial startup carrying out a greenfield project within a new industrial domain. Data were collected for 30 months in a longitudinal case study. The study shows that (i) working condition challenges were drivers for innovative solution-oriented approaches with potential for rapid decision-making, flexibility, and to attract, recruit, retain, and develop talented people; (ii) a strategic focus on sustainability and collective contribution to a purpose-driven vision were important enablers for taking steps of operationalising sustainable work dimensions during the startup; and (iii) the firms early stakeholder collaboration addressing working conditions was an important means for design for sustainable work and their role as agents of sustainable work. Research implications are how sustainable work can be considered during startups and through stakeholder collaboration. Furthermore, the case contributes to increased knowledge of how the three pillars of sustainability-economic, ecological, and social sustainability-are interrelated and are suggested to be continuously considered over time, specifically during rapid major changes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
SPRINGER, 2021
Keywords
Entrepreneurship; New firms; Health; Working conditions; Social sustainability; Startup ecosystem
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-168772 (URN)10.1007/s11187-020-00383-3 (DOI)000557131900001 ()
Note

Funding Agencies|RISE Research Institutes of Sweden - Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems; XPRES (Initiative for Excellence in Production Research)

Available from: 2020-08-31 Created: 2020-08-31 Last updated: 2024-07-01
2. Stakeholder collaboration inspired by the Nordic model: Towards sustainable work and competitiveness during an industrial startup
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Stakeholder collaboration inspired by the Nordic model: Towards sustainable work and competitiveness during an industrial startup
2021 (English)In: European Journal of Workplace Innovation, ISSN 2387-4570, Vol. 6, no 2, p. 198-219Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

External stakeholder collaboration is vital for new industrial projects and establishments. The aim of this paper is to contribute to knowledge of how relations and stakeholder collaboration with trade unions can be created during industrial startups, so as to foster sustainable work and competitive advantages. A case study was carried out in the early phases of a major greenfield project aimed at establishing a new industrial domain in a Nordic context. The results show that cooperation between a new firm and trade unions has the potential to proactively address prerequisites for sustainable work in design phases of new factories, but also to strengthen the attention to other dimensions of social sustainability that are crucial for industrial startup´s long term success possibilities. However, specifically in a high—growth firm, there needs to be a systematic approach that incorporates continuous anchoring activities both within and between the stakeholders’ different levels. Serendipity in the findings were cooperation processes related to competence acquisition and societal development needed to meet both an emerging firm´s and future employee´s individual prerequisites and needs. Hence, building a stakeholder chain inspired by the Nordic model in change processes such as startups, enables attention to dimensions of social sustainability needed in work processes in early development phases, which is also beneficial from a competitive and societal perspective.

Keywords
Entrepreneurship, High-growth, Social sustainability, Trade union co-operation, Production system development
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-205725 (URN)10.46364/ejwi.v6i2.799 (DOI)
Available from: 2024-07-01 Created: 2024-07-01 Last updated: 2024-07-01Bibliographically approved
3. Towards competitive sustainable work and green industrial transformation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards competitive sustainable work and green industrial transformation
Show others...
2022 (English)In: Sustainable Work in Europe: Concepts, Conditions, Challenges / [ed] Kenneth Abrahamsson, Richard Ennals, Berlin: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2022, p. 189-212Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Berlin: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2022
National Category
Work Sciences Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-187827 (URN)10.3726/b19658 (DOI)9783631873502 (ISBN)
Available from: 2022-08-26 Created: 2022-08-26 Last updated: 2024-07-01Bibliographically approved
4. Scaling up and scaling down: Improvisational handling of critical work practices during the COVID-19 pandemic
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Scaling up and scaling down: Improvisational handling of critical work practices during the COVID-19 pandemic
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.

Keywords
Adaptive learning, developmental learning, organisational change, organisational learning, qualitative, responsiveness
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-190534 (URN)10.1177/13505076221137980 (DOI)000895511400001 ()
Note

Funding agencies: AFA Insurance (Grant number 200149)

Available from: 2022-12-13 Created: 2022-12-13 Last updated: 2024-07-01

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The full text will be freely available from 2024-08-16 13:00
Available from 2024-08-16 13:00

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Harlin, Ulrika

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