Management and Marketing - Theses
Now showing items 1-12 of 78
Rethinking consumer embodiment: a practice based view of breast augmentation
The body is integral to consumption. Consumers feed, groom, dress, adorn, and alter their bodies. However, relatively few studies examine the body as a site of enquiry. This research seeks to understand the body as a site of consumption and draws from a long-standing tradition in sociology that treats the body and identity as intertwined in a personal project whereby the body is shaped through desired identity/ies. In this way, the body is framed as an obstacle that may either block identity projects, or as a static possession to be modified in line with these values. However, questions remain as to the ongoing process of shaping, interpreting and experiencing the body. I ask what are the embodied factors that contribute to ongoing body change, and what is the role of social others in shaping consumers intimate preferences? My research answers these questions through extended netnography, coupled with in-depth interviews of young women’s experiences with breast augmentation surgery. My findings show how the body and body management acts as a contested site of identity and involves complex social relations. I find that consumers experience their bodies through a desired identity, but that this desired identity is shaped by market-mediated materials, social others and the passage of time. Family and friends seek to make the body social by providing their own opinions and knowledge in ways that stabilise and destabilise consumer plans over the body. I find that consumers must continuously engage in a process of re-working their expectations, desired identity and body throughout the process of wanting, planning for, and receiving body-modification.
The Storied (Not) Relations of Tech-Products: Consumer Experiences of Technology Adoption
Technology adoption theories explain the processes by which consumers bring into their lives products such as smartphones, laptops and various other technologies. Extant research views technology adoption processes such as these as deliberate and largely individual decisions. However, adoption situations which involve influences beyond an individual consumer’s complete volition are understudied. This dissertation investigates such situations by attending to the strong social and contextual influences which can take hold of the technology adoption processes of consumers through the lens of assemblage thinking. Assemblage thinking is established within marketing and consumer research through frameworks of ‘assemblage’ and ‘Actor-Network Theory’ (ANT). These frameworks have enabled researchers to view consumption events as being the product of relational arrangements constituted by different human and non-human components. However, assemblage thinking risks obscuring what may also enhance our consumption inquiries beyond analyses of the relations between different entities. In particular, assemblage thinking can be extended to consider two undertheorised aspects of assemblages which may shape consumption events: (1) the hidden sides of entities which are outside the purview of their assemblage relations; and (2) the ‘not-relations’ between certain entities which do not relate with each other in assemblages. This dissertation extends assemblage thinking’s analytical potentials in these directions by introducing insights from Object-Oriented Ontology – a theoretical perspective with nascent applications in marketing and consumer research. These extensions to assemblage thinking are developed and demonstrated through studies which investigate the technology adoption processes of consumers. Over the course of four papers this dissertation extends technology adoption theories and assemblage thinking within marketing and consumer research through interviews and ethnographic fieldwork undertaken at a retirement village in Melbourne, Australia. Paper 1 explores technology gift-giving, hand-me-downs and sharing within family contexts, and finds that family relationships exert important influences on technology adoption processes through such behaviours. Paper 2 examines the context of older consumers, and finds that their technology adoption processes are shaped by their feelings of independence as they intersect with their family and community relationships. Paper 3 puts assemblage thinking applications in marketing and consumer research in conversation with Object-Oriented Ontology. This conceptual paper explains how the hidden sides of entities and ‘not-relations’ between entities are important to study, through analysing the consumption of smart-assistant devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Lastly, Paper 4 examines the adoption processes of technologies which are dysfunctional. That is, when technologies do not work as consumers intend or expect. The paper shows that when faced with technological dysfunction, consumers may be forced to learn more about their devices and their assemblage relations when trying to restore and maintain their working functions. Across these four papers and their theoretical contributions, various implications are outlined for consumption scholarship and marketing practitioners.
A construal-level approach to understanding individual-level contributions to distributed teamwork
This study addresses the limited understanding of distributed team (DT) members’ individual-level contributions to teamwork. In DTs, team members work together from geographically separate locations. DTs offer many benefits, but teamwork in these teams is challenging to the point where high-profile organisations have previously banned their use. However, abandoning DTs is premature because we can address their challenges by clarifying how their fundamental attributes – i.e., the spatial distance between team members and how they communicate – influence individual team members’ teamwork contributions (i.e., cooperation, coordination, and conflict). Our understanding of how these attributes influence teamwork contributions is limited because their mediating mechanisms are under-theorised. This literature indicates two theoretical perspectives for developing a model of individual team member processes in DTs: construal-level theory (CLT), which has been recently introduced to DTs to theorise around psychological distance in DTs, and social identity theory (SIT). Identifying how these mediating mechanisms work together at the individual level in DTs has been theoretically and empirically challenging. I aim to clarify these mechanisms by integrating core tenets of CLT and SIT to address challenges for distributed teamwork. I address two questions to examine these challenges: i) How do the socio-cognitive processes of psychological distance and social identification work together to influence individual team members’ contributions to distributed teamwork?; and, ii) How can communication and associated technologies be used to improve the socio-cognitive processes that determine perceptions of other team members and subsequent teamwork in DTs? To answer the first research question, I propose that spatial distance matters because it can generate psychological distance, which then reduces the degree to which individuals identify themselves and others as members of their DT. This psychological distance and weaker social identification, in turn, leads individuals to dehumanise others in their DT. I frame this process of dehumanisation as an example of construal of others – a concept central to CLT and the effects of psychological distance in DTs. To answer the second research question, I develop an additional model predicting the direct effects of communication frequency and particular media (i.e., face-to-face, video CMC, phone and text-based computer-mediated communication), on psychological distance and social identification, and their moderating effects on the influence of spatial distance. I test the hypotheses with path analyses and multiple regression analyses using two waves of survey data obtained from employees currently working in DTs located in Australia. These analyses indicate overall support for the primary theoretical model. This evidence demonstrates that psychological distance and DT identification are more critical than spatial distance for contributions to distributed teamwork. The study supports the role of dehumanisation as an instance of construal of other people, which operates as a shared mechanism for the effects of psychological distance and social identification. It also demonstrates that social identification and dehumanisation are dual mechanisms for psychological distance’s effects in DTs. However, the data also demonstrate mixed support for the second theoretical model regarding the influence of communication media. Overall, we must consider DT members’ perceptions in addition to their physical separation to better understand and address challenges for individual-level contributions to teamwork.
Alienating or engaging?: The role of ontological security and consumer coping in complex sustainable consumption environments - the case of certified wine
Consumers are in many ways made to be one of the central actors in the discourse on transitions to more sustainable consumption and production models globally. Consumption naturally spans across many industries, but one of the most significant contributors to environmental degradation, entwined in daily consumption practices, is the agriculture and food system sector. Supported, in part by market-driven and neoliberal regimes and approaches to agricultural management, private regulation, including sustainability certification have emerged strongly in the past few decades. The purpose of this research is to explore the role of sustainability certification in shifting consumer behaviour to adopt more sustainable consumption practices by taking a deeper look at consumer engagement with sustainable consumption and associated certification schemes. To probe these central questions, this paper turns to theories of trust, ontological security and coping to understand how consumers process the demands of sustainable consumption and how certification plays into this processing. An inductive, grounded theory approach was taken in analysing semi-structured interview data from 14 one-on-one interviews and one friendship group with 7 participants. Findings from the study allowed construction of a novel theoretical model which describes consumer responses to the interaction with, as well as opportunities and demands of sustainable consumption. In drawing on Giddens’ framework of ontological security and theories of coping, the model makes the following four contributions to theory: (1) It maps consumers’ dynamic coping responses as called for in the coping literature (Skinner et al., 2003), (2) it extends our view of rational and emotional trust as underlying drivers of security, (3) it demonstrates new states of ontological security (as called for by Phipps and Ozanne (2017), and (4) it extends our view and definition of ‘disruption’ and associated consumer responses. Importantly it explores an area of ‘untouchable’ security, where consumers have effectively resigned from sustainable consumption efforts, and questions to what extent collective sustainable consumption offerings may indeed be alienating consumers from sustainability transitions. The findings also develop a series of hypothesis for the implications of certification as it relates to the theoretical model. This research was undertaken in the context of the Australia domestic wine industry, using the industry’s sustainability certification, Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, as a case study.
Employees’ autonomous relation to work. A Lacanian approach
Critical and interpretive traditions in organisation studies have significantly contributed to our understanding of managerial and organisational controls and how employees respond to them. In this thesis, I propose that our understanding of employees responses is expanded when psychical processes are also examined. In order to do this, I developed a framework, which draws on Jacques Lacan theory of the subject. The framework is based on my interpretation of the psychic processes of alienation-separation. I also draw on a set of other psychoanalytical concepts, such as the unconscious Desire, lack, jouissance, master signifier, and the sinthome. This study examines two journalistic organizations, a journalistic start-up and an investigative unit in a large media broadcaster. It demonstrates how investigative journalists’ autonomous relation to their being at work is shaped. According to my research, an extent to which employees construct their separation and relation to their being at work depends on their relation to their unconscious Desire. The ways in which organisational structures support or impedes such processes are identified in the thesis. I discuss the implications of the findings for the study of organizations, including the contribution of the developed framework for studies of subjection in organizations. Principally, this research contributes to the literature of three areas: control, suffering, and motivation. It moves the research on autonomy and controls from considering mainly variables of autonomy at work to an attention to the employee’s relation to work, including what motivates and causes workers’ (dis)satisfaction or suffering.
Why do corporate responsibility meanings and practices vary?: Exploring culturally and structurally embedded corporate agency in Australia and Mongolia
Firms adopt various corporate responsibility (CR) meanings and practices. Uncovering the underlying causal mechanisms that lead to this variety is, I argue, critical for contributing to the theoretical debate about how CR is a product of both a firm’s agency (i.e., reflexive action) and contexts that embed it (i.e., embedded agency), as well as the practical debate about how to identify and develop new, more effective and socially positive CR meanings and practices. The extant institutional studies of CR – specifically, studies drawing on the comparative institutional and institutional logics perspectives – have begun to theorise this variety as an outcome of firms’ different forms of agency that is embedded in different institutional (i.e., norms, rules, laws and customs) and field settings (i.e., power struggles between these firms and their stakeholders). While these two streams of literature have yielded some important insights into what can cause variety in some forms and foci of CR meanings and practices, they have remained fragmented and separate and so do not offer a complete explanation for why we observe variety in CR meanings and practices. I argue that this incompleteness results from that these institutional perspectives are limited to explain causal mechanisms of CR as a firm’s culturally and structurally embedded agency – or how institutional and field settings and a firm’s agency interplay as distinct yet interdependent entities in informing its CR meanings and practices. In this study, I fill this research gap both conceptually and theoretically. First, drawing on the insights from the institutional logics perspective, the theory of strategic action fields (SAFs) and the morphogenetic approach, I develop a conceptual framework that offers an alternative, more comprehensive approach to thinking and organising empirical observations on CR as a firm’s culturally and structurally embedded agency. Then, I apply three research questions derived from my conceptual framework to develop empirically driven theorisation of why a mining multinational corporation (MNC) adopts various – in terms of their openness and room for future amendments (i.e., flexible or locked-in) – cross-sector partnership practices around its responsibility towards communities (i.e., impact mitigation and community development practices) both within and across the developed liberal economy of Australia and the developing state-led economy of Mongolia. Framing MNCs’ CR towards communities as the outcome of contestations between MNCs and their stakeholder-challengers (such as, for instance, community NGOs or local and state governments), I identify the crucial role of ‘political reconciliation structures’, which I coin as specific institutional and field arrangements, within which stakeholder-governance units (such as, for instance, international financial organisations or community consultancies) assist, or reconcile, these contestations. This study conceptually and theoretically contributes to the institutional analysis of CR, the institutional logics perspective, the SAF theory and the morphogenetic approach. Also, it has several practical implications for community managers of MNCs, managers of stakeholder organisations, as well as policymakers.
Impact of business environmental uncertainty and supply network characteristics on performance of business organisations
In uncertain business environments, businesses can improve their performance by being deeply embedded in their supply networks and also by leveraging knowledge of their supply chain partners. However, existing literature does not provide clear guidance on how this can be achieved. Indeed, the literature provides opposing views on the impact of supply network embeddedness and knowledge leveraging practices on business’ performance. Also, it is ambiguous as to how business uncertainty affects the above relationship. This thesis addresses these knowledge gaps through three separate but related studies by invoking the literature on supply chain management, environmental uncertainty, business performance and context specific theories. These studies investigated the impact of either internal or external dimensions of environmental uncertainty and the business’ network embeddedness/knowledge leveraging practices on performance. Each study proposed a conceptual model with eight hypotheses. The first cross-sectional, survey-based study explored the impact of supplier and customer knowledge leveraging practices on manufacturing plants’ financial performance by invoking the knowledge-based view of the firm. The second cross-sectional study explored the impact of suppliers’ structural embeddedness in a buyer network on suppliers’ relational performance with the focal buyer by applying social network theories. The third longitudinal study examined the impact of suppliers’ contractual embeddedness on the suppliers’ sales probability in the supply network by applying the complex adaptive system and social network theories. Each of these studies involved empirical data from different sources, including the fifth edition of the Global Manufacturing Research Group’s survey (first study), Toyota corporate-level buyer network data obtained from Bloomberg and Marketline databases (second study), and Open Food Network and IBISworld database (third study). Appropriate data analytical methods using suitable software packages were employed to test the hypotheses presented in each study. Overall, the three studies revealed that stronger network embeddedness and knowledge leveraging practices generally improve business performance. Also, the environmental uncertainty dimensions of dynamism, munificence and complexity moderate the above relationship. Supply and contractual networks exhibit different network patterns when moving across the tiers of the networks, while geographically remote network clusters embedded in these networks exhibit local optimisation behaviour and evolve into different network patterns over time to adapt to environmental uncertainty. The findings of these studies are consistent, although they were carried out in different theoretical, methodological, substantive, and temporal contexts. In conclusion, this thesis refines and extends theories on knowledge leveraging, social network and complex adaptive systems. The thesis also adds nuanced empirical findings to the literature on supply networks, environmental uncertainty and performance.
Actor participation and its impact on financial performance of organisations
This dissertation explores the phenomenon of Actor Participation (AP), which involves outsourcing core business activities before, during or beyond creation and/or consumption of product/service offerings to multiple actors such as existing or prospective consumers, the public or crowd. Although AP is intended to create a competitive advantage for the firm, there is little understanding of the various forms AP can take, its strategic design and its effects on financial performance. The aim of this dissertation is to enhance the overall understanding of AP by answering four main research questions: 1) What are the core dimensions of AP that help classify its different forms? 2) What are the organisational capabilities fundamental to successful AP and do they vary based on the core dimensions? 3) How does AP affect the financial performance of organisations and are particular forms superior to others in this respect? 4) How do different organisational capabilities facilitate the financial success of AP? This dissertation includes two papers. In the first paper, a conceptual model to address research questions 1 and 2 is developed. In this conceptual model, three core dimensions are proposed that help in the classification of AP: Transactional Intensity, Tangibility of Contributions, and Interaction Intensity. Recognition of these dimensions not only reflects the different ways organisations can practice AP but also provides a foundation for determining the organisational capabilities necessary for exercising AP. In the second-half of the paper, the organisational capabilities associated with the core dimensions of AP are explored and a second classification model is proposed, which relates organisational capabilities to different forms of AP. The second paper is an empirical research that investigates the final two research questions. The impact of AP on the financial performance of organisations across multiple industries is examined based on its core dimensions. Findings across two studies using primary and secondary data suggest that those forms of AP that rely on the integration of the intellectual contributions of actors have a positive impact on financial performance. Further, an analysis of the role of organisational capabilities on the financial success of AP finds that three organisational capabilities – R&D, technology and strategic flexibility – mediate the transformation of intellectual contributions into financially superior outcomes. Additionally, results suggest that investment in capabilities such as strategic flexibility and ethical interaction capability increase when organisations focus on specific dimensions of AP. Overall, this dissertation suggests that AP can take place in various forms, for which organisations need to invest in certain organisational capabilities to ensure effective performance. It adds to the emerging marketing concepts of customer participation and value co-creation by facilitating a comprehensive understanding of the AP phenomenon. A thorough investigation of AP provides a useful blueprint for its strategic design and for predicting potential challenges for the implementation of the strategy. The theoretical and practical implications of this dissertation, as well as future research directions, will be discussed in detail.
Performance feedback and strategic decision making: evidence from China
My dissertation aims to advance the behavioral theory of the firm (BTOF) by examining how Chinese firms make strategic decisions in response to performance feedback. In the first study, I integrate BTOF with the institution-based view (IBV) to develop a contextualized behavioral model to explain Chinese firms’ technological search, explicitly accounting for the context of institutional transitions in shaping decision makers’ response to performance feedback. Using panel data on Chinese listed firms, I find an inverse V-shaped relationship between performance feedback and technological search, enhanced by pro-market reforms but weakened by state ownership. In the second study, incorporating the socio-political goals of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), I aim to advance the BTOF research by accounting for nonmarket pressure in explaining firms’ goal-directed decision making. I examine how SOEs’ capacity expansion is driven by their socio-political feedback on employment provision. Using panel data on Chinese SOEs, I find that they promote capacity expansion as the socio-political performance of employment provision deviates from the aspiration level on both negative and positive sides, partly weakened by profitability feedback and strengthened by government pressure. In the third study, I theorize political connection building as a form of problemistic search in response to performance shortfalls—pursuing potential gains while taking the associated risks. In the context of director selection of Chinese listed firms, I find that firms performing below aspirations are more inclined to appoint new independent directors with political backgrounds, contingent upon the identity of dominant coalitions and regional market institutions. Overall, my three studies advance the BTOF literature by incorporating distinct institutional factors of China and enhance our understanding of Chinese firms’ strategic decision making.
The fit, the fat, and the sick leader: exploring the relationship between leadership and health through the lens of embodiment
Over the past few decades, leadership studies research appears to have gradually warmed to the idea that the act of leading is not a purely cognitive, rational and disembodied act. Accordingly, management scholars have more systematically begun to look to the body to understand its significance in the study of leaders and leadership. My research continues this tradition by adopting the lens of embodiment to explore the relationship between leadership and health. In particular, I investigate three dimensions of leader embodiment - the fit body, the fat body, and the sick body – which I use as the basis with which to explore the ideal and ‘less than ideal’ body in organisational life. In creating these conceptual categories, I enable a nuanced account of how a leader’s health (or its absence) may become an important signifier of leadership. My findings illustrate the temporal and contested nature of athleticism amongst organisation leaders and demonstrate the ‘ordinariness’ of leaders’ bodies, being subject as they are to the same fleshly vicissitudes as all human bodies. I contextualise these findings within broader contemporary health and leadership discourses which tend to lionise the virtues of individuality, control, and self-management. This study contributes to the critical literature on embodiment and leadership, particularly the scholarship that has been concerned with the athleticisation of leadership, and also makes novel contributions to the study of stigma amongst organisational elites.
The governance of projects
Many transactions between buyers and suppliers are executed through temporary organizations or so-called projects. Projects are one form of organization which consist of a set of diversely skilled firms working together on a complex task over a limited time period who will then disband upon completion. Projects are inherently appealing because of their ability to harness the skills and resources of a set of specialists while minimizing fixed costs and long-term commitments. Projects are used as the preferred form of organization across a broad range of industries, such as construction, IT, and movie making. Despite their popularity, projects are not panacea, as projects have unique characteristics that pose challenges with regard to the delivery of focal outcomes. In this dissertation, we examine two dimensions of project outcome; project cost overrun (i.e., the actual cost of a project is higher than the contracted cost of the project) and project innovation. This dissertation, consisting of two empirical essays, uses secondary data and econometric methods to understand 1) why project cost overruns happen and how these overruns can be mitigated (essay 1), and 2) how the organizational structure of projects can help or hinder the innovation outcome (essay 2).
Antecedents and consequences of human resource differentiation
Strategic Human Resource Management (HRM) scholars have increasingly acknowledged that firm-level HR systems typically consist of differentiated approaches to managing different types of workers, ranging from arm’s length, highly transactional approaches (such as sub-contracting) to highly customised, relationship-based approaches (such as high-commitment HR strategies). To date, the most prominent approach to understanding human resource (HR) differentiation is the HR architecture framework. This framework, first proposed and tested by Lepak and Snell (2002), predicts that firms will use differentiated HR systems to reflect the strategic value and uniqueness of human capital associated with jobs. Although this framework provides an important foundation for understanding HR differentiation, there is a theoretical and empirical limitation within this research space. First, few studies have sought to demonstrate, or empirically test how the HR architecture framework aligns or integrates with contextual factors, which may also shape the tendency of a firm to differentiate its HR practices across different jobs. For example, other research in industrial relations suggests that contextual factors, constraints or conditions have the propensity to influence the extent to which firms employ differentiated HR systems. Second, and perhaps more importantly, employee agency and equity concerns associated with the use of differentiated HR systems has largely been ignored in previous research. To address these issues, this thesis addresses two primary research questions, each of which provides the rationale for an empirical study. First, when/under what conditions are firms likely to use differentiated HR systems to manage employees (Study 1)? Second, what does differentiation mean for employees and their experience of work (Study 2)? In Study 1, I develop and test a conceptual model of the antecedents of differentiation by extending the HR architecture model. Using data from 200 medium and large establishments within the Australian manufacturing sector, I test a range of contextual factors that are likely to predict intraorganisational variability in employment arrangements. The results from this study offer some support to the HR architecture framework by showing that the strategic value and uniqueness of human capital associated with jobs differs across some employment arrangements. A firm’s competitive strategy was found to predict the strategic value and uniqueness of human capital associated with jobs, while union density was found to interact with human capital strategic value to predict job-based employment arrangement. In Study 2, I develop and test a companion model that examines employee responses to HR differentiation. Results of a study from 733 respondents across several industry sectors in Australia support my hypotheses that perceived favourability of HR practices (which has emerged as a key indicator of employee responses to HR differentiation) is positively associated with job satisfaction, affective organisational commitment, job engagement and lower turnover intentions. The study also showed that perceived organisational support, perceived distributive justice and perceived procedural justice partially mediate the relationship between perceived favourability of HR practices and work-related outcomes examined in the study. Nevertheless, interestingly, the study found that leader-member exchange accentuates perceptions of distributive and procedural justice, but not organisational support. Implications of the study for theory and practice are discussed.