Organisational resilience in elite sport

Fasey, K.J., 2021. Organisational resilience in elite sport. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Elite sport organisations often face high levels of uncertainty and change (Wagstaff et al., 2016). Accordingly, a better understanding of what enables such organisations to positively adapt to turbulence may offer valuable insight into elite sport organisations seeking to gain a competitive advantage. Organisational resilience is a relevant construct since it examines how individuals, teams, and organisations, within complex sociocultural systems, successfully deal with stressors and change. Resilience has been investigated in various organisational contexts outside of sport (e.g., disaster settings; Walker et al., 2020), while, within sport, researchers have focused on resilience at the individual level (see, for a review, Bryan et al., 2019), and the team level (see, for a review, Morgan et al., 2017). However, resilience at the organisational level has yet to be explored in the elite sport context. The purpose of this thesis is, therefore, to advance knowledge of organisational resilience in elite sport.

The thesis is divided into seven chapters. Chapter One provides an overview of the challenges encountered by elite sport organisations, highlighting multi-level considerations in organisational research. The literature review in Chapter Two is divided into three parts, namely a synthesis of resilience literature in sport and the workplace, an overview of relevant organisational-level concepts in sport, and organisational resilience research in domains beyond sport. Chapter Three presents the first empirical study of organisational resilience in elite sport in which a definition of organisational resilience is constructed and described as “the dynamic capability of an organisation to successfully deal with significant change. It emerges from multi-level (employee, team, and organisational) interacting characteristics and processes which enable an organisation to prepare for, adapt to, and learn from significant change.” Five resilient characteristics are identified from the analysis, namely structural clarity, flexible improvement, shared understanding, reciprocal commitment, and operational awareness. The psychosocial processes underpinning organisational resilience in elite sport are explored in Chapter Four with the data analysis yielding two core processes of sensing (internal and external mechanisms, diversity of perspectives, evaluating and monitoring) and adapting (mirroring current resource availability, open and frequent communication, acute versus chronic change), and two supporting processes of strengthening resources (quality and quantity of human and financial resources, relationships as source of additional resources) and shielding from risk (internal risk mitigation, external influencing).

Chapter Five investigates how organisational resilience is developed in an elite sport organisation through an immersive, ethnographic approach. The results are categorised into four main themes: collectively owning decisions and their consequences, awareness and exposure of vulnerabilities to strengthen relationships, recognition of future uncertainty rather than retrospective solace, and the desire to empower with a need for support and reassurance. Drawing on the findings presented in Chapters Three to Five, Chapter Six explores the implementation and effectiveness of a series of small-scale interventions to develop organisational resilience in elite sport. From a qualitative perspective, psychosocial outcomes of the interventions included meaningful cross-departmental connections, peer to peer innovative learning, and collective behavioural awareness, together with a significant (quantitative) increase in organisational resilience between the mid- and end-point quantitative outcome evaluation. Process evaluation factors identified from the qualitative data were categorised according to intervention context (the global Covid-19 pandemic), intervention content (comprising two sub-themes of self-organising groups with collective ownership and accountability, and expertise within the performance department), and mental model factors (with two sub-themes of psychological safety and enjoyment). The final Chapter Seven provides a summary, discussion, and conclusion of the thesis.

Overall, the work presented in this thesis provides the first programme of research on organisational resilience in elite sport and provides a strong conceptual foundation and unique insights into the ways in which organisational practices can be harnessed to create high performance systems better equipped to deal with complex, turbulent environments.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Fasey, K.J.
Date: June 2021
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 31 Jan 2022 13:56
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2022 13:56

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