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Hanken School of Economics Working Papers, Hanken School of Economics

No 527:
Constructing Stability in Software Product Development during Organizational Restructurings

Beata Segercrantz ()

Abstract: We all have fresh in our memory what happened to the IT sector only a few years ago when the IT-bubble burst. The upswing of productivity in this sector slowed down, investors lost large investments, many found themselves looking for a new job, and countless dreams fell apart. Product developers in the IT sector have experienced a large number of organizational restructurings since the IT boom, including rapid growth, downsizing processes, and structural reforms. Organizational restructurings seem to be a complex and continuous phenomenon people in this sector have to deal with. How do software product developers retrospectively construct their work in relation to organizational restructurings? How do organizational restructurings bring about specific social processes in product development? This working paper focuses on these questions. The overall aim is to develop an understanding of how software product developers construct their work during organizational restructurings. The theoretical frame of reference is based on a social constructionist approach and discourse analysis. This approach offers more or less radical and critical alternatives to mainstream organizational theory. Writings from this perspective attempt to investigate and understand sociocultural processes by which various realities are created. Therefore these studies aim at showing how people participate in constituting the social world (Gergen & Thatchenkery, 1996); knowledge of the world is seen to be constructed between people in daily interaction, in which language plays a central role. This means that interaction, especially the ways of talking and writing about product development during organizational restructurings, become the target of concern. This study consists of 25 in-depth interviews following a pilot study based on 57 semi-structured interviews. In this working paper I analyze 9 in-depth interviews. The interviews were conducted in eight IT firms. The analysis explores how discourses are constructed and function, as well as the consequences that follow from different discourses. The analysis shows that even though the product developers have experienced many organizational restructurings, some of which have been far-reaching, their accounts build strongly on a stability discourse. According to this discourse product development is, perhaps surprisingly, not influenced to a great extent by organizational restructurings. This does not mean that product development is static. According to the social constructionist approach, product development is constantly being reproduced and maintained in ongoing processes. In other words stable effects are also ongoing achievements and these are of particular interest in this study. The product developers maintain rather than change the product development through ongoing processes of construction, even when they experience continuous extensive organizational restructurings. The discourse of stability exists alongside other discourses, some which contradict each other. Together they direct product development and generate meanings. The product developers consequently take an active role in the construction of their work during organizational restructurings. When doing this they also negotiate credible positions for themselves.

Keywords: development; organizational restructurings; stability; discourse; (follow links to similar papers)

35 pages, June 12, 2007

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