A Shared Understanding of Business Purpose as a Structure of Organizing Work / Routledge, London

17 lokakuu 2017

  • Ekonen, M. & Forsström-Tuominen, H. 2017. A Shared Understanding of Business Purpose as a Structure of Organizing Work. In Eskola, A. (Ed.). Navigating Through Changing Times Knowledge Work in Complex Environment. London: Routledge.

    Excerpt, first chapter: The current business environment challenges traditional structures of organizations. Hierarchies, centralized control, formality and bureaucracy do not work anymore, as they offer too slow, stagnated and predetermined ways to operate and manage a company in an environment that is highly complex and dynamic and puts customers at the centre of the operation. Although traditional structures may have their place and role partly and in some circumstances, often, they slow organizations down or prevent them from grasping new opportunities and customer needs and experience. They might even imperceptibly paralyse organizations or contribute, for their part, to organizational decline (Heine and Rindfleisch 2013). Complexity and rapid changes require spontaneous reactions and shifts in decision-making and action but still in a way that serves the organization and keeps it on the track.

    In the absence of the traditional structures, people are often left with a confusion that there is no structure at all guiding the direction of the firm or the organization. It seems that organizational members and their actions might be random or savagely uncontrolled. However, contemporary organizations need structures too. In effect, the current business environment emphasizes the importance of them. Organizations need strong and powerful structures that keep the organizational members focused but still allow dynamism and flexibility. In other words, successful organizing in the present-day environment demands new kinds of structures that serve as the backbone of the organization and are malleable at the same time. This concerns both new ventures and established organizations.

    In this chapter, we suggest that the customary organizational structures should be redefined and the new kinds of structures should be strengthened. The thought of understanding present-day structures takes us to collectiveness and interaction related to it. We believe that up-to-date and functioning structures of organizations are grounded in interactions among people and collective structures that emerge in them (Giddens 1984, 29; Morgeson and Hofmann 1999, 251). Thus, we put forward that the traditional structures based on hierarchies, bureaucracy and formality could be complemented or, in some cases, even replaced by collective structures in between organizational members. While there are many kinds of collective structures in organizations, one of the most important is shared understanding of business purpose that guides the attention and actions of the organizational members. That is, successful organizing in contemporary organizations could be based on how well employees together understand the purpose of the business and the related values and business goals.

    This chapter covers the concepts of collective structures and shared understanding of business purpose. It also deals with what a shared understanding is and how it might be constructed. Based on a case study, we give an example of the importance and the role of shared understanding and how it might be built in an organization that has lost it in the course of its history. We go through facilitating actions and steps that can be used and elaborate on the conditions that encourage the construction of shared understanding and business success.