Organizational improvisation within an episodic planning model: A systems perspective

by Boyer, Michael D., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2009, 208 pages; 3366094


This study explored the holistic nature of organizational improvisation within an episodic or punctuated equilibrium planning model. Organizational change is not characterized by the sequential ordering of discrete events but as a series of ongoing adjustments, accommodations, adaptations, and alterations that are enacted over time so that fundamental changes are achieved. The practitioners who dwell in turbulent and changing environments may be compelled to consider organizational improvisation as a central competence. The approach involved a flexible design with theory development accomplished through a grounded theory methodology. As the sample, the research used a single corporation with a history of strategic activity. The use of the principles and interconnected laws that support Newtonian mechanics was introduced to provide the framework for the building of the holistic model of improvisation. The holistic model of improvisation developed contains the themes of (a) strategic inertia, (b) drift and entropy, (c) improvisation and firefighting, (d) improvisation and gravity, and (e) action/reaction force pairs placed into interactive relationship. The study concluded that there is not an "either/or" choice between strategy and improvisation. There are no scales to tip such that strategic planning is diminished or sacrificed for greater organizational improvisation or all improvisation must end to blindly support a strategic plan. The holistic model of improvisation was presented as a system where the wholes in reality are always seen to differ from the sum of their parts and this systems view makes sense of the frequency, type, magnitude, and direction of the multiple forces acting within an episodic planning model. The study also concluded that, considering improvisation within an episodic planning environment, physics and Newtonian mechanics, not jazz, appear to be a better metaphor in explaining improvisation in the holistic sense for this situation. The recommendations include (a) applying the same approach to a different subject company and determine if a similar holistic view would emerge, (b) enhancing the holistic model of improvisation with Einstein's mechanics or quantum mechanics to reveal a perspective unachievable with using Newtonian mechanics, and (c) performing empirical or quantitative testing of the holistic model of improvisation.

AdviserKatherine E. Dew
Source TypeDissertation
Publication Number3366094

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