Organisational Obstinacy and its Effect on Organisational Change – A Longitudinal Action Research Approach

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


The Study identifies a lack of investigation into ‘organisational obstinacy’. Organisational resistance is critiqued for ignoring the ambivalence of individuals’ and groups’ feelings around change. As a consequence, work on resistance has tended to concentrate on improving change management techniques rather than influencing organisational forces. In contrast, obstinacy is felt to contain positive as well as negative attitudes which both contribute to why change programmes falter. Organisational characteristics examined include frameworks of interdependencies, the conceptual and shared understanding of the organisational change paradigm being sought, and the flow of ideas within an organisation which illuminate the direction of change that is being pursued. A research model is adopted that identifies where organisational obstinacy might be best observed.Using a longitutinal ethnographic Action Research single case study methodology, a four stage research programme is undertaken in a metropolitan local authority in the UK. Soft System Modelling is used to bring clarity to the Action Research methodology including a clear expression of the epistemology being adopted and a complex ‘framework of ideas’ being developed for each stage. A coherent explanation of the key events that took place is summarised. Two important models are developed which illustrate how ideas might flow around the organisation and where connected interdependencies might become established. These capture the idea of a ‘Winding 8’ with ‘points of crank’ and a ‘critical mass’ comprising contributing elements to the whole change programme. The key findings suggest that organisational obstinacy can be observed when the organisational equilibrium is disturbed by the strength of the introduced driving forces. Under the influence of this obstinacy the organisation re-establishes the ‘old normal’ surprisingly swiftly. A duality of attitudes, often held by the same people, which both support driving forward as well as restraint, suggests that obstinacy can be both positive and negative in its operation.A definition of Organisational Obstinacy is offered. The limitations in the methodology are discussed. Conclusions are drawn on the nature of organisational obstinacy and its operation and possible new directions for further research are offered.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationManchester
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • Organisational obstinacy, organisational resistance, positive attitudes, negative attitudes, longitudinal, ethnography, action research,


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