Addressing strategy and innovation in family business practice; a process of adaptive change

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Gleeson, Peter
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University College Cork
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This Portfolio of Exploration documents the transformation in my management practice from an operational to a strategic orientation. The central research question revolves around the impact of a process of adaptive change on my management and a series of business implementation actions. My operational approach had reached its limits with the 2009 construction industry recession exposing the invalidation of the assumptions underlying my management practice. I engage in a process of adaptive change to formulate responses to the changed operating environment both in terms of strategy and innovation. The process is organised into a set of three essays. In Essay One, I engage in a Professional Development Review to trace the development of my meaning making and to surface the theories underlying my management practice. I reflect on how my background in family business and accountancy training has shaped my ‘hegemonic assumptions’ (Brookfield, 1995). I structure the review using the Adult Mental Development theory of Kegan (1994, Kegan & Lahey, 2009). I document my experiences since returning to manage the family business and outline the developmental goals pursued in the remainder of the Portfolio. In Essay Two, I explore the themes underlying my developmental goals by engaging with source thinkers in the Reading for Change Essay. The movement generated in my meaning making enables me to re-define my management practice. I apply an adaptive approach to reading Porter (1980, 1985, 2008) and to analyse my operating environment. Based on this re-reading, I develop a strategy for my business, incorporating advances in strategy since the launch of Porter. I examine the business model assumptions underlying my practice using Brookfield (1995) and Drucker (1994) and explore the role of assumptions in driving business models. I demonstrate the impact of my new management practice in Essay Three, Transforming Practice. Through a series of action research projects, I demonstrate how my practice has been transformed and the effect on the operations of my business. The action projects illustrate the application of previously unused productive managerial resources to business development. In the Portfolio Conclusion, I conclude that adopting a strategic perspective is essentially a higher-order mental demand and requires meaning making operating at that level. This work adds to knowledge in the family business and strategic management areas by demonstrating the impact of an adaptive change process on the effectiveness of management practice. It also reviews the impact of adaptive change on the innovative projects pursued. I set out the implications of this for my selected audience, i.e. practitioners operating in a family business environment and those operating in the SME sector of a commoditised industry with strong competitive forces along with researchers, advisors and policy makers in these areas.
Strategy , Innovation , Family business , Adaptive change
Gleeson, P. 2018. Addressing strategy and innovation in family business practice; a process of adaptive change. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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