Date of Award
Edith Cowan University
Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)
School of Business and Law
The implementation of new business processes can be problematic for organisations. Employees tend towards reluctant behaviour when confronted with organisational change that requires adoption of new workflows and work tasks. The crucial importance of people affected by change has been highlighted in past research. While the adoption of new processes is beneficial to the organisation, deviations from or rejections of new processes can lead to increased risks, missed process goals, increased waste leading to lost revenue, and other unforeseeable outcomes.
However, the adoption of proposed processes by individuals only is less desirable, because the collective nature of processes requires choreographed group action to achieve desired goals. Surprisingly, however, current studies on business processes and change management supply only little insight into the complexity of causal social mechanisms underlying this obstacle to process change.
Therefore, the aim of this research is to explain employee adoption and rejection behaviour influenced by individual and collective reflexive deliberations on perceived changes in process affordances with respect to personal and group goals over time. It is believed that business processes offer various affordances to people to achieve their personal and project goals – an agent-process-relation with action potential. Given the situational structural and cultural change context, people’s personal or collective reflexive deliberations regarding these process affordances lead to adoption or rejection tendencies.
For the examination of such causal social relations, a critical realist perspective using a morphogenetic approach is adopted to retrospectively analyse the social dynamics that governed the courses of action in a single process change project within an Australian university. This study gives insights into a concrete incidence of a change management process concerning its social dynamics. The process under investigation concerns the management of academic integrity cases. Triggered by external regulatory requirements in the sector, the former decentralised, manual, department-focused academic integrity process was proposed to be transformed into a centralised, business system supported, university-focused process. The study does not, however, theorise about organisational economics nor political contexts that shape the forms and processes of a university or education system at large. Adhering to a qualitative research paradigm and following critical realist inquiry principles, research data was collected and transcribed from 31 in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted over the course of 3 months during 2021.
Findings derived from this case setting indicate that people engaged in individual reflexivity, and thus, mostly perceived individual and shared affordances. Process adoption occurred where individual affordance outcomes were aligned with people’s goals. In contrast, affordances with inhibiting potential towards goal achievement led to rejective tendencies including deviations from the intended process. People engaging in collective reflexivity showed adoption tendencies if the process was perceived as an enduring structure that contributed towards the collectively shared goal of upholding academic integrity. However, unexpected collective behaviour across process roles caused social unrest for individuals. The non-existence of collective reflexive feedback possibilities in the process structure caused some people to develop tendencies of resentment towards future process usage.
Given the significance of individual and collective reflexivity in business process change, this research approach and findings contribute to philosophy, methodology, and practice. Philosophically seen, the composited research paradigm founded on critical realist underpinnings in combination with reflexivity and affordance theory provided a strong foundation for social business process analysis. Considerations on empirical critical realist interview inquiry methods that were developed and undertaken in this research have been published in the Journal of Critical Realism. For process practitioners, an ontology of process adoption and rejection behaviour that emerged as part of this study was presented at the Business Process Management Forum 2020 conference and was included in its proceedings.
Moreover, findings indicate that an awareness and consideration of employee reflexivity can lead to more enduring business process change implementations in organisations. The adoption of social reflexivity and affordance analysis to become part of the process life cycle is argued for strongly.
Some images are not available in this version of the thesis due to copyright considerations.
Brönnimann, A. (2023). Explaining organisational business process adoption mechanisms - A critical realist perspective on social reflexivity and process affordances. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2628