Scanning the business environment for information : a grounded theory approach
This thesis examines the scanning of the business environment for information by a sample of Portuguese chemical companies. Nineteen companies were studied and forty senior managers were interviewed during 1992. The methodology used coupled the multiple case study approach with the grounded theory method of qualitative analysis. The grounded theory proposed in this thesis comprises three main components: the categories, the principal relationships among them and the contextual factors that shape the categories and relationships. Variability among companies is explained by a few key relationships among these categories. Environmental scanning is the phenomenon under study and constitutes the core category, to which the other six categories that emerged out of the qualitative data analysis were related: perceived environmental change and strategic change, information consciousness and information climate, organizational outwardness and individual exposure to information. The relationships identified among these categories contribute to understanding how managerial perceptions of environmental change affect strategic change and also how internal factors of an organizational, as well as of an individual, nature influence the environmental scanning activity. From an internal perspective, the contextual factors include company history and culture; from an external perspective, those factors include the overall economic, social, cultural and political conditions that characterize modem Portugal and shape those organizations, to a certain extent. This research unravelled three main issues concerning the problematic of environmental scanning in Portuguese chemical companies: 1) The scanning focus and scanning mode used by managers are inappropriate to deal with the important discontinuities they perceive in their business environment; 2) The integration of environmental information with internally-generated information is achieved only at top level, by means of senior managers' ability to relate and integrate disparate data provided by the functional areas; 3) Organizational culture emerged as an important factor in the analysis of information issues within organizations. However, the fact that the three ''best'' companies have developed different sorts of information cultures suggests that there is not a "best" culture: different cultures may be required for different contexts.