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Resistance to change: a functional analysis of reponses to technical change in a Swiss bank

Bauer, Martin (1993) Resistance to change: a functional analysis of reponses to technical change in a Swiss bank. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis demonstrates the signal function and diagnostic value of user resistance in a software development project. Its starting point is the critical analysis of managerial common sense which negates resistance, or sees resistance to change as a 'nuisance' and as the manifestation of an individual or structural 'deficiency'; these notions prohibit change agents from appreciating the signal function of resistance to change in organisational processes. The first source of evidence is the literature on impacts, attitudes, and acceptance of information technology internationally and in particular in Switzerland. The second source is the tradition of psychological field theory which I reconstruct as the 'feeding the reluctant eater' paradigm, a form of social engineering. The third source is an empirical study of the semantics (semantic differential and free associations) of 'resistance to change' among management trainees in the UK, Switzerland and the USA (N=388). The thesis develops and investigates a concept of resistance that is based a pain analogy, and on the notions of self-monitoring and self-active systems. An organization which is implementing new technology is a self-active system that directs and energetizes its activities with the help of internal and external communication. The functional analogy of the organismic pain system and resistance to change is explored. The analogy consists of parallel information processing, filtering and recoding of information, a bimodal pattern of attention over time, and the functions of attention allocation, evaluation, alteration and learning. With this analogy I am able to generate over 50 hypotheses on resistance to change and its effects on organisational processes. The evidence for some of these hypotheses is explored in an empirical study of a Swiss banking group. The implemention of computer services between 1983 and 1991 is reconstructed in the central bank and 24 branches. Data includes the analysis of two opinion surveys (1985 n=305; 1991 n=326), documents (n=134), narrative interviews (n=34), job analyses (n=34), field observations and performance data (n=24). A method is developed to describe the varying structure of organisational information processing through time. The content analysis allows me to describe when in relation to the action, how intense, and in what manner 'resistance' becomes an issue between 1983 and 1991. The fruitfulness of the pain analogy is demonstrated (a) by shifting the analysis of resistance from structure to process and to that of an independent rather than to that of a dependent variable; (b) by shifting the focus from from motivation to communication; (c) by eroding the a priori assumption that resistance is a nuisance; and (d) by indicating the diagnostic value of "bad news" in organisational communication; resistance is diagnostic information; it shows us when, where and why things go wrong.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1993 Martin Bauer
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
Sets: Departments > Social Psychology
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses
Supervisor: Humphreys, Patrick
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/63

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