A figurational analysis of employees’ experiences of organizational change within NGBs
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AbstractNational governing bodies of sport (NGBs) are intrinsically and dependably aligned to delivering the UK government’s sport policies of increasing participation in sport and winning medals. NGBs operate within an environment characterized by social processes shaped by dynamic interdependent relationships, a results-orientated approach, and intense scrutiny of performance. Change has become an integral part of the organizational life for employees. Yet, the existing literature has overemphasized the structural characteristics of organizations by being preoccupied with the treatment of organizations as rational and static objects. This thesis aims to make an original contribution to the literature by employing a figurational analysis to understand the meanings constructed by employees as they responded to the government’s deliberate, overtly prescriptive, and task-orientated strategy of modernization. This study employed a mixed method ‘lite’ approach, comprising semi-structured interviews and an e-survey. Initially, semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior administrators from five National Sport Organizations (NSOs) and seven NGBs to establish context on the external processes influencing change within NGBs. Two case study NGBs were selected, and 25 semi-structured interviews and an e-survey (n=52) conducted to gather data on the experiences and realities of employees in responding to and managing internal changes. The study draws attention to a constant, top-down process of change reinforced by the four-yearly cycle of funding administrated by Sport England and UK Sport. Employees increasingly focused upwardly to align their goal orientation to that of their funding partners, constraining the ability of employees to balance the needs of their other partners across their wider network. These processes have shaped the formation of extreme power imbalances, in favour of the government, Sport England, and UK Sport, through strategies to centralize power and to influence a strong functional and resource dependency by NGBs. The process of change created unintentional consequences as NGBs moved away from their traditional voluntary sport clubs (VSC) network, to concentrate on easy targets to ensure delivery of their contractual obligations. The process of habitus formation mediated the way in which employees made sense of internal changes, and in managing the hostilities that employees experienced from those board members and club officials deeply embedded within the traditional sporting ethos and philosophy of NGBs. It concludes that the adoption of a figurational analysis to organizational change, with employees positioned at the centre of the investigation, has provided a more adequate understanding of the interweaving of social processes of change and human action. As the UK government continues to modernize NGBs, policy-makers, and particularly NGB senior managers, should consider readdressing the levels of interdependency and extreme power imbalances between NGBs, government, Sport England, and UK Sport, to enable the longer-term sustainability of NGBs, through more effectively balancing their role as member-led organizations and strategic deliverers of government sport policies.
CitationThompson, A. (2022). A figurational analysis of employees’ experiences of organizational change within NGBs. [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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