Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor's Name

Daniel Robey

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Rajiv Sabherwal

Third Advisor's Name

Paul Hart

Fourth Advisor's Name

Joyce J. Elam

Date of Defense



The culture of an organization constitutes the environment into which information systems (IS) practices take place. Despite the importance of culture in the organizational theory and management literature, this topic has received little attention in the IS area. The culture of an organization can be looked at from different angles. In addition to the usual view of culture, the integration view, two other perspectives have been identified in the literature: the differentiation and fragmentation perspectives. While the integration perspective focuses on the "assembling" role organizational culture is normally said to play, the differentiation perspective highlights important differences among groups of people in the organization and the fragmentation perspective includes the notion of ambiguity and uncertainty in the conceptualization of culture.

This study uses organizational stories as a way to investigate the culture of an organization and as a way to better understand IS practices. It uses simultaneously the three organizational culture perspectives in order to get a broad picture of the cultural context surrounding IS practices.

More specifically, the objective of this interpretive study is to investigate three research questions related to (1) the nature of the stories told and the themes that they carry, (2) the functions that these stories play in the organization, and (3) the relationships between themes and IS practices. Using an in-depth case study strategy, stories and their interpretations were collected from a software-development company using primarily semi-structured interviews.

The results emphasize the bias resulting from the use of the integration perspective as the only way to look at the culture of an organization. This bias had a profound impact on the literature; it helped shape the identification of important organizational actors, the definition of stories, and the conceptualization of their functions. In this study, a broader conception of "significant stories" is given along with a broader range of functions that stories may fulfill. Finally, the results highlight the importance of cultural elements in understanding the general context surrounding IS practices and explore in more detail two very contemporary IS activities: implementing team reorganization (change) and managing outsourcing relationships.




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