Size Matters Ostensive and performative dimensions of organizational size

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: Organizational size is a common way to describe and understand organizations invarious settings: in every-day situations as well as in organizational research. Withinorganization theory, organizational size has been seen variously as a basic feature ofthe organization (an independent variable); as a result of a reaction to the environmentof the organization (a dependent variable); or as a basic criterion for the selectionand categorizing of empirical cases (a selective variable). Often, organizationalsize is measured through the number of employees, budget or turnover; but linked toit are also associations that might not always match the organizational reality as experiencedby those managing and working in the organization. "is mismatch can causeproblems for the organization as for its members, and illustrates that organizationalsize is not only a variable that can be operationalized quantitatively, but a figure ofthought, affecting our expectations of the organization. "e purpose of this thesis isto develop the understanding of organizational size as a figure of thought by describinghow it has been used traditionally and by developing an alternative definition ofthe concept.This is done with the help of a case study of an organization that was perceived as differentin size compared to what it was when measured traditionally. An ethnographicapproach, including shadowing, semi-structured interviews, and the collection ofprinted and digitally stored material related to the case, has generated the empiricalmaterial which has been analyzed through a narrative approach.Understanding organizational size as a figure of thought makes it apparent that thetraditional view of organizational size builds on certain implications regarding theorganization, implications not acknowledging the ongoing organizing aspects. "eempirical case illustrates that the size of the organization is not only a question ofwhere the borders around “the organization” are drawn, but when they are drawn,since it can be seen to be a continuously constructed action net. Two types of actionsare identified: actions of narrativization and actions of realization. Whereas the firsttype involves actions that lead to the emergence of narratives about the organization,the second type constitutes actions that inscribe the organization into differentmaterialities. "ese two types of actions illustrate how the borders around “theorganization” are drawn and help explain the mismatch between expectations of theorganization based on perceptions of its size. "e conclusion is that “organizationalsize” is not only something that is, but something that is done. "ese two dimensionsof the concept are called “the ostensive” and “the performative”, respectively. Eventhough “organizational size” makes “the organization” present, it has limitations as atheoretical concept if its performative dimensions are not acknowledged, since it createsa simplified impression of “the organization” as being a static entity.