Practice and Process Studies

We offer a multi-level research approach and provide a framework for working closely with policy makers, NGOs and industry to drive change and enhanced outcomes on macro level societal issues and on organisational issues.

Our work ranges from supporting market and system-level changes to helping organisations coordinate a remote workforce, or generate new strategic directions. Using PPS methodologies, government departments, organisations and communities can envision, plan for and adapt to pressing societal issues in a way that supports staff and culture.

Our research is informed by practice theory and process theory, which have gained significant influence in advancing theory across disciplinary boundaries, including management, strategy, information systems, accounting, marketing, and finance.

Four interconnected areas of focus underpin our research:

  1. Strategy
  2. Societal shifts and challenges
  3. Entrepreneurship
  4. Advancing practice and process theory

PPS Insights and news

Grand Societal Challenges PPS

Organisations are increasingly confronted with rapidly evolving challenges that affect how they strategise and what they consider strategic. Adopting a practice and process approach to studying how organisations, NGOs, governments and societies deal with new societal and critical challenges promises enormous potential to understand how micro-level activities influence these macro-level concerns. These challenges relate to, among others, rapidly advancing climate change, tensions around diversity, equality and inclusion, fracturing globalisation and organising in extreme contexts. Members of PPS are working on multiple topics in these areas, including disaster resilience for homeowners, sustaining insurance markets in the face of growing disaster, tackling insidious risk in mining, disaster and emergency response, labour inequality in the gig economy and collective action on disaster response. Our hub members can support research partners with:

  • Multi-stakeholder governance and cross-sector collaboration to tackle grand challenges
  • Mapping systemic problems within and generating steps to act upon grand challenges
  • Evaluating policy, development and humanitarian initiatives aimed at addressing grand challenges
  • Designing practices and processes for tackling specific aspects of grand challenges

Members: Paula Jarzabkowski, Paul Spee, Katie Meissner, Tyler Riordan, Corinne Unger, Rhianna Gallagher-Rodgers, Fannie Couture

Strategy PPS

Formulating and executing strategy is quintessential for any organisation, NGO or government department. Yet, it also raises some of the most challenging questions, around ‘what should we focus on next?’, or ‘how to best coordinate resources and staff’ to name but two. Practice process study has worked with executives, boards, government departments and managers to help and plan for these types of questions.

Our research focuses on the behavioural and social dynamics, processes and practices that characterise organisational strategy.

Practice process studies play an integral part in organisational development, helping to navigate strategic change processes – positioning an organisation in an industry.  An example of this may include moving a from bricks and mortar business model to new differentiated digital offerings that compete in a rapidly evolving platform.

We help organisations plan for the questions:

  • What are we doing in five or ten years time?
  • What practices and processes do we need to implement or adapt to achieve this strategic change?

Some examples of PPS helping to strategically plan for the future include new processes and practices for research and development initiatives and entrepreneurship.

Members: Paul SpeePaula JarzabkowskiRichard O’Quinn and Anna Stephens

Skillful Performance PPS

One of the most vexing questions for governments, educational institutions and companies is: What defines knowing and learning in skillful performance?

We deploy a PPS perspective to advance our understanding of what defines knowing (e.g. capabilities, knowledge, competence) and learning in the skillful performance of individuals, groups and organisations. Addressing this question is critical as it enables us to know what to focus on and what to do in order to enhance the performance of individuals, groups and organisations in society.

Members: Jorgen SandbergJohanna Kho and Richard O'Quinn

Entrepreneurship PPS

We move away from the predominant focus on ‘the’ individual entrepreneur, instead recognising that the progress of new ventures (startups) is closely tied to entrepreneurs performing well-known scripts, such as the lean startup.

Our research examines the development of the startup ecosystem, with a particular focus on South East Queensland and Australia. We follow entrepreneurs in real-time, to analyse how they create startups, what works and what doesn’t.

We build theory to explain why some startups are successful and others shut down. This includes their approach to networking and building customer relations, how they create and practice their pitch and how they gain customer relationships and investor relationships.

Members: Anna JenkinsPaul SpeeFrederik Von Briel, Sara Ekberg, Johanna Kho and Alexandra Kriz

Advancing practice and process theory

Advancing PPS theory is important for how we actually provide future managers with organisational templates. Say you are looking at a classroom, PPS also dissects what it means to teach in the first place.

The purpose of this focus is to advance these theories in order to improve and refine the overall PPS perspective. Central here is to better understand the philosophical underpinnings of practice and process theories, as well as their boundaries.

Such understandings are critical as they provide important platforms for further developing practice and process theories in a way that enable us to use them more closely to examine what defines organisational and management practices and how they are performed.

Members: Paula Jarzabkowski, Jorgen SandbergPaul SpeeAndrew Burton-Jones and Hari Tsoukas

Evaluating resilience effects of disaster risk reduction programs

As our climate continues to change, improving the resilience of urban/residential areas exposed to multiple hazards is ever more critical. Post-disaster reconstruction programs, such as Australia’s Resilient Homes Fund (RHF), have been adopted on the basis that investing in resilience measures in the home can significantly reduce the effort, cost and time to recover from disasters. The RHF, which is being implemented across areas affected by the 2021-22 floods, includes three funded programs: the “Resilient Retrofit program”, the “Home Raising program” and the “Voluntary Home Buy-Back program”. Globally, post-disaster reconstruction programs such as the RHF are not commonly assessed due to time constraints and stresses as programs are often rolled out quickly to rebuild before subsequent disasters. Additionally, there is a lack of standard metrics and data challenge efforts to track community recovery post-disasters. This 2-year project aims to address this gap and provide policy guidelines by evaluating the RHF program against the desired outcome of increasing the physical, financial, social and emotional resilience of disaster-affected individuals and communities in withstanding and recovering from future disasters. 

UQ Researchers: Paula Jarzabkowski, Laurel Johnson, Matthew Mason, Katie Meissner, Alicia Rambaldi, Tyler Riordan, Neil Taylor, Stephanie Wyeth

Industry Collaboration: Queensland Reconstruction Authority; Department of Planning, Local Government, Housing, and Public Works

Collective action and collaborative governance

This project tackles the challenges that coordinated collective action faces in situations of complex crisis. It generates novel scholarly knowledge that addresses the question of how a heterogeneous collective of actors that transcends organisational and institutional boundaries can establish, sustain, restore and organise the capacity to act and make appropriate decisions in crisis situations. The expected outcomes include an improved theoretical understanding of multi-actor collaborative governance in crisis situations by identifying obstacles and governance gaps that need to be overcome. This should provide significant benefits in terms of national and international response strategies to crisis situations of various kind.

UQ Researcher: Paul Spee

Reconfiguring the insurance ecosystem for hazard-prone communities

Increasingly, communities around Australia are on an adaptation journey to a new normal following devastating flood, bushfire and cyclone events. Many of these communities find that their social, environmental and economic value are jeopardised by lack of access to disaster insurance for post-disaster reconstruction, or for post-disaster economic stability, and lack levers for tying risk mitigation to improved access to insurance.  These communities are increasingly expressing waning trust for the key public sector, government and financial institutions, such as insurance, that they may traditionally have relied upon as partners in disaster response and resilience. This project involves working with select communities to adjust to this new normal, including ways to expand the insurance ecosystem to improve access to property insurance within an open and transparent dialogue with the communities about hazards, risk mitigation and disaster recovery and reconstruction.

UQ Researchers: Paula Jarzabkowski, Matthew Mason, Katie Meissner, Neil Taylor

Board gender parity in listed public companies: where to from here?

In collaboration with the University of Exeter, examining how the business communities of the United Kingdom and Australia have brought about the dramatic increase of the presence of women board members in the FTSE250 and ASX200 respectively and what can be done to progress towards board gender parity in the future.    
UQ researchers: Terrance Fitzsimmons and Professor Victor Callan    
Industry collaboration: Australian Institute of Company Directors

Employer of choice for gender equality: leading practices in strategy, policy and implementation 

A report examining the Workplace Gender Equality Agency Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation application data for 119 firms across five years. The report summarises all leading practices in gender equality interventions in Australian firms.     
UQ researchers: Terrance Fitzsimmons and Professor Victor Callan    
Industry collaboration: Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Mediational and non-mediational theories in management research: Advancing practical theorizing

Introducing and elaborating the notion of non-mediational theories, such as practice and process theories, and how they can help management researchers to produce theories more relevant and valuable to both scholars and practitioners.
UQ researchers: Jorgen Sandberg and Hari Tsoukas

The research process: Conventional and alternative images

We metaphorise the entire research process to facilitate reflection and new angles on carrying out research that will lead to more imaginative, impactful and engaging research.
UQ researcher: Jorgen Sandberg and Mats Alvesson

Understanding collective consumer resistance to sustainability interventions 

One of the most important questions today for governments, marketers and policy makers is to create and facilitate more sustainable consumption. This project applies a practice-theoretical perspective to understand the often strong collective consumer resistance to sustainability interventions.
UQ researchers: Claudia Gonzalez, Alison Joubert and Jorgen Sandberg

Deepening and expanding the philosophical platform for practice and process theory

An ongoing effort to further advance practice and process theory through consolidating and developing its philosophical platform.
UQ researchers: Jorgen Sandberg and Hari Tsoukas

Effective use of electronic medical records

This is a longitudinal (5+ year) study of the Digital Hospital transformation in Queensland. Related data collection has occurred and will occur in Vancouver Coastal Health.      
UQ researchers: Andrew Burton-JonesPaul SpeeSaeed Akhlaghpour, Gongtai Wang and Natalie Smith
Industry collaboration: eHealth Qld, Metro South Health and Vancouver Coastal Health

Investigating the role of person-independent factors in entrepreneurship

Developing and empirically testing theory about the influence of person-independent factors such as technological advances, socio-demographic developments, or policy changes on entrepreneurship processes and their outcomes.
UQ researcher: Frederik Von Briel

Investigating the transformative potential of digital technologies for value creation 

Developing and empirically testing theory about the role of digital technologies in enabling and potentially upending value creation such as by unlocking novel forms of innovation processes.
UQ researcher: Frederik Von Briel

Shaping the future: a framing analysis of the strategic decision-making process in boards

Examines the processes directors use to resolve significant issues during decision making. Uses a longitudinal, ethnographic approach, including boardroom observation, interviewing, and document analysis. This study finds that subtle behaviours in the boardroom can direct attention and that expertise on the board can be marginalised unless supported by other resources.    
UQ researcher: Tracy Martin
Industry collaboration: Financial services organisation

Enabling exits from disadvantage for youth via gaining and sustaining meaningful hospitality employment

UQ researcher: Richard Robinson
Industry collaboration: Multicap, The Salvation Army, William Angliss Institute, Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works and Wesley Mission Queensland
Funding: The University of Queensland Development Fellowship (Industry Capacity Area) ($248,786)

Unlocking benefits from digital investments through meaningful use 

What it takes to obtain benefits from digital hospital investments with a particular focus on learning what it takes to use new electronic medical record systems effectively.  
UQ researchers: Paul SpeeSaeed Akhlaghpour and Brenda Gannon
Industry collaboration: Metro South Health and Vancouver Coastal Health

From glamour to clamour: Investigating mental health and well-being interventions for young chefs

UQ researcher: Richard Robinson
Industry collaboration: William Angliss Institute and Australian Culinary Federation
Funding: UQ Foundation Research Excellence Awards ($70,000)

Transformational training models for transitioning the homeless to hospitality employment

UQ researcher: Richard Robinson
Industry collaboration: The Salvation Army and William Angliss Institute
Funding: The Salvation Army & Bel Connect Grant Scheme ($55,000)

Research partnership agreement: Investigating the effectiveness of charity delivery

UQ researcher: Richard Robinson
Industry collaboration: St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland
Funding: St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland and University of Queensland, Institute for Social Science Research ($225,000)

Hospitality and tourism: youth employment project

UQ researcher: Richard Robinson
Funding: Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Restaurant & Catering Australia and Tourism and Travel Forum, Scholarship Fund ($66,000)

Hands up for gender equality

A report examining the responses of 10,000 adolescents to the topic of leadership, confidence, gender stereotypes and career intentions. The report examines the controversial divide in boy’ and girls’ confidence and understanding of gender stereotypes and their links to gender divides in the Australian workforce.     
UQ researcher: Terrance Fitzsimmons    
Industry collaboration: Alliance of Girl Schools Australasia and Australian Gender Equality Council 

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