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Neha Chatwani

Diplômé DBA - 2014

Titre de thèse

On agile organizations: How are organizational identity and knowledge transfer linked? A single case study at an international non-profit organization

Superviseur(s)

Jerome Barrand

Neha Chatwani gained her master’s degree in psychology from the University of Vienna and her DBA at GEM. After 20 years of corporate experience in human resource management and organisation development, she founded the Workplace Atelier (www.theworkplaceatelier.com) in Vienna, which provides people focused services in strategic change management bricolage,career design, and leadership development. Her interests include new sustainable organisational models and working with start-ups.

This doctoral research demonstrates the dynamic and complex link between organizational identity and knowledge transfer viewed through the lens of agility. The results show that knowledge transfer practices are an expression of identity. They are consistently and incrementally adapted to align with organizational identity attributes through processes of ‘identity work’, specifically by means of cognitive tactics. These tactics involve the leveraging of specific identity attributes in their interplay. This identity work can be observed at two levels of identity construction: institutional claims in the form of sensegiving by leaders of the organization and sensemaking processes by individual organizational actors. The two levels are interlinked. The results also show that through the continuously alignment of knowledge sharing routines with their understanding of ‘who they are’ and ‘who they would like to be’; organizational actors are able to fulfill their organizational mission in the best possible way. Where this alignment is difficult, organizational activity is either hampered or closed down. Further, the reverse impact is also demonstrated: knowledge management practices also influence organizational identity, albeit more gradually. Finally, incremental adaptations to knowledge practices and eventually to organizational identity contribute towards greater agile responsiveness and the organizations ability for agile capability i.e. the organizations’ ability for continuous and sustainable change. The academic contributions of this work are multifold: first, the research provides a deeper understanding of how knowledge management in nonprofit organizations is more closely linked to the organizational purpose and mission. Second, it demonstrates how identity work is important for understanding organizational 3 processes such as knowledge sharing practices and their outcomes. Further, it shows that identity work entails the use of specific cognitive tactics to support the adaptation of practices in order to leverage these for the purpose of fulfilling the organizational mission. Finally, it shows how incremental adaptations to knowledge transfer processes and organizational identity may contribute towards sustainable and continuous change as well as the building of agile capability and responsiveness. These insights also have important implications for the practice of knowledge management and change initiatives in institutional organizational development, particularly in the nonprofit sector where this research has taken place. Knowledge transfer and change are closely linked with organizational identity and its mission. According to the results of this empirical investigation, continuous and sustainable change is best managed by allowing organizational actors to work through the paradoxes of sensemaking and by consistently aligning institutional claims and practices to serve the organizational mission.