The Human Cost of a Management Failure: Organizational Downsizing at General Hospital

By Seth Allcorn; Howell S.Baum et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

The Case in Perspective

HOWELL BAUM’S FINAL ANALYSIS

Questions of Method

This project was an experiment in method. Would it be possible to understand an episode in organizational restructuring by interpreting notes from three sets of interviews with twenty-three middle managers? In particular, would responses to twenty-five questions in interviews usually lasting an hour or less provide data on which meaningful psychoanalytically sensitive interpretations could be based?

When I started this project, I was sensitive to its methodological weaknesses. The questions did not ask about people’s personal histories; it would be difficult to speculate about how their personalities affected their reactions to organizational change. Because I would not do the interviews, I could not directly know how the interview situation might affect what they would say. For example, if people came to have mixed feelings about restructuring, they might select Allcorn as the audience for their angry feelings while telling him little about any ways they supported restructuring.

Because I was not interviewing the managers, I could not ask follow-up questions to encourage them to say more about anything that puzzled them or me. I could not get the tacit sense of these other persons that an interview relationship allows. Not being on the scene at all, I would be unable to know about the situation from information that was “around.”

Moreover, since the interviews would not be taped, Allcorn’s notes would be his distillations of what people said. In my work, I have recorded hundreds of interviews in handwritten notes. Over the years,

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