Doing Corporate Ethnography As An Outsider<br />Mary Walker, VP Organizational Development, Rackspace <br />Society for Ap...
Definitions <br />
What do we mean by<br />“Doing Ethnography”?<br />
Corporate Ethnography: from  traditional ethnography…<br />
…to “para-ethnography” <br />
Most of what happens in corporations is para-ethnography<br />Ethnography conducted via ESP<br />Meaning-making activities...
Corporate para-ethnography = activities with an ethnographic mindset - seek understanding & insight into people’s day-to-d...
Classic deep ethnography<br /><ul><li> Done by professional (usually academic)  ethnographers
 Long term study (years)
  On-site, in-person
  In person /participant observation </li></ul>Objectives: <br /><ul><li> Develop a deep understanding of the full scope o...
  Contribute to knowledge of the field & of humanity in general  </li></ul>Para-ethnography <br /><ul><li>  Usually done b...
 Short-term (days, weeks, months)
  In-person and/or remote/mediated </li></ul>Objectives:<br /><ul><li> Develop an understanding of a defined area of activ...
 Create recommendations for corporate action</li></li></ul><li>### of people doing adaptedor <br />para-ethnography<br />t...
External orientation (outside the organization)<br />Para-ethnographic disciplines <br />examples: market research, custom...
Back to definitions: What do we mean by “outsider”? <br />
Simplest answer: not an employee*<br />*But that’s not the only answer.     Depends on the organization & context. <br />
“Outsider-ness” in an organizational setting can be complicated…<br />Acting Leader of X <br />Executive of a support func...
An outsider is somebody who is not part of my…<br />Organizational Context <br />Organization<br />Department<br />Work gr...
The Outsider Experience: Re-creating the Hero’s Journey<br />(one project <br />at a time) <br />
Outside consultant on The Hero’s Journey<br />Objective <br />Companions<br />Crossing the Threshold<br />Meeting Helpers ...
What is your official objective? <br />(hint: they wrote it in your contract) <br />
What are the unofficial objectives? <br />Of the person who brought you in: <br />Outside expert brings credibility <br />...
Are you a lone hand? <br />Companions<br />Your outsider experience is heavily dependent on your companions -- other outsi...
Crossing the Threshold: going onsite<br />The physical environment of the client’s workplace is rich with information (mat...
Meeting & greeting <br />Introductions are ritualized encounters that establish a frame for your activities in the organiz...
 To whom, in what order
 What is & isn’t said
 Implied permission frame
 Body language, affect
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Sf aa mar 2011 outsider ethnography

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From panel talk on the experience of being an outside consultant, going into an organization to do a project. Wh

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  • Jaron Lanier (genius, Renaissance man, technologist &amp; musician) talks about how a narrow technologically-influenced mindset overvalues quantitative data compared to qualitative experience &amp; requires humans to adapt to machines, rather than the other way around.
  • Image of two people with tape recorder: www.wirelessmuse.com “Mumbai blogger and market researcher Dina Mehta (left) speaks with farmer Dhanaji Dongre about Nokia Life Tools. I&apos;m taking the photo sitting in a chair a foot or two away while Dina translates Dongre&apos;s Maranthi into English for me.”Group in room: from website http://www.surveymarketing.co.uk/market-research/qualitative-research
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  • Sf aa mar 2011 outsider ethnography

    1. 1. Doing Corporate Ethnography As An Outsider<br />Mary Walker, VP Organizational Development, Rackspace <br />Society for Applied Anthropology, Annual Conference March 2011<br />Panel on Corporate Ethnography: Various Topics<br />
    2. 2. Definitions <br />
    3. 3. What do we mean by<br />“Doing Ethnography”?<br />
    4. 4. Corporate Ethnography: from traditional ethnography…<br />
    5. 5. …to “para-ethnography” <br />
    6. 6. Most of what happens in corporations is para-ethnography<br />Ethnography conducted via ESP<br />Meaning-making activities that have “an ethnographic sensibility” <br />“…something that approximates ethnographic [activity]…”<br />“…an aspect of expert practice…” <br />“…an alternative and valid method of knowledge” [an alternative to quantitative methods of knowledge]<br />“Fast-Capitalism: Para Ethnography & the Rise of the Symbolic Analyst” by<br />Douglas R. Holmes & George C. Marcus. From Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy, editors Melissa Fischer & Greg Downey, 2005. <br />Smells like…ethnography<br />
    7. 7. Corporate para-ethnography = activities with an ethnographic mindset - seek understanding & insight into people’s day-to-day lives- avoid value judgments (shoulds, right-vs-wrong, smart-vs-stupid) - respect the full range, variety & weirdness of human experience - <br />We need more of this mindset in the world. <br />We need more of this mindset in <br />the world<br />Just ask Jaron Lanier<br />
    8. 8. Classic deep ethnography<br /><ul><li> Done by professional (usually academic) ethnographers
    9. 9. Long term study (years)
    10. 10. On-site, in-person
    11. 11. In person /participant observation </li></ul>Objectives: <br /><ul><li> Develop a deep understanding of the full scope of experience of the studied group
    12. 12. Contribute to knowledge of the field & of humanity in general </li></ul>Para-ethnography <br /><ul><li> Usually done by non-ethnographers (experts in other disciplines)
    13. 13. Short-term (days, weeks, months)
    14. 14. In-person and/or remote/mediated </li></ul>Objectives:<br /><ul><li> Develop an understanding of a defined area of activity (bounded scope)
    15. 15. Create recommendations for corporate action</li></li></ul><li>### of people doing adaptedor <br />para-ethnography<br />there are usually a lot more opportunities to do this - <br />- than to do this <br /># people doing classic ethnography (in organizational settings)<br />
    16. 16. External orientation (outside the organization)<br />Para-ethnographic disciplines <br />examples: market research, customer experience, product development, customer service, etc.<br />Study people outside the organization (customers etc.) with adapted ethno techniques<br />“Organizational Ethnography”<br />Study people inside the organization (employees) with adapted ethno techniques<br />Para-ethnographic disciplines <br />Examples: human resources, coaching, organizational development, process improvement, program/project management, etc.<br />Internal orientation (into the organization)<br />
    17. 17. Back to definitions: What do we mean by “outsider”? <br />
    18. 18. Simplest answer: not an employee*<br />*But that’s not the only answer. Depends on the organization & context. <br />
    19. 19. “Outsider-ness” in an organizational setting can be complicated…<br />Acting Leader of X <br />Executive of a support function<br />Full time W2 employee<br />Executive coach <br />Overseas affiliate <br />Temp-to-perm candidate<br />Auditor sent from headquarters to field<br />Executive of line function<br />Long-term on-site vendor <br />Internal consultant <br />Summer intern<br />Ex-employee, now contractor<br />You <br />…varies by context & observer <br />
    20. 20. An outsider is somebody who is not part of my…<br />Organizational Context <br />Organization<br />Department<br />Work group<br />Team <br />Seniority level<br />Job type<br />Location <br />Societal Context<br />Geographic<br />Ethnic<br />Linguistic<br />Religion<br />Social status<br />Wealth<br />Education<br />Family <br />
    21. 21. The Outsider Experience: Re-creating the Hero’s Journey<br />(one project <br />at a time) <br />
    22. 22. Outside consultant on The Hero’s Journey<br />Objective <br />Companions<br />Crossing the Threshold<br />Meeting Helpers & Hinderers<br />Road of Trials <br />Temptations <br />Completion <br />Separation & Departure <br />
    23. 23. What is your official objective? <br />(hint: they wrote it in your contract) <br />
    24. 24. What are the unofficial objectives? <br />Of the person who brought you in: <br />Outside expert brings credibility <br />Hit man to do my dirty work <br />Skill transfer to my internal people <br />Spend down my budget before I lose it <br />Experiment, fishing expedition <br />Responding to pressure from higher-ups <br />Scapegoat <br />Yours: <br />Your own learning<br />Promote humanistic values in the project, organization or profession <br />Get a new reference client <br />Learn a new company, industry, area, topic<br />Material for an article / book / presentation (cough, cough) <br />Figuring out your sponsor’s unofficial objectives is key <br />Know thyself<br />You have agency<br />What matters to you? <br />
    25. 25. Are you a lone hand? <br />Companions<br />Your outsider experience is heavily dependent on your companions -- other outsiders/consultants you’re working with (if any)<br />Or one of a group? <br />
    26. 26. Crossing the Threshold: going onsite<br />The physical environment of the client’s workplace is rich with information (material artifacts & context for behaviors and interactions). <br />
    27. 27. Meeting & greeting <br />Introductions are ritualized encounters that establish a frame for your activities in the organization. <br /><ul><li> Who introduces you
    28. 28. To whom, in what order
    29. 29. What is & isn’t said
    30. 30. Implied permission frame
    31. 31. Body language, affect
    32. 32. Status signaling </li></li></ul><li>Assessments & judgments <br />Ally? Opponent? Irrelevant / ignore? <br />
    33. 33. Meeting Helpers<br />& <br />Hinderers<br />As people assess your presence in their organization, they decide whether to help, obstruct or stand aside. Mapping allies, opponents & neutrals is part of the outsider experience. <br />
    34. 34. Road of Trials<br />They wouldn’t have hired you if they’d been able to easily do it for themselves. <br />There will be monsters and riddles and wolves in sheep’s clothing. <br />
    35. 35. Temptations<br /><ul><li> Telling clients what they want to hear
    36. 36. Avoiding sacred cows that need scrutiny
    37. 37. Looking the other way: ignoring uncomfortable implications
    38. 38. Thinking the project has no chance of success – but hey, the money’s good </li></li></ul><li>Completion of the project<br />Some projects fulfill every hope & expectation. <br />Most don’t. <br /><ul><li> Time pressure
    39. 39. Scope constraints
    40. 40. Changing priorities
    41. 41. Political battles
    42. 42. Your own imperfect skills in navigating challenges</li></ul>You still have to wrap it up & move on.<br />
    43. 43. Good-byes<br /><ul><li> Wrap-ups & hand-offs
    44. 44. Disposition of materials: notes, reports, etc.
    45. 45. Lessons learned: personal, group
    46. 46. Separation & departure rituals
    47. 47. Celebrations and gifts </li></li></ul><li>Weaknesses & hassles of being an outsider<br />Logistical: impaired access to office/plant location, space to work, computer network, phone, meeting invitations, email lists <br />Not part of their relationship network – out of communications loop <br />New kid feeling: lonely, superficial relationships, having to prove self to new people <br />Inefficiency: everything takes longer because you lack knowledge & connections<br />No benefits or perks (health care, 401k, PTO etc.) <br />
    48. 48. Strengths & joys of being an outsider<br />Variety: different projects, different organizations <br />Development of new skills in becoming a consultant <br />Psychological growth in “leaving the herd” - proving yourself, going it alone<br />Higher cash income than insiders <br />Easier to maintain independence & boundaries <br />
    49. 49. An idiosyncratic bibliography<br />Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege & Success. Currency/Doubleday, 2003. <br /> Jordan, Ann. Business Anthropology. Ann Jordan. Waveland Press, 2002. <br />Moeran, Brian. The Business of Ethnography: Strategic Exchange, People & Organizations. Berg Publishers, 2005. <br /> Schwartzman, Helen. Ethnography in Organizations. Sage Publications, 2002.<br /> Wolcott, Harry. Ethnography: A Way of Seeing. Altamira Press, 2nd edition, 2008. <br /> Wright, Susan. The Anthropology of Organizations. Routledge, 1994.<br /> Block, Peter. Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. Pfeiffer, 3rd edition, 2011. <br /> Cefkin, Melissa, editor. Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in and of Corporations. Berghahn Books, 2009. <br /> Gellner, David and Hirsh, Eric, editors. Inside Organizations: Anthropologists at Work. Berg Publishers, 2001. <br /> Ho, Karen. Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street. Duke University Press, 2009. <br />
    50. 50. Doing (Para) Ethnography As A Corporate Outsider <br />

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