|Sažetak (engleski)|| |
Humans are not just passive recipients of information. Humans organize received information, compare it to what is familiar and with their experiences to make sense of the world they are surrounded with (Dervin, 1976). This process is continuous, and it is part of human nature to constantly question the unknown. In moments when individuals or groups find themselves in situations where their familiar routine (reality) is disturbed by an external disruptive cause or event, they have a natural need to understand what is changing by extracting the cause (threat to reality) and interpreting it. This cognitive process is called sensemaking. Going through a sensemaking process individuals continuously notice, filter, weigh, and aggregate numerous information into a new unique and all-encompassing view of the newly created state (reality), as long as they haven’t made sense of the change. Sensegiving on the other hand involves efforts of the group (organization/institution) leaders in understanding the reasons and purpose behind the change, and their interpretation, subsequently communicating a redefined vision and strategy to influence group members and increase the probability of successfully implementing change. Sensegiving in its essence is communication and knowledge sharing and like sensemaking is triggered only in moments when reality is disturbed by a threat or cause. In times of globalization, high competitiveness, fast information flows and spread, change and threats to reality have become a common climate in business environments. This thesis focuses on changes in the context of public universities in Croatia. International university rankings have become an increasingly important topic for discussions not just in academic circles, but also within the public. Previous research has shown that international university rankings represent a strong cause or threat in questioning how members perceive their university. The empirical part of this thesis will therefore be based on a case of the THE (Times Higher Education) World University Ranking 2018, which has attracted the attention of the Croatian public, as the University of Split has for the first time outperformed the University of Zagreb. Such a change in ranking is not in line with the general perception of the two largest public universities in the country. The before mentioned position change has been taken as a cause, and this thesis has explored the impact on scientists and university staff using the sensemaking framework, as well as sensegiving micro-practices carried out by university leaders. The thesis "The impact of international rankings on Croatian universities through the lens of sensegiving and sensemaking" is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the dissertation itself, and briefly describes the purpose, objectives, and research questions, as well as data sources and research methods. The second chapter presents the concepts of sensemaking and sensegiving which the theoretical frameworks of this dissertation are based on and presents a historical overview, theory, models, and applications. The third chapter of the dissertation describes the university ranking theory. The fourth chapter of the dissertation reviews the research context of this dissertation and presents details of the selected international university ranking "Times Higher Education University Rankings", research methodology and provides an overview of all phases, steps and related undergone activities to present methodological principles, data collection techniques, sample, and all other components of the conducted research. The fifth chapter is entirely devoted to the presentation of research results. The "Model of Response to Organizational Identity Threats in Circumstances of Limited Mobility” is introduced as an outcome. The Model describes the impact of international university rankings on the sensemaking process of scientists and university staff at universities in the Republic of Croatia on one side, as well as sensegiving micro-practices of leaders on the other side. Based on the acquired knowledge, recommendations are made for the improvement of internal communications within the universities, as well as and recommendations for the improvement of sensegiving micropractices. The last two chapters of the dissertation are the discussion and a comprehensive conclusion. This thesis seeks to understand, explain, and specify the cognitive sensemaking process of scientists and university staff of public universities in the Republic of Croatia when facing a strong external organizational identity threat towards the organization to which they belong to. The objectives of this dissertation are to explore the impact of international rankings on the sensemaking process of scientists and university staff at universities in the Republic of Croatia, and on the other hand to analyze sensegiving micro-practices in the context of the newly established changes. This thesis is led by two research questions answering (Q1) how university leaders in the Republic of Croatia perceive their role in the context of giving sense to the results achieved on international university rankings, and (Q2) which sensegiving micro-practices are conducted. In the empirical part of the thesis, 42 members of the scientific and teaching staff of the University of Zagreb and the University of Split are interviewed. Firstly, their understanding of university rankings and the specific results achieved, more precisely the reversal in the results that they all witnessed, is studied. Research was conducted on employees as well as university leaders applying the methodological principles of sensemaking theory according to Dervin (1972), the originator of the sensemaking theory in the field of Information Sciences. In addition, to better understand the existing sensegiving micro-practices, content analysis is conducted, including 106 data sources. The empirical part of the paper is designed as qualitative. There are several reasons why this research approach was chosen. First, a qualitative approach provides a better insight into the perspective of the respondents, which is primarily important in order not to start from assumptions about what the respondents are like, but to investigate what they really are in depth. Qualitative approaches are suitable for examining aspects that cannot be quantified and are more sensitive to the dynamics of the organizational context. A qualitative approach allows open-ended testing (Edmondson and McManus, 2007) which is important to investigate how respondents understand change, how they feel, what their needs are, as well as their underlying motivators. The research does not want to test previously defined assumptions or models, but the goal of the research is to gather information to consequently define models. There is a significant difference between the universities of Western countries compared to the Republic of Croatia or wider, the region of Southeast Europe. The difference lies in the lower possibility of migration of scientists and staff from one institution to another, which means that members of such organizations are more attached to the institution they belong to and its reputation than to their title or profession (Tipurić et al., 2018). This specificity is a strong element that distinguishes the context in which the empirical part of this paper was conducted compared to existing research conducted in the context of university rankings at international, often private, most prestigious universities operating in a highly competitive environment of developed countries. Given this specificity of the research context, the primary contribution of the dissertation to sensemaking theory lies in creating a conceptual "Model of Response to Organizational Identity Threats in Circumstances of Limited Mobility", according to which a member facing external identity threats goes through four phases, assessing the threat, accepting the reality of the threat, pointing out the need for organizational change all the way to taking personal responsibility for change. The model derived from this dissertation confirms and supplements the current theoretical knowledge on the university ranking theory, the theory of university management, and the organizational identity theory. Specifically, it contributes to (1) a more complete and clearer picture of the processes taking place on the side of organization members in which they determine whether a particular event is a threat that will lead them to question the organizational identity. Furthermore, this thesis contributes to (2) understanding one of the roles of emotions in the sensemaking process on a concrete example, which is the decisive factor according to which an individual enters the sensemaking process as such. This dissertation further contributes to (3) understanding the role of responsibility, which is the natural response of members of an organization in the context of limited migration opportunities. In this dissertation, and in the context of university ranking theory, an additional (4) understanding of the affirmation of organizational identity is gained by comparing with isolated components of other universities or highlighting other rankings, while making sense of the poorer ranking results. In the context of sensegiving micro-practices, analyzing the 106 data sources in this dissertation, the existing sensegiving micro-practices of Croatian universities can be described with four main characteristics. (1) Success in university rankings is very rarely part of the strategic documentation of universities and constituents. (2) The most comprehensive source of information on university rankings are university newspapers. 3) Other communication channels are university's websites and press releases. (4) While reporting about university rankings, the media mainly focuses on the ranking itself, the categories as part of the methodology and the best ranked universities. In the case of more extensive reports, the media transmits press releases prepared by universities or third-party statements. Conducted research has therefore shown very scarce micro-practices and thus a space for improvement addressed in practical recommendations. In the practical implications of the paper, guidelines for improving sensegiving micro-practice addressing internal communications of the university aimed at improving the process, communication of change, the need for education, and the sustainability of change. This dissertation also sheds light on the importance of university leadership. The university leadership plays a key role in the management of their organization, although they are often unaware of their influence (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1999), which is confirmed in the empirical part of this dissertation. According to Gioia and Chittipeddi (1991:445) speeches, appeals, meetings with members of the organization, and selection of members of the organization in the context of promotion are just some of the activities that make a strong symbol of the leadership. Those symbols serve as strong enablers to inform, guide, and motivate university members. Relevant sensegiving activities can therefore enhance the creation of common goals by members of the organization (Mantere et al., 2012), and encourage a positive attitude towards change (Stensaker et al., 2008). The leadership of any type of institution, including universities, should, first of all understand the sensemaking needs of its people and offer answers to the questions about why certain changes occur, and give convincing relevant arguments (Kim et al., 2011), but in the literature it is still not fully clarified how they should do this, which makes an interesting space for additional empirical research and where the additional contribution of this dissertation is seen. Kezar and Eckel (2002) describe the interdependence of key strategies and operational mechanisms whose synergy contributes to the sensegiving process in a higher education context. In their research conducted on 28 campuses, Eckel and Kezar (2003) show that change in the management of higher education institutions can only be implemented by going through a sensegiving and sensemaking process. In this context, the contribution of this dissertation is significant, which also looks at the sensemaking process triggeres by an organizational identity threat, as well as sensegiving micro-practice, which result in a holistic approach while proposing practical recommendations. This dissertation also contributes to emphasizing the importance of the growing role of the media in the context of organizational life. Especially in today's world, the role of the media is more than a reflection of reputation - it is already an active role of jointly creating an image of the organization seen by society and the general public (Bednar, 2012), especially in the context of important participants of social development such as universities. Although a specific case of university rankings is studied in this paper in the context of threats to organizational identity, the proposed Model is applicable in the context of various external threats to organizational identity in organizations characterized by low mobility, such as unique narrowly focused organizations or specific public institutions. The space for future research is also seen in the application of the Model in such comparable organizations.