Case Closed: lessons learned from the study of a manufacturing plant closure concerning leadership and the management of change

McCairns, Stephen (2017) Case Closed: lessons learned from the study of a manufacturing plant closure concerning leadership and the management of change. DBA thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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The research presented in this thesis is a study of a site closure. The author was in the position of site director at the time of the announcement of the closure and was also responsible for its implementation. The broad research aim was to explore the experiences of employees and managers during the closure process. The primary objectives were to develop a richer understanding of the perceptions and responses of the people involved and the impact of leadership style, as well as to aid the achievement of an effective and socially responsible closure. Closure was conceptualised as an extreme form of organizational change and the study was informed by a review of the literature in the broad field of the management of change and the specific field of plant closure. Compared with other contexts of organizational change, it was apparent that closure is under-researched, so much so that it has been termed the ‘forgotten topic‘ (Woodford et al. 2009). One reason for this gap is the sensitivity of most closure contexts, operating at the personal, corporate and community levels. Given the research aim of understanding subjective experiences, a relativist ontological assumption and interpretivist epistemological perspective were adopted. This informed the choice of a qualitative research design, which took the form of a single case study with an explorative purpose. Data collection encompassed semi-structured interviews, supported by observation and documentation review. A sample of 20 employees was selected and recruited, approximating to 25% of the workforce, and the interviews were conducted throughout the closure process. The organizational context was revealed to be an important factor in what was widely regarded as an effective closure. There was a high degree of organisational trust at the outset, due in part to community-based employment and relatively long staff tenures. This was enhanced during the closure by feelings of shared fate and mutual responsibility, as most of the management were also being laid off, facilitated by a situationally contingent leadership style that was sensitive to diverse personal needs and aspirations. The research resulted in several significant contributions to knowledge. New insights were developed into the ‘productivity paradox‘: the widely observed tendency for productivity increases to occur in closing plants (Wigblad et al. 2007). Through tapping into emotional responses, it was found that a shared sense of injustice was a powerful bonding mechanism throughout the workforce, including with members of the management team. Little attention is given to leadership style within the extant literature on plant closure, with no specific acknowledgement yet given to it in the developing subfield of socially responsible closure. The study demonstrated that it was indeed a powerful enabler of an effective and socially responsible closure in this organizational context. Emotion is an important issue in all organizational change but perhaps this is most true of plant closure. It was found that emotional responses experienced by employees correlate well with the Kübler-Ross (1973) and Bridges (2001) models of human transitions in times of extremely stressful change. In particular, the employee shock, frustration, bargaining and acceptance phases can be used effectively to help in understanding employee responses and enabling appropriate support. An important element of this support was the acknowledgement of diversity of personal situation and aspirations among employees. Diversity is rarely acknowledged within the change literature but in this case it was shown to be an important factor, recognition of which enabled the management team to develop differentiated forms of support, contributing significantly to an effective and socially responsible closure.

Item Type: Thesis (DBA)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Pharmaceutical industry; Plant closure; Supply chain; Restructuring; Redundancy; Rationalization; Gloucester
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD2340.8 Small and Medium-sized businesses, artisans, handcrafts, trades
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management > HD58 Organizational behavior, change and effectiveness. Corporate culture
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5001 Business > HF5549 Personnel management. Employment management
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Business, Computing and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2019 16:34
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 21:46

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