In Conclusion

In Conclusion

Lars Taxén (Linköping University, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-192-6.ch015
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Armed with the ADT, it was time to return to the surface and take a look at practice again; this time with the ADT as new glasses. The findings from this work are reported in Section 4 of the book. If these findings are convincing, which I hope they are, ADT might illuminate some issues and point to new ways of managing complex projects and systems. This, however, remains to be seen. So, what has been achieved? Which are the main findings from the endeavor related in this book? I believe that these can be summarized as follows.
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The Activity Domain As An Integrating Construct

There seems to be an endless flow of information, tools, consulting services, and research efforts aimed at improving organizational capabilities to meet increasingly tougher demands. These capabilities center around areas we have encountered over and over again in this book: business processes, information systems, enterprise architectures, PLM systems and so on. Yet, there are serious doubts if these efforts really make a difference in practice:

Numerous frameworks have emerged to support large scale organizations and government entities but to date there has been no empirical support to determine if they meet the needs of their users. [It] is not clear whether these frameworks […] meet the needs of their users to identify areas for change, help to specify computer systems to implement those changes, and whether the changes actually result in organizational performance improvement. (Cane & McCarthy, 2007, p. 437)

The message in this book is that these shortcomings may be overcome by taking the activity domain as the core organizational entity. The activity domain frames the social context in which actors provide outcomes fulfilling social needs. It integrates transformative and coordinative actions, communal meaning, and the enactment of human and mediational capabilities. Moreover, the activity domain is a recurrent structure that can be scaled from teams all the way to the extended enterprise. From these characteristics, the activity domain might be considered as the “DNA of the organization”; the building block from which the coordinative properties of all organizational units can be derived.


The Activity Modalities: Bridging Individual Cognition And Social Reality

A recurrent theme in the organizational discourse is how to conceive the relation between the individual and the organization. A common conceptualization is to see the individual as the “micro” level and the organization as the “macro” level (e.g. Wiley, 1988). However, as Wiley (ibid) points out, this conception is problematic since the notion of “level” is not unambiguously defined. Other conceptualizations regard the organization in an anthropocentric light; organizations are “actors”, they have “memories”, they “learn” things, and, in the extreme, are considered as living entities (Örtenblad, 2005).

Weick views organizations as “collections of people trying to make sense of what is happening around them” (Weick, 2001, p. 5). The view presented in this book share this view, but from a different perspective. The activity modalities are seen as phylogenetically inherited treats that humans make use of in coordinating actions, whether in isolation or together with others. In order to act, we frame a situation by focusing on some object; we filter out relevant phenomena in the situation, and how these are related to each other; we figure out a sequence of actions; we make use of tried-out ways of acting; and we switch between situations when needed. These are basic dimensions of coordinating actions in every situation; dimensions that I call activity modalities: contextualization, spatialization, temporalization, stabilization, and transition.

The concrete manifestation of these modalities takes place in activity domains. By engaging with available means in the domain, congruent objectified impression in the domain and objectivated impressions in the minds and bodies of the actors are developed, regardless of the scope of the domain. Two people working on some shared object will leave the same modality specific type of traces behind as a number of organizations cooperating in the extended enterprise.

Thus, the issues of “levels” and “humanized” organizations as actors disappear. The same construct, the activity domain, frames situations where the activity modalities bridge individual cognition and the social reality constructed in the domain.

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