From dusk till dawn : three essays on organizational closedowns

Abstract: This thesis present three essays on organizational closedowns, where productivity effects under uncertainty and threat on the single-firm level is in focus. On a broad level, this thesis aims to develop better explanations of the process of organizational closedowns. More specific, this thesis aims to outline a theoretical foundation for studies of organizational closedowns, unfold a closedown process and extend the explanations of productivity effects during closedowns, in different contexts. This is done in three essays on organizational closedowns. These three essays have different methodological settings and it is argued that it is through the application of a variety of methods, that strength is obtained and supportive to the explorative endeavor that was carried out. The first essay is based on a critical review approach of the classical Hawthorne experiments. The second essay is based on a single case-study and the third on a multiple case-study in combination with a statistical analysis of the productivity development during the closedown processes. In the first essay of this thesis a theoretical foundation is outlined from a recontextualization of the Hawthorne experiments that serve as a base for the following essays. By applying a closedown perspective, it is possible to view the Hawthorne experiments from a new perspective, where it is claimed that there are several similarities to these experiments and situations where a threat of or decision to closedown is present. The Hawthorne experiments were initially seen as a closed system, laboratory experiments instead of action experiments of daily operations. Analyzing the prevalent threat, in both the Hawthorne experiments and the settings where the Horndal as well as the Closedown effect have been observed it has been evident that productivity has increased. Threat can act as both a motivator and demotivator, and as shown in research on the Closedown effect, employees become sensitive to the managerial setting and information provided, why productivity tend to fluctuate. It is argued that the Closedown effect is a productivity increase effect that occurs, considering the entire closedown period. In the second essay a single case study of a single-plant closure is unfolded. By following the closedown process of the firm critical events are tracked in order to explain the fluctuations in productivity. Throughout the closedown process productivity continued to increase as well as an all-time high was recorded. It was evident from this case study that the workers are highly sensitive to the management’s actions and way of providing information. The retrenchment program that was offered to the workers was of high importance in the initial phase of the closedown process, whereas it became diminishing in the latter phases. Supporting findings of previous research uncovered changes in psychological responses, structural settings, changes in cognitive and motivational manifestations as well as behavioral consequences. Increases in the operative space of the workers, innovative skills, workers autonomy, efforts and productivity were distinct behavioral consequences of closedown decision and develop during the closedown process. From this study both an empirical and a theoretical model for further research is suggested. In the third essay of this thesis a multiple case-study is presented. Contrary to the case study presented in the second essay these cases are characterized by a Non-Social responsible managerial setting. That is, the management did not provide any supportive activities for the workers in the closedown process. The Closedown effect is statistically significant in all the cases. There is a need for an analytical distinction of the phases of the closedown process, in terms of the primary advanced notice period and the secondary countdown period. Based on the analysis, and with this distinction, we are able to conclude that the productivity increase effect can be anticipated during the countdown period. From this article a theoretical elaboration on both the Closedown effect as well as distinctions on certain terms valid for a detailed analysis of the closedown process is provided. From the three essays the results are distilled as they are discussed respectively according to the theoretical and the empirical conclusions. From this the interrelationship between the results of the essays are discusses divided according to the managerial behavior, individual behavior and productivity development. In addition, a separate section presents the normative and practical implications from this research. At end and in line with a methodological triangulation the discussion on suggestions for further research provide a range of potent alternatives on future research on organizational closedowns.

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