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Title: Power relations in organisations
Author: Baxter, Lynne
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 1996
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This thesis is about power and technology in organisations. It begins with a review of the literature on technology and technical change, and the author argues that most writers project a simplistic view of power in their texts. This leads them to assume that managers in organisations can use technology to further their own sectional interests. Managers can influence how the technology is developed, and operate it in a way which furthers their own objectives. The author reviews previous work on power, and concludes by asserting that the way power operates in organisations would undermine the assumptions held by writers on technical change. However, the theoreticians in the power literature hold that there is a very close association with power and knowledge, and that technology is a useful bond in this association. The author decided that the best way to study these ideas empirically was to carry out a grounded study of a change in technology in an organisation. The centrepiece of the work is a qualitative case study of British Rail. The organisation decided to implement local area networks, and the first piece of software on this system was designed to facilitate the entry of payroll information. The author spent a year interviewing a wide range of people connected with the change. The material obtained is described in some depth. Grounded theorising techniques were used to analyse the material. The author found that existing theory could not explain certain aspects of her data. For example, the way power operated in the organisation was very different to how the theory would predict. The technology was new in itself and new to the organisation. This meant that no one grouping had full knowledge of it. Managers from the part of the organisation which sponsored the project did not want to know about errors in the technology or organisational problems with the implementation. A feature which emerged was that managers in higher status parts of the organisation said that they could not interfere with lower status units. Local sites trying to operate the technology eventually devised local solutions to problems. As a result of these and other findings, the author concludes that technology is not a simple device to increase management power, but can lower it. Powerlessness can be used as a strategic device to get other people to do what they would not otherwise. In organisations not knowing something can be a sign of power.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available