CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY AND RESEARCH DESIGN
This chapter establishes the research design and methodology for interpreting processes on how one firm attained and sustained competitive advantage. In the field of management research, the importance of understanding socio-organisational aspects has gained importance, and there has been an increased use of the interpretive approach in an attempt to understand the process and outcome (Pettigrew, Woodman and Cameron, 2001). Further, the field of organisation studies has seen a rapid transformation of focus from stability to change during the past decades (Ropo, Ericksson and Hunt, 1997). Along with this development there has been a growing interest in research that pays attention to the classical issue of time as a theoretically important aspect to understand social action in general, and management and organization in particular. More attention is being paid by researchers to the fact that organizations can be understood holistically by studying patterns of phenomena related to specific outcomes, as is the case of the research strategy presented here which explains how and why the course of the process of strategy formation leads to a specific outcome (Fox-Wolfgramm, 1997). This implies that theoretical propositions about how contingent factors work together with generative mechanisms can be compared with actual processes of strategy formation. The methodology is thus concerned with the procedures that record process experiences and that make them suitable for this comparison. The research that generated this process research practice tries to track specific processes of strategy formation to understand the effect of the course of the process on the outcome.
The theory of method for conducting longitudinal field research on change is presented; since there has been developments broadening and deepening contextual longitudinal research on change (Pettigrew, 1990). In attempting this task, this study follows writers such as Pettigrew (1985b, 1987, 1990, 1992, and 1997) who has made elicit a great deal of knowledge acquired through practicing empirical processual and contextual research. Petttigrew and a group a researchers have carried out extensive contextual longitudinal research, including ―inquiries of competitiveness and strategic change; the study of linkages between changes in business environment, business strategy and structure and human resource policies and practices in the firm; and also major change in the provision of services in the British National Health Service (Pettigrew, 1990; 267). The approach adopted by this study is also consistent with methods used by several authors and in particular, Pettigrew and Whipp (1991) in ―Managing Change for Competitive Success‖, and Smith, Child and Rowlinson (1990) in ―Reshaping Work: The Cadbury Experience‖.
This chapter has four sections. The first section briefly outlines the contextual theory guiding our research. Following calls for empirical researchers to make clear the theory of methods which guides their inquiry, (e.g. Pettigrew, 1990 and Miles and Huberman, 1994), the epistemological assumptions of this study is presented; i.e. how this study construes the shape of the social world, and indicating the theory of methods that guides our inquiry. A brief review of the literature on contextualism is offered and, based on this review, an epistemology is presented. The second section highlights this study‘s approach in dealing with processual methods for management research. The third section points to the theory and practice in dealing with the research design. The necessity of processual methods for management research is put forward here as a general methodological claim in this thesis. The study describes the basic issues concerning epistemology and methodology of management process research by describing the concept of contextualism as a theory of methods in management research. The fourth section describes the research design of the study in light of contextualism. The epistemology adopted guides the research design, the research methods, the data collection and the analysis of data, which are also presented in this chapter. In the next chapter, the proposed processual and contextual framework is presented, which is followed in understanding the study.
CONTEXTUALISM AS A THEORY OF METHOD
Choosing an Appropriate Methodological Base
One of the objectives of this study is to integrate multiple contexts and levels of analysis in strategic management by proposing and empirically analysing a framework rich enough to understand the competitive strategic framework. Given the research challenge, an epistemology able to capture the complexity of understanding the interaction between the industry and the firm through time is needed. This study adopts the Pettigrew‘s (1990) premise that in processual research efforts, an epistemology able to capture the complex interaction between an industry and firms through time is needed. It has been argued that the assessment of a particular scientific discipline must proceed with an implicit or explicit understanding of what the discipline is and how it develops (e.g. Pettigrew, 1990; Miles and Huberman, 1994). There have been numerous calls to consider the ontological and epistemological beliefs of research approaches. Pettigrew (1990) argues that there is a requirement for empirical researchers to make clear the theory of method, which guides their inquiry. Miles and Huberman (1994) advocate that researchers should make their preference clear on how they construe the shape of the social world and aim to give a credible account of it. They argue that to know how a researcher construes the shape of the social world, and aim to give us a credible account of it, is to know our conversational partner.
Pettigrew (1990) suggests that in any research, and especially in a processual research effort, which may be uncomfortable in the domain of ―normal science,‖ an exposition of meta-theoretical assumptions should be given. There is no definite way of undertaking process research (Pettigrew, 1990). However, the practice of research is best informed by a theory of method which clarifies and makes explicit the range of guiding assumptions shaping the conduct of that research (Pettigrew, 1997). Any methodology reflects certain epistemological and ontological assumptions (Morgan, 1980). Epistemology is about the study of knowledge, and as such, answers questions, ―What do we know?‖ and ―How do we know what we know?‖ Our beliefs about ‗knowing‘ often lie unarticulated at the base of our paradigms about how the world works, and they inform our orientations toward theory, methodology, and practice. Ontology refers to the nature of the world around us; in particular, that part of reality which the scientist chooses to address. These fundamental assumptions act as guides in pointing us in certain directions, and telling us what to look for. Thus, our assumptions determine, in part, what we see and what we pay attention to.
The approach used by this study draws mainly on Pepper‘s (1942) work on contextualism, and on Pettigrew‘s (1990, 2001) work on both contextualism and process theory. These provide an appreciation of the nature of competing knowledge claims made in strategic management research, as well as enrich and extend our understanding of management in practice. Contextualism is interested in events that are alive and happening within and with their historical process and setting – acts in its context. Context in this sense refers to the historical context of an event, and not the current physical context. It is context-as-history and not context-as-place (Morris, 1997). Contextualism implies looking for continuity and change, patterns and idiosyncrasies and processes of structuring. It entails giving history and social processes the temporal space to reveal their deep-seated continuities and often idiosyncratic untidiness, whilst identifying the variety and mixture of causes of change and to explore through time some of the conditions and contexts under which there mixture occur (Pettigrew, 1990). A characteristic feature of contextualist work is that the reader accompanies the researcher in his or her journey and is offered loose contextualist frameworks, together with a rich process of changing ‗truths‘ through time. Contextualists view an act and its context as an integrated, interactive whole, and divide this whole into distinct parts only to achieve practical purposes (Pepper, 1942).
Dawson (1994) argues that for study in organisational change, there is value in qualitative longitudinal research, which can compare and contrast changes in perception and expectations over time. As Gephardt (2004) puts it, qualitative approach in management sciences is important because it can provide 1) results that are difficult to produce with quantitative studies, 2) descriptions of actual actions in real contexts, 3) understanding of meanings that the actors give to certain phenomenon and 4) examples of important management issues and concepts that, in turn, have the potential to enrich the field. This study aims to deal with Gephardt‘s fourth category and provide examples of what kinds of risks can be affiliated with a network-level strategy process. Further, longitudinal contextual and processual research has direct concern for intervention and implementation. Contextual and processual research uses interviewing, non-participant observation, participation observation, document analysis, tools and data sources common to other forms of qualitative research. The qualitative and longitudinal nature of the research provides data that explains the interconnectedness and dynamic process inherent in everyday life (Dawson, 1994) in context over time.
Orton (1997) refers to the widespread assumption that good research is found in either theory or data. Good process research, however, needs a double grounding: rich process theory combined with rich process data creates rich process knowledge (Greenwood and Hinings, 1996), and there have been calls for joining both inductive and deductive analyses (Orton, 1997). Organisational process research seems to draw researchers from inductive grounded theory to iterative-grounded theory, in which researchers alternate back and forth between process theory and process data to produce process knowledge. This study considers several iterative loops in the process between the research question, data collection and data analysis. The study adopts a view that induction is more like a circular process, implying that the initial theoretical framework is rather broad and lacking in depth when applied to the current situation under study. Iterative and consultative techniques may serve to cast light on the development of the process. However, contextual and processual research is observational, descriptive and analytical of the organisational change process, it is not concerned with stimulating action nor is it aimed at intervention or shaping change, although it may be interested in these processes.
The epistemology sets the stage for the methodological approach. Pettigrew (1985a, 1990) and Pettigrew, Woodman and Cameron (2001) suggest that longitudinal research is best suited for the type of research described above. Time is captured through a combination of retrospective and real time analyses. It offers the opportunity to examine continuous processes in context and to draw in the significance of various interconnected levels of analysis. It also provides the possibility to reveal the multiple sources of loops of causation, associations and connectivity so crucial in identifying and explaining patterns in the process of change.
Stephen Pepper’s “World Hypotheses” and “Root Metaphor”
Common sense, on one hand, and refined knowledge, as produced by scientists, on the other, are often considered as the opposite ends of a spectrum. Pepper (1942), however, describes these as a circle instead of a range, because, according to him, ultimately all evidence points to common sense as a whole ―as the ultimate source of our cognitive refinements, and as the lowest legitimate level to which cognition could sink should these refinements fail‖ (1942:320). As such, in practising ‗science‘, people are concerned with refining common sense. Pepper (1942) argues that knowledge is the result of a constant cognitive refinement: the criticism and improvement of common sense. Cognitive refinement is accomplished by a) multiplicative corroboration – confirmation of phenomena by various subjects, and b) structural corroboration – the use of theories and hypotheses about the world and their confirmation by empirical data. Structural corroboration, as proposed by Pepper (1942), the process of constructing theory and comparing this with empirical data, is one way of examining relevant facts about phenomena and putting this evidence together. Pepper (1942) explores the process of cognitive refinement of common sense in terms of confirmation. He uses the example of the claim that a chair is very strong where multiplicative corroboration consists of having many persons sit upon it to test the claim and structural corroboration consists of developing a theory of what is required of a chair to be strong. Structural corroboration is achieved by constructing a chair that conforms to the theory or hypothesis. In focusing on structural corroboration, Pepper (1942) develops an argument that there are four mutually exclusive ways of dealing with structural corroboration, to which he referred as ―world hypotheses.‖
Two sets of assumptions concerning the logical structure of the social world can be used to distinguish between the four world hypotheses. A first dimension distinguishes between analytic and synthetic theories. This first set of assumptions or dimensions highlights the distinction between reductionistic and holistic theories. Theories that emphasize analysis are reductionistic in nature and focus on the component parts. Analytic theories ignore contexts and do not recognize and interpret synthesis. The analytic theories perceive complexes or contexts as derivative and not an essential part of the organization. Synthetic theories emphasize instead complexes or contexts so that analysis becomes
derivative. Theories that accentuate synthesis are holistic in nature and their focus is on the whole situated in a context. In asserting that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, however, those component parts are often ignored. A second dimension distinguishes between dispersive and integrative theories, which capture the distinction between the descriptive and predictive. Dispersive theories focus on interpretation of facts that are retrieved one by one from a universe of facts, rather loosely scattered about and not necessarily determining one another to any considerable degree (Pepper, 1942; 142-145). In integrative theories, however, ―the world appears literally as a cosmos where facts occur in a determinate order, and where, if enough were known, they could be predicted‖ (Pepper, 1942; 143). Whereas dispersive theories are hampered by a lack of precision, integrative theories are hampered by a lack of scope. As a result of the use of these two dimensions, the four world hypotheses can be characterized as follows:
Formism – includes analytic and dispersive theories;
Mechanism – includes analytic and integrative theories;
Contextualism – includes synthetic and dispersive theories; and,
Organicism – includes synthetic and integrative theories.
Formism and Mechanism have an analytical focus. This means that the focus is on the evidence of the nature of the elements and factors, and synthesis (the whole) becomes a derivative. In other words, the set of discrete facts is the object of study rather than the complexity of the whole. Contextualism and organicism, on the other hand, are synthetic world hypotheses meaning that their focus is on the evidence of the ―whole,‖ the complexes or contexts, and analysis becomes subsidiary. Analytical world hypotheses are supposed to be judged on their analysis of discrete sets of facts, whereas synthetic theories are to be judged on their explanation of the complexity of the whole object of study. For example, the mechanist‘s (analytical) critique of contextualist work (synthesis) arguing that this research effort is not precise down to the minutest facts is not a valid research critique. Further, there is also a distinction between the above pairs. Formism and contextualism are dispersive hypotheses, meaning that ―facts are taken one at the time‖ and the universe is taken as ―multitudes of facts‖ without any determinate order (Pepper, 1942:142). Mechanism and organicism, on the other hand, are integrative hypotheses meaning that evidence is taken in a determinate order and that the world appears to these hypotheses to be well ordered. The distinction between dispersive and integrative hypotheses leads to a second general ―quality indicator.‖ Dispersive hypotheses are to be judged on the way these deal with the dispersive character of evidence; whereas integrative hypotheses are to be judged on the way these handle their well-ordered facts. For example, a contextualist (dispersive) critique of a mechanist‘s research (integrative) implying that facts in our world are not well ordered and determinate is not a legitimate form of research critique. Next, in the description of the world hypotheses, the above distinctions will be discussed more extensively. Figure 3-1 shows an overview of Pepper‘s world hypothesis.
The reduction of the multitude of hypotheses to four world hypotheses is possible through a theory of the origin of world hypotheses, called the ―root metaphor theory‖. According to Pepper (1942), world hypotheses and root metaphors are linked. However, not all root metaphors are useful in providing understanding. There are two general criteria for judging the relative adequacy of root metaphors. These are precision and scope. Precision means that there are relatively few ways to explain or describe a given phenomenon with a set of analytic concepts, while scope means that a broad range of phenomena can be analysed with these concepts, as long as precision is not compromised. No root metaphor is completely adequate, but some are relatively more adequate. Maximising the scope of a root metaphor, in this way, becomes evident from corroboration by all sorts of evidence. Maximising precision is reflected in the precise determination of the evidence.
The root metaphor of the first world hypothesis, formism, is similarity, which points to comparison and categorisation. This assumes that formism focuses on phenomena, objects, events, and processes, that are taken one by one from whatever source, attempts to identify similarities or differences through a mere description, and accepts the results of the description. Formism attempts to answer the question ―what is it like?‖ The central activity is description on the basis of similarities, without concern for the sources of similarities. The description in formism rests on three categories: characters, particulars and participation. Formism includes both analytic and dispersive theories. A formist is generally not really concerned with the underlying (dispersive) mechanisms of, for instance, a strategy. ―Hard‖ formists take their categories, typologies or taxonomies as ―real‖ reflections of the world. An example of ―hard‖ formism within management research is Peters and Waterman‘s (1982) study of excellent companies. Tsoukas (1994:764) argues, ―Samples of ‗excellent‘ or ‗awful‘ organizations, for example, have been dissected for similarities which, once revealed, are assumed (but only assumed, not demonstrated) to be the causes of organizational excellence or failure respectively.‖ Consequently, formism has a perspective on similarities and differences in terms of conceptual categories. Truth within formism is the degree of similarity of a description to its object of reference. This implies that truth within formism is a correspondence theory of objects of reference (or theory) and descriptions (or empirical data). As to the why formism has not been used as an epistemology for the present research project, the answer lies in the object of study, which is the complexity of a firm operating in its industry. The research goal is to explain this complexity through time. Hence, formism focusing on analysis, which is ill-equipped to study complex processes through time, is not a suitable epistemology to be used here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES
CHAPTER 1: ORIENTATION
1.2 BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH CONTEXT
1.3 THE PROBLEM AND THE STUDY OBJECTIVES
1.4 IMPORTANCE OF THE STUDY
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
1.7 FRAMEWORK OF THE STUDY
1.8 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
2.2 STRATEGY AND COMPETITION
2.3 EXTERNAL PERSPECTIVE ON COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
2.4 INTERNAL PERSPECTIVE ON COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
2.5 INTEGRATIVE PERSPECTIVE ON COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
2.6 STRATEGY FORMULATION AND IMPLEMENTATION
2.7 THE INDUSTRY ENVIRONMENT
2.8 LINKING CHANGE PROCESSES TO ORGANISATION PERFORMANCE OUTCOMES
2.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY AND RESEARCH DESIGN
3.2 CONTEXTUALISM AS A THEORY OF METHOD
3.3 PROCESSUAL METHODS FOR MANAGEMENT RESEARCH
3.4 STRATEGY PROCESS RESEARCH
3.5 THE RESEARCH DESIGN
3.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4: A PROPOSED CONTEXTUAL FRAMEWORK
4.2 AN OVERVIEW OF THE PROPOSED FRAMEWORK
4.3 THE EXTERNAL COMPONENT OF THE FRAMEWORK
4.4 THE INTERNAL COMPONENT OF THE PROPOSED FRAMEWORK
4.5 FIRM–INDUSTRY INTERACTION COMPONENT OF THE FRAMEWORK
4.6 IMPLEMENTING STRATEGY
4.7 STRATEGY OUTCOME
4.8 LINKING THE LEVELS OF ANALYSIS
4.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5: THE TOURISM INDUSTRY – 1970 to 2007
5.2 THE TOURISM INDUSTRY STRATEGY PATHS
5.3 TOURISM INDUSTRY LIFE CYCLE
5.4 IMPLICATIONS OF THE BUTLER‘S TOURISM AREA LIFE CYCLE MODEL
5.5 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6 THE TRANSFORMATION OF AIR SEYCHELLES – 1971 to 2007
6.2 INTERACTIONS BETWEEN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY AND AIR SEYCHELLES
6.3 THE FORMATION STAGE OF AIR SEYCHELLES
6.4 THE DEVELOPMENT STAGE OF AIR SEYCHELLES
6.5 THE CONSOLIDATION STAGE OF AIR SEYCHELLES
6.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7 LINKING CHANGE PROCESSES AND ACTION TO PERFORMANCE
7.2 RESOURCE AND CAPABILITY FORMATION
7.3 THE DOMESTIC OPERATION RESOURCES
7.4 INTERNATIONAL LONG HAUL PASSENGER RESOURCE
7.5 A COMPARATIVE VIEW
7.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 8 DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSION
8.2 RESEARCH MOTIVATION AND EXPECTATIONS
8.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
8.4 INTEGRATING MULTIPLE CONTEXT AND LEVELS OF ANALYSIS
8.5 THE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT PROCESS IN SEYCHELLES
8.6 HOW AIR SEYCHELLES SUSTAIN COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
8.7 STUDY LIMITATION AND SCOPE FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
8.8 CONCLUSIONS – WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
COMPETITIVENESS AND STRATEGIC CHANGE – A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF THE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN TOURISM INDUSTRY AND AIR SEYCHELLES 1970 TO 2007