ابهام هویت و وعده ها و شیوه های ترکیبی تیم های پروژه مدیریت منابع انسانی الکترونیکی (e-HRM)
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|4640||2013||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Available online 17 April 2013
The role of IS project team identity work in the enactment of day-to-day relationships with their internal clients is under-researched. We address this gap by examining the identity work undertaken by an electronic human resource management (e-HRM) ‘hybrid’ project team engaged in an enterprise-wide IS implementation for their multi-national organisation. Utilising social identity theory, we identify three distinctive, interrelated dimensions of project team identity work (project team management, team ‘value propositions’ (promises) and the team’s ‘knowledge practice’). We reveal how dissonance between two perspectives of e-HRM project identity work (clients’ expected norms of project team’s service and project team’s expected norms of themselves) results in identity ambiguity. Our research contributions are to identity studies in the IS project management, HR and hybrid literatures and to managerial practice by challenging the assumption that hybrid experts are the panacea for problems associated with IS projects.
Information Systems (IS) projects invariably require team members to engage in ‘hybrid’ roles, that is, they are experts working on the project in more than one discipline who draw upon functional knowledge and expertise in hybrid practices and processes in order to ‘make possible lateral information flows and cooperation across the boundaries of organisations, firms and groups of experts or professionals’ (Miller et al., 2008, p943). The notion of the hybrid has been defined in a general sense as ‘new phenomena produced out of two or more elements normally found separately’. Hybrids are variously identified as: ‘actors, entities, objects, practices, processes and bodies of expertise’ with ‘distinctive and relatively stable attributes and characteristics, and are not merely intermediary or transitory forms’ (Miller et al., 2008, p943). Research on hybrids has been undertaken across disciplines, studying topics such as the changing location of accounting practices and expertise in doctors’ education (Jacobs, 2005), managerial hybrids (Rees, 1996), ‘hybridised’ medical expertise in Finland (Kurunmäki, 2004) and the interplay between organisations and the wider structure of IS expertise (Scarbrough, 1993). In this paper we focus on those hybrid project teams engaged in the implementation of electronic HRM (e-HRM) systems, which are comprised of web-based systems designed to support the implementation of human resourcing (HR) strategies, policies and practices in organisations (Ruel et al., 2004) by a variety of organisational actors (Strohmeier, 2007). It is important for those managing e-HRM projects to understand the hybridised context of project team members, not least because of the way potential ambiguity and fragmentation may result from the design and enactment of such projects. This is because their activities involve constant engagement in a dual hybridization process: forming and reforming at the margins of other practices and disciplines, such as information technology, human capital management and human resource planning (Tansley et al., 2001), while at the same time re-hybridising through other encounters. The enactment of such a dynamic context can produce a serious lack of understanding of internal clients about what the project team is there to do for them, thus impacting on the client’s perception of service quality, which, in turn, may negatively influence such key relationships when the pressure is on to deliver global functional strategies (Tansley and Newell, 2007a and Tansley and Newell, 2007b). We suggest that this means that project team members are consistently engaging in identity work (Ashforth et al., 2000), both as individuals and as a project team, as a way of constructing a positive team identity which can strengthen the building of both social resources (Dutton et al., 2010) and social capital (Newell et al., 2004) for successful project completion. In order to expand further the theoretical aspect of our research, we critically reflect on the conceptual grounding of personal and social identity. 1.1. Framing personal and social identity Self-identity has been described as referring to subjective meanings and experience by drawing upon feelings, values and behaviour whilst considering ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How might I act?’ (Cerulo, 1997). However, because identities are constructed in relationships with others (Gergen, 1994), collective notions, such as social and organisational identities (‘Who are we?’; ‘How might we act?’) are also essential aspects of identity studies. Although identity is a popular concept for investigating a number of phenomena in a wide variety of organisational settings, such as: seeking competitive advantage (Fiol, 2001); undertaking organisational routines (Brown and Lewis, 2011); diversity and leadership (Eagly and Chin, 2010); role performance (Burke and Reitzes, 1981), organisational politics (Thomas and Davies, 2005) and, increasingly, working in information technology (Nach and Lejeune, 2010), there has been little empirical examination of identity work of individuals ( Storey et al., 2005 and Watson, 2008) and no explicit studies of social identity work at project team level in the context of e-HRM. Several different ways of philosophically framing the notion of identity have been identified by various authors in organisational analysis. Alvesson et al. (2008, pp. 8–9) identify three distinct frames (functionalist, interpretivist and critical) used by scholars which, whilst using different ontological, epistemological and methodological approaches, all include a link between identity and action in some way, albeit taking different stances when identifying what practical steps might be taken in any interventions. Drawing from Habermas (1972), they advise that the dominant approach is the functionalist ‘technical’ frame, which ‘aims at developing knowledge of cause-and-effect relations through which control over natural and social conditions can be achieved’ and which ‘may hold an important key to a variety of managerial outcomes and thus the potential to improve organisational effectiveness’ (op.cit, p8). A second frame is the ‘practical-hermeneutic’, concomitant with interpretivist scholarship and where the focus is on ‘how people craft their identities through interaction, or how they weave ‘narratives of self’ in concert with others and out of the diverse contextual resources within their reach’ and which for ‘interpretively inclined organisational researchers’, provides ‘a vital key to understanding the complex, unfolding and dynamic relationship between self, work and organisation (Alvesson et al., 2008, p8). The third frame, ‘emancipatory’, involves a critical approach highlighting how power relations which constrain agency might be identified and addressed through relations of control and resistance. Although we recognise that all three frames have value (Alvesson, 2010), given our interpretive orientation as researchers, we take the second, practical-hermeneutic, frame as a way of examining the lived meaningful experiences of e-HRM project team members in their social and organisational milieu. We also look to critical management scholars for pointers on the dangers of taking a purely managerialist perspective. 1.2. Framing identity stability: identity as a static entity or as fragmented, in flux and ambiguous? Those who take an interpretive, practical-hermeneutic frame to identity studies are particularly sensitive about the way in which concepts used in their studies are ontologically and epistemologically construed, for example, in a consideration about the stability of the identity concept as applied in practice. In the past there has been a tendency for (functionalist) organisational scholars to construe identity as ‘a subjective sense of invigorating sameness and continuity’ (Erikson, 1974, p17 in Wetherell and Mohanty, 2010, p278). This ‘static’ notion is also invoked in Albert and Whetton’s (1985) seminal work on identity as ‘central, distinctive and enduring’ (Schulz et al., 2000). In their typology of different approaches, Beech and McInnes characterise this static ‘ideal type’ as a functionalist scholarly frame where ‘individuals are singular and consistent, they have attributes that may change over time, but which are consistently located within the person, and boundaries between that person and others are clear and incontrovertible’ (2005, p9). This approach has been found, not unnaturally, to be naïve and analytically limiting, not least because of the sole focus on the individual. The notion of social identity has also received much functionalist attention by scholars, who have produced a variety of essentialist definitions of the concept. Ashforth and Mael define social identity as ‘the perception of oneness with a group of persons’ (1989, p20). Kogut and Zander (1996) argue that organisations can be categorised by social identity, given that organisational actors connect together in their joint endeavours to support their organisation in survival and expansion. Tajfel and Turner, 1979, Haslam, 2001 and Oakes et al., 1991, amongst others, suggest that social identity provides for ‘ways in which individuals can be seen as part of a collective entity in the mind of themselves and others, by analysing processes of (self-) categorization and psychological commitment’ whilst elaborating ‘on the likely causes of such ties between the individual and the collective’, specifying ‘the circumstances under which these ties are likely to increase or decrease in strength’ and detailing ‘the consequences for social and organisational behaviour’ (Haslam et al., 2003, p359). The results of social identity, Willem et al. argue, are ‘a collective mind and a shared understanding among the group members (Haslam et al., 2003), who therefore believe and accept the same values (i.e. the values of the group with which one identifies)’ (2007, p4). We argue that, at project team level, social identity does not always follow the neat prescription cited by Willem et al. (2007), but rather that it has many paradoxical characteristics. The practices of teams working on IS projects, we suggest, take place in a context where normative identities of both the personal and social kind are shaped by social engagement in organisational processes, and influenced by people’s experiences, actions and forms of compliance, consent and resistance as they enact those processes (Webb, 2006). That is, their work is not only influenced by the shaping processes of their personal identity, but also by the shaping processes of their social identity as a project team. Ybema et al. (2009) connect personal and social identity shaping processes and major on the messiness of identity in human agency, arguing that ‘the social processes implicated in identity formation are complex, recursive, reflexive, and constantly ‘under construction’’ (p301). They suggest that the appearance of stability in any given ‘identity’ is, at best, a transient accomplishment: discursive construction and re-construction emerge as a continuous process and stability appears to be either a momentary achievement or a resilient fiction. Thus, identity shaping is conceptualised as ‘a complex, multifaceted process which produces a socially negotiated temporary outcome of the dynamic interplay between internal strivings and external prescriptions, between self-presentation and labelling by others, between achievement and ascription and between regulation and resistance’ (Ybema et al., 2009, p301). One question that these two ways of framing raises for our study is ‘in what way, then, can identity be coherent’? To address this as interpretivists, rather than taking identity as either a static and unshakable entity (Ashforth, 1998 and Gioia et al., 2000) or as purely ‘characterised by paradox, fluidity, inconsistency and being constantly emergent’ (Pullen and Linstead, 2005, p3), we demonstrate coherency by keeping an interest in identity uniformities and configurations, whilst at the same time embracing the views of those who take identity to be impermanent, context-sensitive and emerging set of social constructions, For, as Jenkins suggests, identity is ‘not fixed, immutable or primordial’, but because ‘it is utterly socio-cultural in its origins’, it is therefore ‘somewhat negotiable and flexible’ (2008, p19). What this, then, directs us to is the role of human agency in identity shaping processes in organisational life. Sveningsson and Alvesson suggest that a useful way of studying this is by taking the notion of identity work as an analytical tool to enable the ‘conceptualization of the ways in which human beings are continuously ‘engaged in forming, repairing, maintaining, strengthening or revising the constructions that are productive of a sense of coherence and distinctiveness’ (2003: 1165). 1.3. Identity work The human agency involved in the shaping of identity has been described in various ways, including: ‘identity construction’, ‘identity management’, ‘identity achievement’, ‘identity manufacture’, ‘identity project’ and ‘identity work’ (Watson, 2008, p127). The term identity work is used in the fields of social science as a complex and unpredictable endeavour ( Cohen and Taylor, 1992, McDermott, 1976, Stewart and Strathern, 2000 and Pullen, 2006) and by organisation and management researchers ( Alvesson and Willmott, 2002, Storey et al., 2005, Musson and Duberley, 2007, Watson, 2001 and Watson, 2008). In this paper we take Watson’s definition, where ‘identity work involves the mutually constitutive processes whereby people strive to shape a relatively coherent and distinctive notion of personal self-identity and struggle to come to terms with and, within limits, to influence the various social-identities which pertain to them in the various milieu in which they live their lives (2008, 129). 1.4. The internal/external dynamics of the personal and social in project team identity work As we have seen so far, explanations of identity work are often focused on the development of the ‘self’ as an ‘internal’ aspect of identity (Watson, 2008). However, as Watson firstly reminds us, ‘“the looking glass self” (Cooley, 1902) establishes that ‘who we take ourselves to be is very much a matter of the person whom we see reflected in the eyes of others’, and, secondly, that our ‘presentation of self in everyday life’ (Goffman, 1959) indicates that ‘we “manage” the image of that ‘person’ to influence how those others see us’ (Watson, 2008, p127). One of the means by which identity regulation can occur is by ‘defining a person by defining others’ (Alvesson and Willmott, 2002, p629). In such image management activities, the dialogic nature of our discourse (Bakhtin, 1982) is an important aspect, not least the public and private rhetorical aspects of our everyday arguing and thinking about how to act (Billig, 1987), where ‘our very process of thinking and decision-making involves us in a dialogue in our minds with the arguments of human others’ (Watson, 2001, p23). The interplay between self-identity and social-identity can, then, be seen in the ‘link between the ‘self’ aspects of identity and the discourses to which they relate. This “missing link” is an ‘external’ or discursive notion of publicly available ‘personas’ or social-identities’ (Watson, 2008, p127). In this paper we focus particularly on the many forces that pressurise project team social identity of the hybrid kind, specifically those project teams working on implementations for specific functions or divisions, as they attempt to build an understanding of themselves for others that is ‘coherent, distinct and positively valued’(Alvesson et al., 2008, p15). We seek to answer two research questions in this study: ‘Why should those working in ‘hybrid’ project teams need a coherent social identity?’ and ‘What practical difficulties do project team members have in assembling a coherent social identity for themselves and others?’ Such a focus is important because in project management practice there has long been an assumption that hybrid experts are the panacea for problems associated with cross-functional IS projects because of the breadth and depth of the multi-dimensional knowledge and skills they bring to their endeavours. Taking a social identity construction lens allows us to critically illuminate such a view. The structure of the rest of the paper is as follows. We first introduce the conceptual foundations of our study, with a strong emphasis on the theory of social identity in the context of hybrid e-HRM projects, examining how social identity work is conceptualised by the current literature. A conceptual framework is then derived from the review and used as a sensitising device to guide our interpretation of empirical evidence. We do this not only to gain an in-depth understanding about the human experience within organisational projects, but also to reveal issues, and in many instances irrationalities, connected with the relational nature of project team identity work. Next, we explain how we conducted our interpretive case study and analysed the collected data. Then, we illustrate in detail the case study scenarios depicting the dynamic interplay between different dimensions of social identity work and the unintended consequences of project team members’ roles in the shaping of what we are calling project team identity ambiguity. This allows us to take account of ‘the resources or materials out of which identities are crafted’, such as the embodied practices of what people do at work, material and institutional arrangements and groups and social relations (Alvesson et al., 2008, p18). Following that, we compare and contrast our findings with the current literature to showcase the theoretical contributions of our study. We conclude by identifying both theoretical and practical implications of hybrid project teams' identity work and the need to pay attention to the management of a project teams’ identity ambiguity.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
In relation to our original statement that hybrid teams are not a panacea for a successful e-HRM project, our findings in this paper demonstrate how the interactions between a hybrid e-HRM project team and its clients can become a source of social identity ambiguity. In this we highlight the paradox that such a concept can both positively and negatively impact on working project relationships characterised by ‘subjectively construed discursive identities …that are both contingent and fragile’ (Clarke et al., 2009, p323). In this section we consider the lessons from this study and the implications for project team management practice in information systems of the e-HRM kind, as well as IS project team management generally. These lessons relate to how a project team might usefully focus not only on their social identity work in trying to ascertain ‘who do we think we are?’ but also on ’who do our clients think we are?’. Then, after taking their clients’ views into account, they might also add onto this list of self-reflexive questions ‘who do they think we should be?’ and ‘who do we think we should be?’ (see Corley and Gioia, 2004, p176). It is in this reflexive process that discrepancies and alignments between the perspective of each party can be identified and decisions made about how to make sense of any discrepancies and the extent to which each is important or relevant (Chreim, 2002). It is also through this reflexive process that project team identity can be strengthened, ambiguity reduced and, we suggest, future project work progress with less relational difficulty. This is not to say that such an activity will resolve all relational issues. As we have suggested in this paper, social identity work is essentially a temporary, changing activity but this does not discount that in practice at project team level there are at least three possible dimensions where the project team-client relationship can strengthen or flounder: project team management, value propositions and knowledge practice. Despite the fact that the three dimensions might not be exhaustive in terms of their conceptual coverage, they do provide a valuable set of intellectual guidelines to make sense of the diverse range of relevant perspectives and debates. Furthermore, our case and findings have provided an insightful elaboration of how these dimensions can be applied to make sense of a complex, ambiguous and emerging hybrid project team setting. For example, from the clients’ perspective the very enactment of project team relationships can induce identity ambiguity. There is the strong possibility that role fragmentation might result from the design of those hybrid roles. What can assist project team managers to understand the difficulties encountered in a lack of actualization of client expectations is to examine the influence of structure on project team value propositions and realise the power another function (e.g. IS) can have on this process. Clarification of such aspects provides the client with the potential to address client service issues for the long term. In addition, given that identity ambiguity exists as a possible theme for interpretation across organisational phenomena (Feldman and March, 1981, Pondy et al., 1988 and Martin and Meyerson, 1988, cited in Alvesson, 2001, p869), creating a value proposition is, we argue, an essential requirement for project team success. A project team value proposition comprises the promises and commitment a project team makes to their internal clients to deliver a package of relevant services and products which uniquely meets internal clients’ needs. Creating a value proposition requires answers to particular contextual questions. For instance, who exactly is the client that the value propositions are being created for? Garnered from client feedback, what do clients say they value? A clear description is necessary of what is being offered to the clients in terms of product and/or service. What are the benefits to the client? What substitutes or alternatives are there? It needs to be made clear how the offering of the team is different from anything else being offered. Do client requirements cohere with organisational level requirements for the project? What evidence/proof do team members have that they can deliver what they promise? The strength of project team identity depends on how well the team fulfils its promises and the consistency and clarity of how well these promises are communicated to clients. We contend that value propositions which are agreed with the clients of the project team are important to project team leaders to enable them to get the right level of attention, resources and support for their project staff in order that they, in turn, are able to address quality and ensure sustainability of internal client services. However, for projects such as e-HRM, it can be difficult to rally teams and support for what might be termed seemingly mundane projects which do not appear to offer breakthrough potential. The ’electronic filing cabinet’ of employee information may not seem ‘sexy’, so can often be below the radar for executives who do not fully appreciate their potential power for human capital management. E-HRM teams are mainly ‘invisible’ as an occupational group (Williams et al., 2009) and few if any e-HRM project managers wield much clout. Many operate in authority vacuums where they have little or no formal control over the people on whom they must rely outside of their project teams to achieve project goals. What’s more, project leaders, when they are able to rally teams, often focus too narrowly on the work to be done. In their preoccupation with task accomplishment, project leaders frequently overlook the importance of establishing, maintaining and communicating to key stakeholders a clear, consistent and unique message of the team’s commitment to their stakeholders’ requirements. Overall, then, the practical value of our study is for those project team leaders who must sequence, time and articulate core messages about their projects to the right audiences. As we found, this requires that they give thought to their offering and also how their services and products are positioned with regard to the needs of their clients. In this endeavour, hybridness is a useful managerial concept for cross-functional projects. However, as we have extensively elaborated throughout our paper, hybrids should not be perceived as a panacea to the often-underestimated social and organisational problems that can characterise the interactions between project teams and their stakeholders. For as we have shown from our case study research, the design and deployment of hybridness needs to be approached with care, not least because of the potential for a gradual yet unanticipated build-up of identity ambiguity that is manifested by the magnitude of gaps and recursive mismatching of expected and enacted norms in the relations between the e-HRM project team and its clients.