An integral metatheory for organisational transformation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis proposes a metatheory for the study of organisational transformation. A metatheory is a coherent conceptual system that analyses and accommodates the insights of other theory. In a time of rapidly changing organisational, societal and global environments there is a strong imperative for developing integrative conceptual frameworks that contribute to our understanding and explanation of transformational change. Like other areas of social science, the field of organisational transformation is made up of a multitude of diverse theories that offer useful and valid insights into aspects of transformational phenomena. These theories come from many different theoretical schools and research paradigms and they employ a wide range of explanatory concepts. There are however, no overarching theoretical frameworks specifically developed from metatheory building techniques that might give an overall coherency to the field. Consequently, there is no way of deciding on the relative conceptual merits of particular theories and there is often little justification for adopting one theory over another to explore some aspect of organisational transformation. To fill this gap, this thesis uses conceptual research methods to i) review extant literature, ii) develop a metatheory for organisational transformation and iii) apply this metatheory to the exemplar topic of organisational sustainability. The initial chapters introduce the topics of organisational transformation and metatheory building and provide a rationale for an overarching approach to radical organisational change. Following this, a method for metatheory building is developed and its application in this study is described. A rationale for the sampling procedure and organisational of data is also presented. The metatheory building method involves the use of conceptual theme analysis for identifying the core themes theorists use in describing and explaining organisational transformation. In subsequent chapters, core themes are analysed using the techniques of bridging and bracketing to derive a number of conceptual lenses. These lenses, and the relationships between them, form the central components for the integral metatheory. Having identified and described the basic set of conceptual lenses for transformation, the exemplar topic of organisational sustainability is used to show how the metatheory can be applied to a specific area of research. The final chapter evaluates the integral metatheory with some commonly used criteria for judging the results of conceptual research. A brief evaluation of the chief metatheoretical resource used in the study, i.e., AQAL metatheory, is also carried out. This thesis endeavours to contribute to the field of organisational, transformational and sustainability studies by i) developing a metatheoretical framework for the study of radical organisational change, ii) offering a comprehensive review of paradigms and theories of organisational transformation and their core explanatory concepts, and iii) proposing a more detailed metatheory building method which can make a significant contribution to the conceptual development of many fields within organisational studies.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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