Skip to main content


Investigating the process of developing belief systems


Speaker:Stephen Jollands, University of Exeter Business School
Date: Wednesday 7 March 2012
Time: 2pm
Location: Streatham Court 0.28

Further details

Simons (1995, 2000) includes belief systems as part of his levers of control framework. These belief systems primarily consist of the core values that guide and motivate an organisation. In this paper we seek to examine how these core values develop within the belief systems. We also seek to understand how this process is influenced by and acts upon the other levers of control. To achieve this aim we carried out a longitudinal case study analysed through the theoretical lens of Actor-Network Theory. In our case study organisation we found that the process involved two translations. The first, short translation involved few actors, little complexity and created an ostensive definition for the core value. The ostensive definition was necessary for creating the space within which the second, long translation occurred. The second, long translation involved many actors, more complexity and was focused on actors within the case study organisation trying to develop a performative definition for the core value. During the second, long translation other non-human actors; that could be classified as boundary systems, diagnostic control systems, or interactive control systems; were enrolled as actors explored how to define what must be done in order to realise the core value. That is senior managers utilised the other levers of control to help them better understand what the grand purpose of the organisation could be, gain an understanding of the potential commitment to this grand purpose, and assess the ability of existing capabilities within the organisation for the implementation of a strategy based on the potential grand purpose. In doing so we see the belief systems of Simons; mission and vision; only become effective in enrolling actors into supporting the goals of the senior management as a result of the development in the second, long translation of a performative definition of the core value in question. That is the mere existence of a core values may not inspire the intended search and discovery but rather this is achieved through the process of actors trying to understand what must be done in order to realise the core value in practice.