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On closedowns: towards a pattern of explanations to the closedown effect
Örebro University, Swedish Business School at Örebro University.
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Productivity effects under uncertainty and threat is the topic of this thesis. It comprises a synthesis and four papers on closedown – focusing a phenomenon where there is an overall productivity increase during the closedown process. Productivity effects are the primary focus of this work’s case closedown studies, and uncertainty and threat the common denominator of the cases. This thesis contributes a theoretical foundation for analysis of closedowns. It identifies explanatory contributing factors and patterns which enable a better understanding of the Closedown effect.

The theoretical foundation for this thesis is outlined in the first paper. It recontextualizes the Hawthorne experiments by applying a closedown perspective to them. This new perspective identifies several similarities between the Hawthorne experiments and situations where closedown is threatened or decided. Originally the Hawthorne experiments were viewed as a closed system, laboratory experiments instead of actions on daily operations. The new perspective analyzed the prevalent threat implicit in the context that the Hawthorne experiments were conducted in. Such threat was identified in other earlier work on the Horndal and Closedown effect, situations where productivity also increased. Threat can act as a motivator or de-motivator. With the recontextualized perspective, it was found that employees become sensitive to their managerial and informational context, and so productivity patterns fluctuate. A productivity increase is observed overall when closedown is threatened. It is this phenomenon we term the Closedown effect.

In the second paper, a case study of the closure of a plant tracks productivity fluctuations and fine-tunes analysis of critical events that occur during a closedown process. It builds on the previous papers theoretical foundations and outlines a theoretical model for explaining the Closedown effect. Productivity development depends on workers’ interpretations of management information, and actions and reactions to the prevalent closedown. The dialectics between management and workers change during the closedown period – there were fewer conflicts, speeder conflict resolution, increased formal and informal worker autonomy, and more workers’ work design initiatives. A HRM-program initially had a positive effect on workers, but its importance diminished during the closedown period. The closedown decision generated structural changes: management control over daily operations diminished, informal leadership evolved and individualization grew stronger as the importance of informal groups deteriorated.

In the third paper a multiple case-study is presented. Lack of social responsibility characterizes the managerial setting in these cases, in contrast to the case study presented in the second paper. That is, here there was a lack of management support for worker activities in this particular closedown process. The Closedown effect was found to be statistically significant in three of the four cases. This paper also contributes a theoretical elaboration of the Closedown effect, including distinguishing the key aspects needed in a detailed analysis of the closedown process.

In the fourth paper the productivity paradox is examined with a holistic approach, which draws on Buckley’s (1967) modern systems theory. This holistic perspective considers changes in the initial economic and institutional structure, and assesses the dynamics that are triggered by the closedown decision. A closedown decision evidently reorders the equilibrium between management and the workers. The main holistic pattern that emerges is a new order, where worker self management replaces management control at plant level and workplace psychology is based on the apprehension of unfairness.

An empirically-close analysis approach is a recognized method for highlighting puzzling phenomenon and developing explanatory patterns. This empirically-close analysis of the empirical data generated in this thesis enabled identification of key factors to explain the appearance of the Closedown effect. Moreover, it was a means for generating a more rigorous theoretical understanding of the Closedown effect, and developing a pattern of explanations to this productivity increase effect.

A key theoretical contribution of this thesis is the identification of a range of concepts that form antecedent explanations to the Closedown effect’s occurrence. These antecedents are aggregated in themes: managerial actions, counter-institutional actions, conflict context, worker autonomy, perceived threat of job loss, collective action, economic and institutional reordering, and institutional restrictions. The following describes the influence of these aggregates and their temporal dynamics, in relationship to the Closedown effect.

The identification above factors and the generation of a theoretical framework to assess closedowns is the contribution this thesis makes. The significance of these for future research is also critically assessed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro university , 2008. , 158 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Business - Dissertations, 1
Keyword [en]
Closedown, Closedown effect, Downsizing, Productivity
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-1885ISBN: 978-91-7668-584-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-1885DiVA: diva2:135605
Public defence
2008-03-28, HST, Teknikhuset, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2008-03-05 Created: 2008-03-05 Last updated: 2011-05-11Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Recontextualizing the Hawthorne effect
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Recontextualizing the Hawthorne effect
2006 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Management, ISSN 0956-5221, Vol. 22, no 2, 120-137 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we explore the thesis that a threat to the vital interests of an entity, be it a single individual or a group, will lead to productivity increases in a variety of forms. We argue that because threat was present in the Hawthorne experiments, the adoption of a decline perspective is relevant to a recontextualization of the Hawthorne effect. This means introducing aspects of an open systems approach into the analysis. A comparison between the Hawthorne effect and the Closedown and Horndal effects reveals certain analytical similarities. In view of this, and because the threat factor is present in the Hawthorne experiments, we recommend that threat be taken into account as one component of the Hawthorne effect

Keyword
Closedown effect, Hawthorne effect, Horndal effect, Productivity, Threat, Decline
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2926 (URN)10.1016/j.scaman.2005.12.003 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-03-05 Created: 2008-03-05 Last updated: 2013-10-11Bibliographically approved
2. When the lights go out
Open this publication in new window or tab >>When the lights go out
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2929 (URN)
Available from: 2008-03-05 Created: 2008-03-05 Last updated: 2016-11-21Bibliographically approved
3. Pyrrhic victories: anticipating the closedown effect 
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Pyrrhic victories: anticipating the closedown effect 
2006 (English)In: International Journal of Human Resource Management, ISSN 0958-5192, E-ISSN 1466-4399, Vol. 17, no 5, 938-958 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous studies with empirical evidence on social responsible driven closedowns have identified a productivity increase effect that occurs during the process of organizational closedowns, known as the closedown effect. Our proposition is that this effect can be anticipated as a consequence of a closedown decision. Encountering four different non social responsible closedown cases, of various durations, we statistically test this proposition. Further, we identify a need for an analytical distinction of the phases of the closedown process, in terms of the primary 'advanced notice period' and the secondary 'countdown period'. Based on the analysis, and with this distinction, we are able to conclude that the productivity increase effect can be anticipated during the countdown period. The comparably longer time frame in the Studding case provides the strongest support for our proposition. From the analysis we suggest hypotheses for further research.

Keyword
Decline; closedown; closedown effect; productivity; social responsibility
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2927 (URN)10.1080/09585190600641255 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-03-05 Created: 2008-03-05 Last updated: 2013-10-11Bibliographically approved
4. A holistic approach to the productivity paradox
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A holistic approach to the productivity paradox
2007 (English)In: Human Systems Management, ISSN 0167-2533, E-ISSN 1875-8703, Vol. 26, no 2, 85-97 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Both the public and private sectors have since the 1980s relentlessly cut the size of their workforces. The downsizing has regularly been reported to lead to closure of a whole or a part of a corporation or organization. Some studies which have analyzed the closures have reported that remarkable, counterintuitive improvements in labor productivity occurred during the time-period between the closure announcement and the final working day. Testing an elaborated cybernetic model on a Swedish case study, and on an exploratory basis, this paper proposes a holistic approach to generate a better understanding of this phenomenon. The main holistic pattern is a new order where management control is replaced by more “Self-management” on the plant level, and very strong psychological reactions based on feelings of unfairness.

National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2928 (URN)
Available from: 2008-03-05 Created: 2008-03-05 Last updated: 2010-11-02Bibliographically approved

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