Mark Federman’s thesis is a comprehensive, well written document. It is a bold, ambitious undertaking and he makes several contributions to organization theory.The conversation at the defence was indeed interesting, wide-ranging, and challenging at times. However, according to Marilyn Laiken, my supervisor, there was no debate whatsoever about the final decision.
First, he makes a compelling case of the link between historical contexts and dominant organizational forms. Classical economic theory and the Industrial Organization school have dominated the literature which serves to explain organization forms. Both of these fields are ahistorical. Business historians rarely look to a time frame beyond decades. This thesis extends the temporal frame of business historians by reviewing the period from 500 BC to contemporary times. This thesis may serve as an impetus for business historians to extend their temporal frame and for organization theorists, particularly those versed in structural contingency theory, to look more deeply at historical factors that influence organization forms.
Second, the lens of the five valences will help give a more nuanced understanding of the nature of relationships in organizations. Relationship centred literature for organizations is extensive. This thesis provides researchers with a more nuanced understanding of a set of five relationships. A further differentiation between fungible and ba aspects for each of the five relationships should also be helpful in helping researchers discern the nature of the challenges facing organizations.
Third, the empirical research provides a rich comparison across the typology and in particular how the leadership co-evolves with the organization form. The transformation from one end of the continuum to the other provides insights into some of the challenges of transitions which is now becoming more prevalent in understanding scalability.
Fourth, he very effectively weaves the artistic self-reflective mode with the more analytic academic mode. By doing so, he more authentically demonstrates the challenges of writing about a subjective experience while maintaining academic rigour.
Fifth, the cargo cult phenomenon is well documented in Organization A and could be a standalone piece of work after the thesis. Mr. Federman both articulates the concept and demonstrates empirically well.
In short, this is an excellent thesis. It is thought provoking and I look forward to an interesting conversation at the defense.
Let me once again offer my sincere gratitude to: my research participants and those in the five participant organizations who helped facilitate their participation; and to all of you who read this blog who contributed your comments, ideas, suggestions, and questions.
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