The enterprise and its underworld: A comparative study of organizational analysis in an Australian and in an English building society.

  • Roger Clive Smith

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE STUDY, THE LOGIC OF THE THESIS AND THE CONCLUSIONS REACHED. This thesis presents the background, design, implementation and results of a study into the relationship between the official, manifest system within organizations and the unofficial, underlying or underworld system which meshes with that manifest system. The vehicles for the study were two Building Societies - one in Australia, the Home Building Society and one in England, the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society. In addition to the operational comparisons offered by these Societies, the study also involved a consideration of the analytical process as a key element in understanding organizations and initiating change programmes. The study covers a four year period from 1978, when work commenced in the Australian Society through 1979 and a period of orientation at the University of Bath and 1980 when research was carried out in the English Society, to 1981 when the Australian Society was revisited. In this thesis these events are described in historical order followed by an interpretation of the research into theoretical terms. Although some quantitative data was generated it was not processed completely and the methodology is essentially qualitatively based. The decision to not proceed with a comprehensive analysis of the quantitative questionnaire data was based on a major finding of the study. This was that the data reflected the manifest system expectations and differed markedly from data generated by interviews and observation which reflected the underworld reality of the organization, i.e. questionnaire data was at best doubtful and at worst invalid. Some propositions put forward relate to underworld activity being the key to efficiency, organizations operating using at least one more level than they need, and the cultural background of researchers biasing international comparisons. Two models which attempt to marry the dialectic of the two systems studied with an analytical framework are also proposed. A conclusion reached is that development of analytical technique for discovering the underworld should be more concerned with handling data than with generating data. The method of presenting data to clients is also noted as worthy of more attention. Special attention is given to the difficulties of reconciling roles when a researcher is also a consultant and sometimes a specialist adviser for the same contract. In order to help readers understand why the researcher did or did not do what is perfectly obvious to them he should or should not have done, he has included many of his feelings about the research and its effect upon him. The thesis is written in the first person for this reason.
Date of Award1982
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath

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