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Choosing a theoretical perspective


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I'm a management student focusing on the birth of dynamic capabilities (strategy process research). I've just started data collection. I'm taking a case study approach. At this moment I've managed to negotiate access and have made some preliminarily interviews with project managers (studying engineering firms). My goal is to study how they develop the know-how and tool themselves to bring new services to their customers. I'm facing with the decision to:

1. Take the usual stance of management case studies: which could be characterized of taking reality as it is and then develop a model that explains observations and meanings.

2. Choose a sociological perspective.

I'm favoring the sociological perspective. But, I would not want to miss collecting data that would be important for conducting analysis under the selected perspective. However, I have at best cursory knowledge of some sociological theories. Thus, I might be missing an obvious well suited perspective. I'm obviously interested in a micro-perspective but both interaction and meaning are expected to be significant to developing an understanding of the cases.

For my study different understandings people make of the situation, some resistance they at times display regarding taking new roles (sometimes implicit), or learning new skills seem to be important elements. Project managers typically manage units between 5 to 30 people, and they might have a boss or be the boss.

I wonder which theories might be a good fit. Would you please also suggest a good reference on the fundamentals of the theory and perhaps a good exemplar/reference of methodological application.

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  • 2 months later...

The organizational sociologists have a lot to say on management topics, in my view. Check out the group blog OrgTheory and search around using the search box with keywords that you think are relevant to your research. Also check out "The new institutionalism in organizational analysis" by Dimaggio and Powell.

Organizational sociology looks at dynamics within firms (the particular culture and politics within the firm, and formal and informal structures/practices/norms) as well as dynamics between firms. They also look at particular organizational forms and the ways in which they fail or succeed - which has to do with the particular environment they are in (Alfred Chandler's "Visible Hand: The managerial revolution" and Neil Fligstein's "Transformation of Corporate control.").

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