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A postmodern glimpse : the principles of Mary Parker Follett in a contemporary workplace



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This thesis was undertaken to explore the philosophical principles elaborated by Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) and to examine their relevance in the contemporary workplace. The contention within this thesis was that concepts Follett expounded bear close resemblance to postmodern notions of organizing; juxtaposition of Follettian and postmodern philosophy and a postmodern take on research methodology add credence to the contention and allowed the researcher to examine the practical relevance of the notions explored. A case study within a manufacturing company provided the venue for the practical exploration of Follett's ideas. The original intent of the researcher to conduct focus groups interviews, which would lead to a contextually relevant survey instrument, was changed by the participants. Observation and interviews, which the employees of SEI preferred, allowed an examination of several of the most important of Follett's ideas: "power-with" rather than "power-over"; the "law of the situation"; democratic "small group government"; integration as a more favourable manner of dealing with conflict over voluntary withdrawal, domination, and compromise; the benefits of coordination; circular response in the creation of people; and individual and society as process. The stories of the participants are told and contemporary insights add to those provided by Follett over seven decades ago. It was found that many of Follett's ideas have applicability in a contemporary company. The interviewees displayed exceptional ability to comment regarding the application of Follettian principles within their workplace setting. My integration as researcher-participant allowed for personal transformation based on the experience of the research with its collaboration with the employees, lending credence to the most profound of Follett's insights--the reciprocal creation of people--the circular manner in which we create as we communicate. The significance of the study lies in the process itself--the opportunities provided for the circular creating and communicating of meaning. The study may encourage readers to reexamine the nature of their relationships, as well. While that examination is not the purpose of this research--no claim of generalizability is offered--it is hoped that others may learn lessons from the documentation of the process of this study.



participant observation, learning organization, organizational theory, postmodernism



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Administration


Educational Administration



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