Culture and Organizational Improvisation in UK Financial Services

DOI: 10.4236/jssm.2009.24029   PDF   HTML     8,315 Downloads   13,939 Views   Citations


This paper considers certain aspects of a four-year program of research, and addresses the changing cultural requirements to support the rise of improvisational working practices within the UK financial services sector. Specifically, it reports on some of the outcomes of a study encompassing over 100 hours of interviews, together with a variety of other primary and secondary data. The outcomes of the full study are documented elsewhere, and they identify a number of key factors that contribute to the successful use and control of improvisational working practices. One of these factors is a supportive organizational culture, and this specific area is dealt with in this paper. A particular focus is how the sample of organizations has attempted to identify and create supportive cultural conditions for improvisational work to take place. In order to bring clarity to the outcomes of this study, a matrix of the case study organizations is also offered, which segregates those organizations according to their cultural support for improvisation and apparent improvisation effectiveness. Some comment on the current difficulties in the Financial Services sector has also been included, as it could be argued that improvisation may have contributed to shortcomings in control processes by members of that sector.

Share and Cite:

S. A. Leybourne, "Culture and Organizational Improvisation in UK Financial Services," Journal of Service Science and Management, Vol. 2 No. 4, 2009, pp. 237-254. doi: 10.4236/jssm.2009.24029.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] E. Abrahamson and C. J. Fombrun, “Macrocultures: Deter-minants and consequences,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 728–755, 1994.
[2] M. Agar, “The right brain strikes back in fielding,” N.G. & Lee R.M. (eds.), Using Computers in Qualitative Research London: Sage Publications, pp. 181–194, 1991.
[3] A. E. Akgun and G. S. Lynn, “New product development team improvisation and speed-to-market: An extended model,” European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 5, No 3, pp. 117–129, 2002.
[4] K. Albrecht, “Stress and the Manager Englewood Cliffs,” NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979.
[5] S. B. Bacharach, P. Bamberger, and W. J. Sonnenstuhl, “The organizational transformation process: The micropolitics of dissonance reduction and the alignment of logics of action,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp. 477–506, 1996.
[6] S. B. Bacharach and E. J. Lawler, “Power and politics in organizations,” San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1980.
[7] N. Bacon, P. Ackers, J. Storey, and D. Coates, “It’s a small world: Managing human resources in small businesses,” International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 82–101, 1996.
[8] T. Baker, A. S. Miner, and D. T. Eesley, “Improvising firms: Bricolage, account giving and improvisational competencies in the founding process,” Research Policy, Vol. 32, pp. 255–276, 2003.
[9] F. J. Barrett, “Creativity and improvisation in Jazz and organizations: Implications for organizational learning,” Organization Science, Vol. 9, Vol. 5, pp. 605–622, 1998.
[10] F. J. Barrett, “Managing and improvising: Lessons from Jazz,” Career Development International, Vol. 3, No. 7, pp. 283–286, 1998.
[11] Brooks and J. Dawes, “Merger as a trigger for cultural change in the retail financial services sector,” Service Industries Journal, Vol. 19, Vol. 1, pp. 194–206, 1999.
[12] S. L. Brown and K. M. Eisenhardt, “The art of continuous change: Linking complexity theory and time-paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1, pp. 1–34, 1997.
[13] A. Bryman, “Quantity and quality in social research,” London: Unwin Hyman, 1988.
[14] C. Chelariu, W. J. Johnston, and L. Young, “Learning to Improvise, Improvising to Learn: A process of responding to complex environments,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 141–147, 2002.
[15] T. Cooke-Davis, “The ‘real’ success factors on projects,” International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 20, pp. 185–190, 2002.
[16] M. Crossan, “Improvise to innovate,” Ivey Business Quarterly, pp. 36–42, Autumn 1997.
[17] M. Crossan, “Improvisation in action,” Organization Science, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 593–599, 1998.
[18] M. Crossan and M. Sorrenti, “Making sense of improvisation in J. P. Walsh and A. S. Huff (eds.),” Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 14, pp. 155–180, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1997.
[19] M. P. Cunha e, J. V. Cunha da, and K. Kamoche, “Or-ganizational improvisation: What, when, how and why,” International Journal of Management Reviews 1, pp. 299–341, 1999.
[20] T. E. Deal and A. A. Kennedy, “Corporate cultures: The rites and rituals of corporate life,” London: Penguin Books, 1982.
[21] D. R. Denison, “Corporate culture and organizational effec-tiveness,” New York: John Wiley, 1990.
[22] D. R. Denison, “What is the difference between organizational culture and organizational climate? – A native’s view on a decade of paradigm wars,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 619–654, 1996.
[23] P. R. Dickson, “Marketing management (2nd Edition),” New York: The Dryden Press, 1997.
[24] M. Eisenhardt, “Building theories from case study research,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 14, pp. 532–550, 1989.
[25] M. Eisenhardt, “Strategic decisions and all that jazz,” Business Strategy Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 1–3, 1997.
[26] Ezzamel, H. Willmott, and S. Lilley, “Changing management practices in financial services,” Journal of General Management, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 22–28, 1994.
[27] J. R. Faulconbridge and D. Muzio, “Organizational professionalism in globalizing law firms,” Work, Employment and Society, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 7–25, 2008.
[28] G. Fielding and R. M. Lee, “Computer Analysis and Qualitative Research,” London: Sage Publications, 1998.
[29] E. Freidson, “Profession of medicine: A study of the sociology of applied knowledge,” New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1970.
[30] A. Friedman, “Responsible autonomy versus direct control over the labor process,” Capital and Class 1, 1977.
[31] P. Frost and R. Stablein, [Eds.] “Doing exemplary research,” London: Sage Publications Ltd, 1992.
[32] E. Gardener, B. Howcroft, and J. Williams, “The new retail banking revolution,” Service Industries Journal, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 83–100, 1999.
[33] C. J. G. Gersick, “Time and transition in work teams: To-ward a new model of group development,” Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 31, pp. 9–41, 1988.
[34] G. G. Gordon, “Industry determinants of organizational cul-ture,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 396–415, 1991.
[35] C. Handy, “Understanding organizations: managing differentiation and integration,” New York, Oxford University Press, 1993.
[36] J. Hatch, “Jazz as a metaphor for organizing in the 21st century,” Organization Science Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 556–557, pp. 565–568, 1998.
[37] M. J. Hatch, “Exploring the empty spaces of organizing: How improvisational jazz helps redescribe organizational structure,” Organization Studies, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 75–100, 1999.
[38] C. Heckscher, “Defining the post-bureaucratic type in C. Heckscher and A. Donnellon, (eds),” The Post- bureaucratic Organization: New Perspectives on Organizational Change Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 14–62, 1994.
[39] K. M. Hmieleski and A. C. Corbett, “Improvisation as a framework for investigating entrepreneurial action,” Un-published Paper presented to the American Academy of Management Conference, Seattle, 1st–6th August, 2003.
[40] A. M. Huberman and M. B. Miles, “Data management and analysis methods in K. M. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (eds),” Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials London: Sage Publications, pp. 179–201, 1998.
[41] M. Jelinek, L. Smircich, and P. Hirsch, “Introduction: A code of many colours,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 28, pp. 331–338, 1983.
[42] R. M. Kanter, “Strategy as improvisational theater,” MIT Sloan Management Review, pp. 76–81, Winter 2002.
[43] K. U. Koskinen, P. Pihlanto, and H. Vanharanta, “Tacit knowledge acquisition in a project work context,” International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 21, pp. 281–290, 2003.
[44] J. M. Lehner, “Bricolage during implementation of strategies: Effects on flexibility,” Unpublished Paper presented to the American Academy of Management Conference, Toronto, 4th–9th August, 2000.
[45] S. A. Leybourne, “Project management and the implementation of strategic change within the UK financial services sector,” Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation: Cardiff Business School, 2002.
[46] S. A. Leybourne, “Improvising within management: Oxymoron, paradox, or legitimate way of achieving?” Unpublished Paper presented at the Academy of Management Conference, Honolulu, HI-5th-10th August 2005.
[47] S. A. Leybourne, “Managing improvisation within change management: Lessons from UK financial services,” Ser-vice Industries Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 1–23, 2006.
[48] S. Linstead, L. Fulop, and S. Lilley, “Management and organization: A critical text,” Basingstoke, Hants: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
[49] Lonkila, “Grounded theory as an emerging paradigm for computer-assisted qualitative data analysis in U. Kelle (ed.),” Computer-aided Qualitative Data Analysis: Theory, Methods and Practice, London: Sage Publications pp. 41–51, 1991.
[50] A. McLean and J. Marshall, “Intervening in cultures,” University of Bath Working Paper, 1993.
[51] S. Mendon?a, M. P. Cunha, J. Kaivooja, and F. Ruff, Wild Cards, Weak Signals and Organizational Improvisation Futures, Vol. 36, pp. 201–218, 2004.
[52] A. S. Miner, P. Bassoff, and C. Moorman, “Organizational improvisation and learning: a field study,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 46, pp. 304–337, 2001.
[53] C. Moorman and A. S. Miner, “The convergence of plan-ning and execution: improvisation in new product devel-opment,” Journal of Marketing, Vol. 62, No. 3, pp. 1–20, 1998.
[54] C. Moorman and A. S. Miner, “Organizational improvisation and organizational memory,” Academy of Man-agement Review, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 698–723, 1998.
[55] L. J. Mullins, “Management and organizational behavior (5th ed.),” Harlow, England: Financial Times/Prentice Hall, 1999.
[56] E. Ogbonna and L. C. Harris, “Managing organizational culture: Compliance or genuine change?” British Journal of Management, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 273–288, 1998.
[57] W. J. Orlikowski and J. D. Hofman, “An improvisational model for change management: The case of groupware technologies,” Sloan Management Review, Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 11–21, 1997.
[58] N. Pant and R. Lachman, “Value incongruity and strate-gic choice,” Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 195–212, 1998.
[59] A. M. Pettigrew, “Longitudinal field research on change: Theory and practice,” Paper presented at the National Science Foundation Conference on Longitudinal Research Methods in Organizations: Austin, TX, 1988.
[60] J. B. Quinn, “Strategies for change: Logical incrementalis,” Homewood, IL, Richard D. Irwin, 1980.
[61] D. Rollinson and A. Broadfield, “Organizational behavior and analysis: An integrated approach (2nd Ed.),” Harlow: Pearson Education, 2002.
[62] C. K. Russell and D. M. Gregory, “Issues for consideration when choosing a qualitative data management system,” Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol. 18, pp.1806–1816, 1993.
[63] G. Ryle, “On thinking,” Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979.
[64] E. H. Schein, “Organizational culture and leadership,” San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1985.
[65] J. Seidel, “Method and madness in the application of com-puter technology to qualitative data analysis in fielding N. G. & Lee R. M. (eds.),” Using Computers in Qualitative Re-search London: Sage Publications pp. 107–116, 1991.
[66] L. Smircich, “Concepts of culture and organizational analy-sis,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 339–358, 1983.
[67] D. Stacey, “Complexity, creativity and management,” Sa n Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 1996.
[68] E. Stake, “Case studies,” In K. M. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln [eds.], Handbook of qualitative research, pp. 236–247, Lon-don: Sage Publications, 1994.
[69] A. Sturdy, D. Knights, and H. Willmott, “Introduction: Skill and consent in the labor process in sturdy A., Knights D. & Willmott H. (eds),” Skill and Consent: Contemporary Studies in the Labour Process, Routledge: London, 1992.
[70] J. Trethowan and G. Scullion, “Strategic responses to change in retail banking in the U.K. and the Irish Repub-lic,” International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 60–68, 1997.
[71] M. L. Tushman, “Winning through innovation,” Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 14–19, 1997.
[72] Velez-Castrillon, D. M. Vera, and A. Kachra, “An improvisational model of strategic decision making,” Unpublished paper presented at The Academy of Management Conference, Anaheim, CA-8th-13th August 2008.
[73] K. E. Weick, “The social psychology of organizing (2nd Ed.),” Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1979.
[74] K. E. Weick, “Improvisation as a mindset for organizational analysis,” Organization Science, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 543–555, 1998.
[75] E. A. Weitzman and M. B. Miles, “Computer programs for qualitative data analysis,” Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1995.
[76] R. Whipp, R. Rosenfeld, and A. Pettigrew, “Culture and competitiveness: Evidence from two mature UK industries,” Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 26, No. 6, pp. 561–585, 1989.
[77] Woolgar, “Configuring the user: The case of usability trials in Law J. (ed.),” A Sociology of Monsters: Essays on Power, Technology and Domination, London: Routledge pp. 57–99, 1991.
[78] D. Yanow, “Learning in and from improvising: lessons from theater for organizational learning,” Reflections: Journal of the Society for Organizational Learning, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 58–65, 2001.
[79] R. K. Yin, “Case study research: Design and methods,” London: Sage Publications Ltd, 1984.
[80] R. K. Yin, “Case study research: Design and methods [2nd Ed.],” London: Sage Publications Ltd, 1994.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.