Basic Social Process to Strategic Organisational Process: Grounded Theory Development
Grounded theory analysis ultimately derives a core category that explains a phenomenon under investigation (Glaser, 1992; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Goulding, 2002). Historically these core categories are a single expression of a social process, representing a specific behaviour of an individual occurring over time. While grounded theory has traditionally been used by sociologists to investigate social processes within traditional contexts, contemporary exceptions are apparent. These exceptions have re-focussed grounded theory into areas such as management, marketing, strategic alliances and consumer behaviour (Goulding, 2002; Locke, 2001). The connecting similarity between these studies and traditional grounded theory is the focus on action/interaction between individuals, continuing the notion of a social process. Grounded theory analysis progressively integrates and saturates these interactive processes. The categories are then scrutinised and tested for any linkages so that higher levels of abstraction emerge until one overarching social process emerges which links all lower level concepts. This final category is known as a basic social process (Parry, 2004). While grounded theory has traditionally focussed on the interaction and social influence between individuals, the notion of applying the same method to inter-organisational (or brand) behaviour appears to be possible when logic is applied. An analogy is drawn between a basic social process and a superordinate organisational process; both being representations of influence over time. This argument therefore posits that many individuals, working in conjunction, directly influence an organisation to interact with other organisations at a macro level. Hence, if the 'mind' of an organisation could be derived in a similar fashion to that of an individual, grounded theory appears to be applicable. These definitions can be linked and appear to support an argument that an organisation's behaviour could be observed from a combination of individuals' actions and that subsequently action/interaction between organisations could take place. It is important to note that this concept of social process does not exclude the incorporation of psychological, structural or cultural constructs. Therefore, this paper is concerned with inter-organisational relationships and the subsequent incorporation of this strategy into grounded theory analysis.
7th International Iinstitute for Qualitative Methodology Conference Advances in Qualitative Methods 13-15 July 2006