Author Archives: Steffen Blaschke

Micro Patterns of Organizational Change in Universities

Some weeks ago, we briefly talked about governing organizational change in universities. Our initial ideas already got accepted for presentation at the Higher Education Research Conference in Zürich. Nonetheless, we’ve been busy finalizing a first draft of the entire paper over the holidays. Here’s the abstract that we just submitted to this year’s conference of the Academy of Management:

Universities are facing increasing institutional pressure to change due to government efforts of New Public Management. Research on higher education institutions broadly suggests that it takes governance, leadership, and management alike to cope with the now perceived misalignment of organizational structures and environmental demands. Unfortunately, organizational change is notoriously difficult to govern since decision making remains ambiguous and anarchic. We address the research gap between broad and deterministic macro modes of governance, leadership, and management on one hand and the micro modes of ambiguous and anarchic decision-making processes on the other hand. Relying on the concept of universities as loosely coupled systems, develop theoretically grounded patterns of temporary micro patterns of tightly coupled strategic issues and governing bodies that facilitate organizational change in universities. We substantiate this micro foundation with three years of longitudinal data from the university senate of one of the largest German universities. Our research findings suggest six micro patterns in organizational change: Agenda building, sense making, three micro patterns of devising, and one of debriefing. In contrast to the macro modes of New Public Management, these micro patterns allow a more fine-grained analysis within four stages of organizational change. Governing change thus entails a bottom-up approach based on micro patterns of tightly coupled strategic issues and governing bodies, not a top-down management of hierarchy and process.

Governing Organizational Change in Universities

Organizational change is an issue as old as organization theory itself. However, it has been largely overlooked in research on higher education institutions. We’re currently working on filling that void. Our short paper entitled Governing Change in Universities: Towards a Micro Foundation (Blaschke, Frost, and Hattke) just got accepted for presentation at the first Higher Education Research Conference in Zürich next year. Now the heat is on, the full paper is due in January. Here’s the abstract:

Universities are facing increasing institutional pressure to change due to government efforts of new public management, more and more academic competition over research grants, and rising student enrolments. Research on higher education institutions broadly suggests that it takes governance, leadership, and managment alike to cope with these recent developments (e.g., de Boer et al., 2007; Bradshaw & Fredette, 2008; Carnegie & Tuck, 2010). Governing organizational change in universities, however, is notoriously difficult. As loosely coupled systems of academic, administrative, or political issues and organizational bodies concerned with these issues, universities presumably defy tight couplings, which are required to govern change. Our aim, then, is to remedy this seemingly paradox by developing patterns of temporary tight couplings that facilitate governing organizational change in universities. Based on research on intentional organizational change and university governance, we first derive propositions for effectively governing four stages of intentional change: initiation, understanding, performance, and closure (Ford & Ford, 1995). We substantiate our theoretical reasoning with thirteen years of longitudinal data from the university senate of one of the largest German universities. Following the four stages, our findings indicate unique patterns of tightly coupled strategic issues and organizational bodies. In contrast to the rather broadly defined macro modes of university governance, leadership, and management, our patterns provide a micro foundation for governing organizational change in universities.

  • Bradshaw, P., & Fredette, C. (2008). Academic Governance of Universities: Reflections of a Senate Chair on Moving From Theory to Practice and Back. Journal of Management Inquiry, 18 (2), 123–133.
  • Carnegie, G. D., & Tuck, J. (2010). Understanding the ABC of University Governance. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 69(4), 431–441.
  • de Boer, H., Enders, J., & Schimank, U. (2007). On the way towards New Public Management? The Governance of University Systems in England, the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany. In D. Jansen (Ed.) New Forms of Governance in Research Organizations, (pp. 137–152). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
  • Ford, J. D., & Ford, L. W. (1995). The Role of Conversations in Producing Intentional Change in Organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 541–570.

Start the RePort

Beginning in September 2011, the project Multi-Level Governance of Resource Portfolios in Higher Education Institutions has officially been launched. The project itself is a collaborative effort of the Chair of Organization and Management (Prof. Dr. Jetta Frost) at the University of Hamburg and the Chair of Strategic Management (Prof. Dr. Markus Reihlen) at the Leuphana University Lüneburg. It is generously funded by the BMBF.

Since the project is situated in Germany and concerned with the governance of German Higher Education Institutions, it is obvious that the research should be mostly in German, too. However, we are first and foremost scholars of management science and organization theory, which is why English is our weapon of choice when it comes to international scholarly publications. Therefore, most of the posts to follow will be in English, as most of our research will be. Some posts will nonetheless be in German, and maybe even some research to come.

In brief, we welcome you to our weblog where we’ll keep you posted about the project and all respective research. Rock ‘n’ Research!