Family Business and Organization Research Module – 2018

Family Business and Organization Research Course
(FB&O Research, Alfredo Biffi – Daniela Montemerlo)
Organization Research Module

Alfredo Biffi
Associate Professor, Economics Department, Insubria University

Phd, first year 2018

The course at a glance
Organization Theory is a discipline in the studies of business and management rich of different domains, complementary and interrelated one each other (i.e relationship between enterprise strategy and organizational choices, organizational structure, organizational behavior, information systems and, more in general, technology based organizational design, human resources
management and so on). In this part of the course FB&O Research we will present and discuss concepts and ideas on how organization has been investigated so far and can or should be researched in the future in some of the fundamental domains regarding the aspect of decision making mainly in the contest of SME and family enterprises. After a framework on the  domains of the discipline, an overview of the field’s evolution, topics and theoretical and empirical issues, we will focus on some core items about decisions in organization.
The course implies high involvement and active contributions by participants.
Please, read this syllabus very carefully before the beginning of the course.

Prof. Alfredo Biffi

The goal of the course is to offer an overview of the field of Organizational Studies research and its main issues, theories and methods. Participants are expected to ‘get to know the field’ and its development trends, as well as to discuss most relevant decision-making issues for organizing SME and family enterprises in the domain of basic organizational design,  organizational innovation and change, human resources development, technologies based organizational design.

Contents (see also detailed schedule)

  • Organizational Theory: a general framework about domains, trends and perspectives.
  • Focus on research and solutions about decisions on:
    o Basic organizational variables
    o The choices about the two approaches to organizational efficiency and  2 effectiveness
    o HR & People as level for organizational design
    o Technology as level for organizational design

Teaching methods
Seminar mode, featuring guided discussions, students’ presentations and selfstudy in groups or individually.

Course design and format
Consistently with the Entrepreneurship module, this course consists of two components: class discussion (60%) and final assignment (40%). Students must take the course for a grade.
For each topic, we will read and discuss a few articles. The set of articles for each lecture may include theoretical and empirical work, or both. The reading list is short for a seminar of this type. That is because I expect you to read every
article and to think about them before coming to class. You can decide within your team who of you is going to present the article in class.
Then, our discussions will focus on the specific articles assigned as well as the general theoretical issues and the decision-making issues they raise (see next paragraph).

Course preparation
Consistently with the entire module, here are some hints to prepare to our sessions.
As to specific articles, it may be useful to ask yourself the following questions about each reading:
What are the central theoretical questions addressed? What are the underlying assumptions? (2) What is the (empirical or conceptual) evidence to support the research questions? How convincing? (3) How has the analysis been designed? (4) How could this analysis be improved? Be specific and practical (do not make suggestions that you could not realistically envision
yourself implementing); and (5) Identify at least one way that the analysis is cleverer or smarter than the author knows. This could take the form of deriving a new argument or developing new ideas. Another approach would be to apply the author’s reasoning under a different setting and explain why it might be useful.
NB: All articles will be made available in electronic format.
As to the general issues, for all articles please keep in mind the theories/metatheories behind in terms of core research problems or questions addressed (key concepts, assumptions, arguments, evidence, methods, etc.). Obviously, you may
find these questions challenging if your knowledge of the approach is limited— but you should try to answer them anyway.

Detailed schedule
Make attention: read critically the assigned articles. Be prepared to illustrate and discuss them in class, especially thinking of the field’s present state and its opportunities for further development.

Session 1. Organizational Design Decisions: a general framework about domains, trends and perspectives. Focus on the two main perspectives in organizational design for organizational efficiency and effectiveness.
Tuesday, June 5th, 9:00 – 13.00
Readings (will be always send by email):
•GF Davis, 2015, Editorial Essey: what is Organizational Research for?, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. (60)179-188
•C Andriopoulus, MW Lewis, 2009, Exploitation-Exploration Tensions and Organizational Ambidexterity: managing paradoxes of innovation, Organization Science, July-August vol 20, pp 696-717
•G Salviotti, A Biffi, 2011, Standardizing Innovation in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. The case study of Bay Barb, English translation. Published in Italian language in Economia&Management n° 4

Session 2. Organization in Family Firms. People dilemma & perspectives
Friday, June 8th, 15:00 – 18.00
•W Tabor, JJ Chrisman, K Madison, JM Vardaman, 2018, Nonfamily members in family firms: a review and future research agenda, Family Business Review, vol 31(1)54-79
•MR Marvel, JL Davis, CR Sproul, 2016, Human capital and Entrepreneurship research: a critical review and future directions, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, May

Session 3. Different decisional items on organizational perspectives
Wednesday, June 20th, 14.00 – 17.00
•FM Santos, KM Eisenhardt, 2005, Organizational boundaries and theories of organization, Organization Science n°5 September-October, pp 491-508
•B Spiegel, 2017, The relational organization of entrepreneurial ecosystems, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Jannuary
•GR Oldham, Y Fried, 2016, Job design research and theory: past, present and future, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol 136, pp 20-35
•G Adomavicius, JC Bockstedt, A Gupta, RJ Kauffman, 2008, Making sense of technology trends in the information technology landscape: a design science approach, MIS Quarterly vol. 32 n° 4, pp 779-809

Overall Course Evaluation & Final Assignment
Students will receive one grade for the whole course, i.e. for the two modules of together.
The final grade will be based:
– For 60% on class discussion in the FB and Organization modules;
– For 40% on the final assignment. The assignment may consist of two
alternative works:
o a brief research proposal (Times New Roman 12, round 15 pages) specifying, reference theories, RQ, literature review,
propositions/hypotheses, methodology and sample and expected contributions on an organizational FB issue. The proposal’s topic will have to be approved by course instructors and it could be either an Organization or a FB topic, based on course discussions and materials;
o a literature review on a specific topic, with indication of the state-of-art and possible developments. The review’s topic will
have to be approved by course instructors and it could be either an Organization or a FB topic as well, based on course discussions and materials.

By 10th July Define items with teachers
By 30th September Deliver the work to teachers sending it by email

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