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Productive sustainability: An emergent methods approach to creating, communicating, and exploring leadership and management practices for contemporary challenges

Chapter one opens with an account of the journey that led to the writing of the thesis. It grounds the research in my own experiences which led to the two central concerns: firstly, businesses face an uncertain and volatile environment that is very different to anything that they have experienced before, and, moreover, that this uncertainty is likely to continue into the foreseeable future; and, secondly, what organisations can do to promote productive sustainability in the midst of these prevailing and impending challenges? The thesis then foregrounds the importance of environmental factors, and 1) explores how they impact on organisations' productivity by questioning the validity of established methods, given their reliance on retrospective data, and 2) looks for better ways forward by maximising the power of the present through emerging methods and practices. This forward-looking orientation continues with two chapters (two and three) that seek to underscore the efficacy of experiential learning through action research as well as through theoretical explorations of disciplinary interactions and field research into congruent hybrid opportunities for organisations across the for-profit and not-for-profit divide. Chapter four then argues for reconfiguring the sustainability challenge as one of improving innovation performance by creating dynamic balance between exploration and exploitation. Building on these ideas, the next three chapters examine leadership repertoires for dealing with different challenges. Chapter five posits that a firm's strategy, leadership, and processes are not only correlated to specific environments, but that particular characteristics can be broadly correlated with different eras. Chapter six then identifies the three new challenges - of sustainable development, base of pyramid engagement, and managing risk in a globalised world - that organisations need to address at this particular time. Chapter seven concludes the trilogy by identifying an emerging set of leadership practices for engaging productively with such high velocity change. The final five chapters focus on a grounded theory study, which is both a piece of original research in its own right, and an avenue that enables an extension and validation of the earlier concerns through the research questions What existing and likely future challenges face contemporary Australian businesses and what current and emerging practices are leaders using to address productive sustainability? . The study involves senior leaders of successful Australian-based businesses who participate in theorising both existing and future challenges and the parallel emerging practices that leaders are using to address productive sustainability. Chapters eight, nine, and ten frame the grounded theory research, and describe the sampling and analysis of data in the study. Chapters eleven and twelve describe the study's findings, and its conclusions respectively. The data from the grounded theory research revealed that this environment is described as complex. For the participants, this is evident in the display of one, or more, of the following three key characteristics: dynamic, layered, interdependent, interconnected, and patterned organisational challenges; marked/radical shifts in markets, competition, technology and customers' definition of value; and uncertain, unpredictable, and uncontrollable global driving forces. This research further developed theories that leadership's successful response to this complex environment is the Ensemble Leadership Repertoire. The name has been chosen to provide vivid imagery (Locke, 2001, p. 72) to three practices taken together and working in harmony: Firstly, sharing fates and interdependence; secondly, exploring deeper meaning; and finally the emerging practice of Zeitgeist (i.e., integrating cognition, conscience and collective spirit). As the name Ensemble suggests, these three practices are not manifested individually in exclusion to each other, and/or as a paradigmatic shift from one practice to the other. Rather, successful leadership demonstrates all three practices, as appropriate, as an Ensemble Repertoire in the pursuit of sustainable organisational productivity.
Type of thesis
Murthy, V. (2008). Productive sustainability: An emergent methods approach to creating, communicating, and exploring leadership and management practices for contemporary challenges (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4395
The University of Waikato
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