The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Change in Organization – Emerging Situations, Character and Praxis

Tapio Keränen

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Information and Natural Sciences for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at the Aalto University School of Science and Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 10th of September 2010 at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-248-112-2)   [2349 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-248-111-5)


The purpose of this study is to analyze how change is constructed by local actions and interactions of an organization. Drawing on critical realism and assuming organizational change to be a practical and social performance, a mediating entity – organizational character – is postulated to account for relationship between structure, agency, and action. The empirical study addresses local transformation and organizational character through analyzing events that are related to the development of service business in the context of a large energy company.

In the empirical study, the organizational character in context consists of prudence, and of the pursuit of technical excellence and operational efficiency. Prudence is an action disposition in context when encountering new situations. The pursuit of technical excellence was a result of the past construction era. The pursuit of operational efficiency is a typical characteristic in an industry context. Three modes of praxis were identified: the habitual mode of praxis consists of fragmentizing and ensuring, and is aimed at operational efficiency for maintaining the organization; the transformative mode is directed toward the future and consists of envisioning the future and searching for new alternatives; and the contingent mode entails judgments to cope with current problems in the present and is characterized by improvisation.

The integration of the relationships identified in the empirical study results in a model of local change. The local changes continuously and recursively construct outcomes of praxis that result in new configurations. In emerging and evolving situations new actions become necessary. Human agents engage in creative and transformative actions that are affected by the organizational character. Organizational character, in the context of this study, overshadows creative and transformative capacities of human agents but does not prevent local changes to the context. With regard to the practical outcomes of the study, a suggestion for the management of organizational change is that attention must be paid to internalized action dispositions in which the organization, human agents, and social consciousness about context and action, are intertwined.

Keywords: organizational character, praxis, local transformation, critical realism

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Last update 2011-05-26