Getting from managerial framing to employee action in strategic change: a case study of a sales automation and transformation programme

Gao, L., 2016. Getting from managerial framing to employee action in strategic change: a case study of a sales automation and transformation programme. DBA, Nottingham Trent University.

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In contemporary organisations the evolution of technology and increased competition has accentuated the need for strategic imperatives to ensure that the traditional sales organisation is transformed from tactical management of sales transactions to the strategic management of complex strategic customer portfolios and customer relationship for a company’s long-term growth (Olson et al., 2001; Piercy and Lane, 2005). How management can ensure a successful shift from the conventional sales philosophy to the strategic one is a challenge in many sales organisations. In this case study of a sales organisation in a multinational company, an examination is undertaken of a strategic transformation that involves a new sales philosophy and the associated sales force automation (SFA) system. Such transformation calls for the sales organisation to shift from tactical and transactional-based selling approach to strategic value creation-based practices. The transition is necessarily supported by SFA system implementation, to which the adoption is invariably hampered by an alarming rate of failures (Bush et al., 2005). So what can be done to ensure a successful shift from the current sales philosophy to the new one supported by the new SFA system? How can management purposely shape the interpretations of the organisation's environment in order that employees understand and 'enact' strategic change (Daft and Weick, 1984; Reger et al., 1994)? In order to explore these questions, a social interactionist (Goffman, 1974) methodological approach is taken to examine the meanings inherent in individual and collective interactions and negotiations. The concept of framing is utilised as an analytical lens to understand strategic changes (Kaplan, 2008) occurring within the case study. Whilst framing as a conceptual bridge linking social psychological and resource mobilization has been researched in social movement participation (Snow et al., 1986; Benford, 1993; Benford and Snow,2000; Reber and Berger, 2005), little progress has been made using such micro-level analysis in understanding mobilizing strategic change in sales organisation in a theoretically informed and empirically grounded fashion. The overarching aims of this study are therefore to provide a deeper understanding of how management frame such strategic changes in sales philosophy and how the resulting frames are accepted or otherwise in a sales workforce automation and transformation programme. Applying a framing concept to the analysis of strategic change within the organisation enables us to move away from viewing organisation as a static entity or a fixed structure (Putnam and Nicotera, 2009) and get into the minds of management and employees to understand the internal struggles that are taking place. Most importantly, in this study, as compared to previous works using framing theory to interpret strategic decision making (Kaplan, 2008), this research goes beyond analyzing individual framing practices of key organisational decision makers (senior management) to study how cognitive frames can shape strategic objectives by framing messages to other organisational actors (sales employees) who are required to adopt the intended strategic change. By analysing both managerial framing practice and employee frame alignment as well as the degree of collective action mobilization (Klandermans, 1984), it offers a complete picture of how strategically inclined managers try to change the organisation status quo and how they employ various managerial framing practices to gain support for transformational change of sales philosophy. At the same time, it provides an account of how employees respond to strategic frame alignment process, such that they either accept the frames and take collective action accordingly or partially accept them and take deferred action or passively participate. The primary contributions of this study to framing theory are: first of all, it advances Kaplan’s (2008) original framing contest theory by demonstrating collective action frames are not static characterizations but can be changed or redefined with purposeful managerial framing and reframing. The framing outcome been focused in this research is employee’s collective action which is a step further from meaning construction in strategic decision making as in Kaplan’s (2008) research. Secondly, while Kaplan (2008) demonstrated how different organization actors attempt to make their frame resonate and mobilize action in their favour, this research focuses on the interplay between management and employees who have unequal access to organization resources due to organization hierarchy. It shows that despite of the differences, employees are not mere recipient of managerial framing whose only role is to respond (or not) to the framed meanings. Instead, their subsequent reactions to managerial framing shape collective action frame and the resulted action. Finally, it confirms the distinction between consensus mobilization and action mobilization (Klandermans, 1984) which separates management’s focus of convincing and activating, and shows how resonance of legitimacy and motivation frames are both necessary conditions for employee action mobilization. This research also contributes to strategic change studies by showing what constitutes effective managerial framing practices to enable strategic change in sales organisations with a theoretical framework that demonstrates how managerial frames are introduced, contested and aligned or partially aligned and the resulting employee participation level. Such a theoretical framework is both empirically informed and practically useful for strategic change practitioners as it delineates factors that determine effectiveness of management’s framing efforts in mobilizing employees for action thus help them to evaluate and predict the effectiveness of managerial framing effort and possible outcomes. Finally, this research contributes to sales technology literature by providing a better understanding of how technological frames affect SFA adoption by sales workforce and how management can strategically frame SFA and its value to achieve desired results.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Gao, L.
Date: 2016
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 16 Aug 2016 13:34
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2016 13:34

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