Following the white rabbit. Rule users’ effects on the life cycle of holes in rules.

K.B. van Tiggelen

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisAcademic

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Professionals encounter problems in their work environments that can be attributed to a generally perceived friction between rules and practice. Part I demonstrates that this professional squeeze is not just a result of a bilateral interaction between worker and friction; it is indicative of the much larger context in which professionals operate as apparently powerless appendices, constrained by the rules and processes surrounding them. A coherent concept associated with such a context is presented by March, Schulz and Zhou in 2000, as introduced through their ecology of rules. In their study on the issue of rule change, they defined a rule’s life cycle as consisting of rule birth, rule revision and rule suspension. Changes inside or outside the context may act as stimuli for a transition from one rule life cycle stage to another. A crucial precondition for managing rule change is that (problematic) environmental changes come to the attention of rule makers; after all, they possess the power to influence these three stages. However, rule makers cannot intercept or adequately respond to all environmental changes; any changes and design errors that are overlooked may negatively affect the way a rule is fit for its situation. This “unfitting” is what this thesis identifies as presenting a hole in the rule. The developments in this area are often beyond the scope of the rule makers because rule makers’ activities are distant from rule users’ practice, wherein these holes in rules reveal themselves. The most likely way for rule makers to know about a hole that has come into existence, is through information transfer from the rule user. One way of studying the rule user - hole encounter is by primarily focusing on the (problematizing) effects of holes on rule users’ feelings and/or behavior, and by extension the influence of that on the organization’s operations. This thesis inverts the perspective of interaction so that rule users shift from passive subjects to whom holes happen, to active participants in the dynamic world of rules and their failure to fit situations. This leads to the central research question which targets how rule users’ behavior is affecting the existence of holes. “Behavior” is divided into acting (or not) upon holes in relation to the task at hand, and telling (or not) about holes. Organizations are increasingly tending to steer on values, inspired by thought leaders in management. Understanding the nature of holes in rules supports rule users in assessing their own positions and balancing the options they have when dealing with holes. Indications of how people’s assessment, attitude and behavior possibly affect the existence of a hole also offers very valuable management information to assist in balancing the discretionary space that is given (and taken); this awareness contributes to optimizing business processes in the endeavor to attain operational and financial targets. This thesis frequently refers to two cases derived from practice, which are the Case of the Zeros and the Case of the Guests.
Original languageAmerican English
  • Lensvelt-Mulders, G.J.L.M., Supervisor, External person
  • Pelzer, P., Supervisor
Award date13 Feb 2013
Print ISBNs9789081935302
Electronic ISBNs9789081935302
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2013

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