Final Doctoral Oral Examination – Bradley Anderson

Congratulations to Doctorate in Business Administration candidate, Bradley Anderson, who defended his dissertation on Monday, February 25, 2019.

Title of Thesis:

Values, Rationality, and Power: Developing Organizational Wisdom


How do we develop organizational wisdom? The literature highlighted three themes of wisdom: values guide wise action; knowledge is required, but insufficient; wisdom is actionoriented, requiring acts of power. Focusing, therefore, on the constructs of values, rationality, and power, I applied a phronetic research approach, including a narrative analysis of texts and interviews, to an embedded, single case study of the development of the Seniors Program within a Canadian health authority. Phronetic research seeks to develop valuerationality and argues that wisdom is doing the ethically practical in a social context. Thus, I used the values of the Canada Health Act as a litmus for wise action and assessed whether individuals acted consistently with those values and, if not, why.

Results demonstrated that values guided episodic uses of power. Values interacted in complex ways, and even when different stakeholders shared prime values, differences in instrumental values and operating timeframes led to resistance. Groups exercised power and made appeals to areas where values overlapped to overcome resistance. Program developers used rationality to determine how the program would operate. Different stakeholder groups, however, relied on different forms of rationality, and the rationalities that dominated were the ones supported by prevailing power structures. Groups that blended different rationalities discovered that bringing multiple rationalities into dialogue resulted in creative problem-solving. Rationality was also the means through which individuals reified power. It gave the means and structure that translated will into action.

This study demonstrated that organizational wisdom required individuals capable of managing the complex interplay of values, rationality, and power within their organization. These individuals were led by values that aligned with the organization’s, possessed keen insight into the values different stakeholder groups pursued, and negotiated differences to build supportive power networks. They understood the rationalities that dominated in their organization yet recognized that other stakeholders relied on different rationalities. They respected these differences and sought to blend rationalities to solve problems. Finally, these individuals understood how power worked in their organization. They knew how to make things happen in their environment, and they exercised their power to create action

This research investigates the adoption of analytics in the publicly-funded education system of the province of Ontario in Canada. The relationship between themes of strategy, adoption, and analytics is explored from the perspective of Ontario school districts leaders in education. While previous research in the Ontario K-12 setting involved usage of technology in the classroom, this study extends the exploration of analytics adoption to an organisational setting. Data collection consisted of questionnaires and surveys based on two case studies conducted in different school districts. External evidence and observations were used to complement the empirical data.

A total of six hypotheses were developed from the research questions and tested. All hypotheses were rejected on the basis of their t Statistic, except one complying with the theory. A modified UTAUT model remained consistent with the theory in its results and took into account the assumptions of this study. However, an unexpected result was the strength of effort expectancy having twice the impact of either performance expectancy and social influence on behavioural intention. Facilitating conditions with the moderating effects of age, gender, experience, and willingness to use were not found to be significant. School enrolment size was also not statistically significant. However, despite the inferential analysis results, the issue of school enrolment size was judged relevant by interview participants.

The results of the study suggest that strategy is central to the adoption of analytics. To assist adoption, the strategy should insist on extensive consultation with end-users and training by data professionals. The study also challenges the applicability of the basic UTAUT model for adoption of analytics in school districts by proposing an alternative model appropriate for school districts and the exploration of the topic and the themes.