An intervention in a start-up software development company

  • Norman Gilbert Evans

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate - CDU


    This dissertation explores an intervention in a start-up software development company. The action research approach was based in constructivist philosophy, and addressed the identification and resolution of intractable problems by challenging the participants to iteratively formulate tasks, enact those tasks, and reflect upon the outcomes.

    The intervention demonstrated that an action learning process could only succeed while the group was open to learning, and that powerful team members were able to undermine the group's learning when they felt uncomfortable with the directions in which that learning took them. Even when the entrepreneurs were open to learning, the pressures inherent in starting a new business, together with their preconceptions, made it difficult for them to learn and particularly to 'learn to learn'.

    The ability or otherwise of participants to learn was explored using constructs of change, power dynamics, process consulting, action learning, and groupbehaviour.

    The reflective process had demonstrable value to add, even in the high-pressure environment of a high-tech start-up. Participants in a high-techstart-up could not however afford to focus on learning as an end. Their constraints on time and money drove them to focus on commercial goals, using whatever knowledge would assist in achieving those goals.

    The intervention generated local theory which led repeatedly back to four related notions:
    1. The bias of entrepreneurs is a significant factor in defining the direction of a new business.
    2. When entrepreneurs retain effective control of the business, they retain the power to enforce their bias.
    3. When entrepreneurs are under extreme pressure, and new information conflicts with their biases, they are likely to use their power to ensure that contrary information finds no voice.
    The idiosyncratic perspective of the entrepreneur provides both a start-up greatest asset (innovation) and greatest risk factor (obstinacy).
    Date of AwardNov 2003
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMurray Keith Redman (Supervisor)

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