The challenges ahead such as climate change and social injustice require governments and their public organisations to be adaptive and open to learning. This necessitates the adoption of new ways of thinking so as cope to with complexity, dynamics as well as behavioural aspects. The leading public housing organisation used in this single case study is connected with disciplines such as transport for example which suggests the adoption of a systems thinking approach. However, internal socio-political problems and the willingness of the organisational members to improve the situation call for an intervention based on soft systems thinking. The employee/researcher of this ethnographic study applied soft systems methodology (SSM) so as to collaboratively investigate the problematic situation.

The intervention was supported by the configuration model of organisational culture, the model of organisation life cycles as well as complex responsive processes of human relating theory. Four different research phases were performed which allowed each part of the process to be informed by the analysis of the one preceding it, thus creating a documented learning process. The main sources of information used in the intervention were participant observation, interviews, documents and group work. The third research phase demonstrated that the activation of the SSM learning cycle was and still is feasible as well as desirable but is jeopardized by politics and power. Since SSM could not properly respond to the oppressive social system within the organisation, the fourth research phase developed towards a multi-methodology approach combining SSM with cognitive mapping. The development of a purposeful activity model for strategic redesign within this last phase suggests that SSM should leave its mere interpretive stance for a more flexible approach. The results reveal the usability of the logic-based stream of SSM in the modelling process but also highlight the weakness regarding its stream of cultural analysis. Only through the application of the configuration model of organisational culture was it possible to highlight the impact of the disturbed organisational culture on the whole organisation.

The investigation suggests that power relations are no longer negotiated between organisational members once the outsider group is properly restrained or stigmatised i.e. cut off from thematic patterning. These characteristics are exacerbated by ingrained beliefs with regard to the traditional authoritarian or hierarchical view, which suggests to management that the only solution to the organisational problem is the application of more control and the use of ‘whips’. In contrast, the new approach proposed in this thesis is built around the findings, the models elaborated such as the relevant systems for constant improvement and collaborative learning and in particular the flexible methodological approach. The creation of a continuous learning cycle offers the possibility to collectively approach societal problems and to elaborate an alternative to hierarchical organisations.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Critical systems thinking, European Union, Soft systems methodology, public housing policy, organisational change, project management, organisational culture, action research, learning, organisational structure
Promotor S.J. Magala (Slawomir)
Publisher Erasmus Research Institute of Management , Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University
Sponsor Erasmus School of Economics , Erasmus University Rotterdam , Prof. Dr. G. Fink, Prof.dr. B. McSweeney, Prof.dr. L.C.P.M. Meijs, Prof.dr. J.R. Turner
ISBN 978-90-5892-358-5
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/1765/50712
Series ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management
Staadt, J.L. (2014, March 20). Leading Public Housing Organisation in a Problematic Situation: a critical soft systems methodology approach (No. EPS-2014-308-ORG). ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management. Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/50712