Applying Systems Thinking to Improve Professional Service Operations


This thesis presents an in-depth case study of a legal service provider focusing on the operational aspects of service delivery. It explores the challenges in managing operations by directly engaging with professionals through Action Research. Application of a novel soft systems-based methodology called PrOH modelling embedded within the broad Action research framework led to the elicitation of operational issues, followed by implementation of practical changes, consequently generating a better understanding of legal service operations management. Previous research focused mainly on the institutional perspective of change in professional services. This research presents a practice-based micro-level perspective on how change takes place at the organisational level through a rigorous intervention-based approach to change management grounded in a practical setting, a medium-sized law firm. This thesis demonstrates how operations management based interventions can effect change in a complex professional service environment, which is often perceived as a challenging ground for operations management researchers (Lewis & Brown, 2012; Harvey et al., 2016). This paper presents a successful way to do this; firstly, by eliciting the factors driving change within the UK’s legal services industry accentuated by the recent deregulation (Falconer, 2005); and secondly, by designing and implementing a context-sensitive change management strategy that delivers operational improvements and wider organisational changes within a selected legal servicefirm. Embodying the philosophy of Praxis, this action research project generated knowledge on three fronts– the practice of legal service operations management, the methodological approaches used in the research such as Process Oriented Holonic (PrOH) Modelling (Clegg, 2007) and the theoretical frameworks used to validate and make sense of professional service operations such as the professional service archetypes (Cooper et al., 1996, Pinnington & Morris, 2003) and the Change Kaleidoscope framework (Balogun & Hope Hailey, 2008). This learning is transferable to wider professional services industry and also benefits future research aimed at exploring and redesigning operations practice within professional service firms.

Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Operations & Information Management
Additional Information: © Krishna Chaitanya Balthu, 2020 asserts their moral right to be identified as the author of this thesis. This copy of the thesis has been supplied on condition that anyone who consults it is understood to recognise that its copyright rests with its author and that no quotation from the thesis and no information derived from it may be published without appropriate permission or acknowledgement. If you have discovered material in Aston Publications Explorer which is unlawful e.g. breaches copyright, (either yours or that of a third party) or any other law, including but not limited to those relating to patent, trademark, confidentiality, data protection, obscenity, defamation, libel, then please read our Takedown Policy and contact the service immediately.
Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: Systems Thinking,Soft Systems Methodology,Professional Service Operations,Legal Service,Organisational Change,Action Research
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2023 08:58
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2021 13:35
Completed Date: 2021
Authors: Balthu, Krishna Chaitanya

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