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Communication challenges of web development SMEs: The benefits and challenges of organizational tensions

This thesis examines the communicative constitution of organisations (CCO) through the communication challenges faced by web development small and medium enterprises (Cooren, Kuhn, Cornelissen, & Clark, 2011; Putnam & Nicotera, 2009). Using grounded theory method (GTM) (Charmaz, 2014; Glaser & Strauss, 1967), research was conducted in the Silicon Slopes, a high-tech industry pocket in Utah, in the United States of America. The data was collected by conducting 33 interviews in 26 web development firms. Ten of the firms were small firms as defined by the OECD (2005), and the remaining 16 were medium-sized organisations. Within the firms, several communication challenges emerged from the data in the form of entangled tensions. Entangled tensions are imbricated dialectical tensions interwoven with knotted tensions (Sheep, Fairhurst, & Khazanchi, 2016), and were identified in this research through the use of GTM (Dey, 1999; Martin & Turner, 1986). Knotted tensions result from entanglements of organisational conflict related to innovation and the accompanying complexities of technology (Sheep et al., 2016, p. 4). Dialectical tensions result when two opposite interests simultaneously pull against each other (Putnam, 2015). Combining these two tension orientations assisted in understanding the process of constituting an organisation through communication practices (Kuhn & Schoeneborn, 2015). The primary entangled tensions presented in this research project are metacommunication tensions, ambidexterity, expectations, constrained creativity, and trust. In conjunction with the entangled tensions in these high-tech firms, the data also revealed strategies used by small- and medium-sized web development firms to reconcile the tensions. Tension reconciliation in small and medium high-tech firms was a layered experience. Tension reconciliation strategies consisted of three approaches. The first approach involved incorporating soft skills training into the organisation. Soft skills comprise interpersonal communication (people) skills, such as listening, and conflict resolution among organisational members. The second approach involved encouraging the development of organisational literacy. Organisational literacy is the enactment of knowledge management in the organisation as the organisational members teach stakeholders how the web development process occurs. The third approach involved working to simplify highly-technical languages and processes used in the firm for nontechnical stakeholders such as clients, organisational members in nontechnical roles, or investors. The findings from this research investigation have several theoretical implications for those studying CCO and organisational tensions. First, I argue that entangled tensions are a new contribution to CCO and organisational tension theory development. Second, I claim that firm members reactively and proactively resolve organisational tensions. Reactive reconciliation occurs during a communication crisis while proactive tension resolutions occur during meetings or other formal organisational communication practices. Third, and finally, the practical implications of the research demonstrate that small and medium-web development firms should be proactive in their translation and improvement of web development literacy practices as these are critical management communication strategies.
Type of thesis
Sheffer, B. R. (2018). Communication challenges of web development SMEs: The benefits and challenges of organizational tensions (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12090
The University of Waikato
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