Organization studies is a multidisciplinary field that investigates what happens in and around organizations. Seeking new understandings as well as better ways of organizing, researchers deploy a variety of perspectives and methods to explore questions, such as how everyday work is managed and the role of power and gender in organizational life.
We teach and do research in organization studies in close interplay with international researchers and wider public audiences. Our profile is marked by a longstanding engagement in close-up empirical studies of organizational activities and processes, guided by critical perspectives and reflexive analysis.
Our current research covers a broad palette of topics, ranging from leadership, identity and branding to knowledge work, trust and change. We conduct empirical studies in several different types of organizations, such as high-tech corporations, government agencies, professional service firms and health care delivery organizations.
We aim to contribute to society with novel ideas, theoretical contributions, provocative thinking and rich, in-depth studies. Our research environment is creative, productive and well-integrated.
With still fairly limited managerialism and hierarchical and bureaucratic constraints, we have a lot of discretion and freedom. Some of the research is very influential, both academically and in society, and is often quoted in mainstream media.
Examples of current research
Brand orientations in the public sector
Public organizations increasingly follow a brand orientation. They view themselves primarily through the lens of branding, spend resources on communicating what they do, and specifically on creating attractive and legitimate images of themselves.
Our research aims to generate a systematic analysis of organizational and societal consequences – productive as well as destructive – of the processes and outcomes of a brand orientation in public organizations. This is done through qualitative case studies of city organizations in Sweden and in the United States.
Contact: Jens Rennstam
Leadership and functional stupidity in organizations
Our researchers study structures and processes in organizations and how these contribute to or against various outcomes, with a specific focus on lack of rationality and thoughtfulness in organization.
Our research is known by its critical awareness and empirical depth. It adds insights about problems and possibilities in managerial work and leadership. It gives input to better understandings and encourages more reflective managerial and organisational practices.
The concept of functional stupidity and the understanding of this phenomenon – limited thinking and acting outside a narrow set of assumptions and prescriptions – can encourage resistance and broader reflection, and lead to more thoughtful organizational work and better performance.
Contact: Mats Alvesson
More reading – books
- Reflexive Leadership. Organizing in an Imperfect World. (Also published in Swedish. Awarded the HR book of the year in Sweden 2018)
- Managerial Lives. Leadership and Identity in an Imperfect World
- The Stupidity Paradox. The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work. (Also published in Italian, Turkish, Chinese and Swedish)
- Return to Meaning
More reading: Interviews and news articles
Life of measures
In this project our researchers critically examine the development and use of psychometric measures in leadership studies and their impact on client organizations. The aim is to study the life of measures in the (often contrasting) domains of science and business. We want to contribute to a sociological understanding of the relations between academic knowledge production and leadership assessment.
Contact: Sverre Spoelstra
Managing healthcare by numbers
The project ‘Managing Healthcare by Numbers’ investigates what happens in everyday work when it is managed by multiple forms of quantified control. Designed as an ethnographic case study, the project explores how numbers figure in daily work, how control by numbers affects work practices, and the implications for central goals of healthcare, especially quality of care.
Contact: Charlotta Levay
The meaning of work
How is the meaning of work experienced? Which types of meaning do employees see in their jobs? How does it affect employees to work in jobs that are not experienced as very meaningful? These are some of the questions addressed in this field.
In surveys, the meaning of work is usually measured employing a couple of questions whereby many conceptual nuances are lost.
In this project, we elaborate from three types of meaning:
- Individual meaning that employees personally see in the job
- Organizational meaning, i.e. whether employees feel that they are needed at the workplace
- Global meaning which depends on whether employees experience that they are contributing to the outside world through their work.
Analyzing how these types of meaning overlap among employees can offer a new understanding of the meaning(s) of work.
We currently have a project where the main aim is to identify and analyse situations at work in which employees experience a subtype of performance anxiety called “workplace anxiety”. Workplace anxiety refers to the emotional nervousness and apprehension of doing poorly at work.
Contact: Roland Paulsen
Trust-based public management
We conduct research on trust as a governance mechanism in the public sector, as balanced with market/incentives and bureaucracy/regulation. In Sweden, this is sometimes referred to as trust-based public management. This line of research includes studies on the role of professions after New Public Management, whistle-blowing, good governance and distributed leadership.
Contact: Louise Bringselius
Big Science and Society, BISS
BISS is one of Lund University’s thematic cooperation initiatives and gathers researchers from four faculties and fourteen external partners (from the public and private sectors) in collaborative activities. In BISS, academic knowledge in various fields is combined with experience and competence of the collaborative partners to deal with issues concerning the launch of two major new research facilities, ESS and MAX IV in Lund.
Lund University Network for Big Science and Society, LUNBISS
A loosely knit network of researchers from several faculties of the university, with the central node at the Lund University School of Economics and Management. The network stimulates creation of new projects and studies of topics in the social sciences, humanities, economics, and legal studies pertinent to the two major new research facilities ESS and MAX IV.
Both of the projects are led by Olof Hallonsten from the Lund University School of Economics and Management.
Contact: Olof Hallonsten
Branding of Higher Education
The interplay between branding, image and identity at higher education institutions exerts significant and pervasive impact on society as a whole. This project aims to acquire a better understanding of branding and related activities at higher education institutions, notably business schools. The project entails in-depth studies of the meaning and consequences of efforts to brand higher education institutions, with particular focus on its effects on identity and knowledge production: How do researchers, teachers and students respond to the increasingly pervasive investments to make them accept and be committed to particular claims of what their institution is supposed to stand for?