Joy Research
A Summary of the Research Objectives, Methods,
Current State and Next Phase
Version 1.0
December 18, 2020
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Everyone’s point of
view is valid, even if
I disagree or don’t
understand it.
Joy Research Statement
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Table of Contents
Introduction ..........................................................
Research Plan …....................................................
Impacts …...............................................................
Current State .......................................................
Conclusion …..........................................................
Joy Research Statement
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Organizational culture is often described as a critical component of the success
of an organization. This idea is embodied in the phrase “Culture eats strategy
for breakfast. The goal of this research is to understand if the concept of joy is
an indicator of the kind of culture that will have a significant impact on the
success of an organization.
There are two important components to define: success and culture. For the
purposes of this research, success will be defined by the leaders of the
organization instead of using a constant external measure such as profit or
market capitalization. This will allow the research to include nonprofit and
governmental organizations. This research will use the definition of culture
given by Edgar Schein in his book, Organization Culture and Leadership (4th
A pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved
problems of external adaptation and internal integration (…) A product of joint
The goal is to understand if the pattern of shared basic assumptions includes
notions of joy at work, then will the organization achieve greater success. The
motivation is based on the experience of the researchers as corporate
practitioners in change management and decision analytics as well as leaders
in larger organizations where outcomes varied greatly based on their
perception of the level of joy at work with an organization. Understanding the
dynamics of joy at work to culture and organizational success will set the stage
for further research but also for definition of particular interventions to help
organizational leaders achieve the goals of the organizations for which they
have responsibility.
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Research Plan
The research hypothesis:
Joy at Work is a measurable state of being (for both
an individual and an organization) that indicates to
what extent the culture of an organization
contributes to its success.
The approach is to apply grounded theory which was
developed by two sociologists: Barney Glaser and
Anslem Strauss. Through the coding of interviews
with CEOs and senior executives, patterns will be
sought and then hierarchies of answers created. An
initial 30 interviews revealed ten dimensions of Joy at
Work that are related to each other as shown in
Figure 1.
The interviews will focus on validating and updating
this hierarchy and examine in what settings it may
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Joy Research Statement
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Expected Outcome
The goal of this research is to reveal not only the relationship and interaction
of the ten dimensions to Joy at Work but also what drives each of those ten
dimensions. This would then lead to a more analytical assessment that could
be used across an organization to judge its level of Joy at Work as expressed by
the ten dimensions.
Intellectual Merit
This work will bring together aspects of psychology and sociology with a strong
analytical foundation so that the implications of the research can drive the
fields of group decision-making and change management. Collectively, this
will have implications for organizational development and organizational
design as disciplines that can help set the stage for organizational success.
Furthermore, this research will move the study of organizations away from a
benchmark approach and more to the underlying causal models that are
valuable for prediction. This will enable organizational leaders to examine
their culture and then act.
Broader Impacts
Collectively the ten dimensions may be the descriptive factors in determining
if an organizational culture will be successful. Will the organizational culture
eat strategy for breakfast. If that is true, then the implication of this research
is to discover the interventions needed to improve upon these dimensions
such that Joy at Work is increased, and the success of the organization
becomes more likely.
This would bring the assessment of culture into the toolkit of organizational
leaders as has occurred for process improvement, project management, and
other aspects of organizational success.
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Current State
In 2020, 35 interviews were completed and recorded.
Demographic highlights:
30 male executives
5 female executives
1 executive of color
All executives lead teams or companies of at least 40, some as large as
For-profit and non-profit companies are represented as well as a variety
of industries: Software, Banking, Insurance, Marketing, Architecture,
Commercial Real Estate, Retail, Food Service, Manufacturing and social
good non-profit.
Next Phase
Interview work will continue into 2021 with the goal to complete a minimum
of 100 CEO and senior executive interviews. Female executives and executives
of color will also be sought to improve perspective representation.
Emerging Opportunities
Opportunities for further research are noted as the research progresses. Here
are a few examples:
Interviews with influencers inside work cultures: How do influencers
contribute to joy in the workplace? Are there differences in impact based on
the type of influencer (for example, expert versus tenured influence)? What
happens to a company when an influencer conflicts with formal leadership
or company culture?
Interviews with employees across tenure time periods: Is there a
relationship between employee longevity and joy at work? How do
employee descriptions of joy at work change based on longevity? What signs
indicate inertia versus joy at work based on employee longevity?
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Joy Research Statement
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Interviews with leaders and employees inside of cultures: How does the
leaders description of joy at work compare with the employees in their
This research is ambitious, both in the scope of the research and specificity of
the tools that can become organizational interventions. The motivation of the
researchers, based on their corporate experience and now consulting
experience, drives this scope. Success is possible but it does not seem to come
from incrementalism. Instead, a new point of view is necessary for leaders to
employ in order to achieve the level of success that will drive economies
forward and make improvements to the lives of people generally. If this
research can point the way to that goal, then the energy spent on it will have
been well worth it.
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We are a change and culture company focused on joy at work.
Roxanne Brown, CEO and Co-Founder, is a renowned change expert
with more than 20 years of experience in technology, policy and
culture change and related disciplines. She’s also the former
President of the Board of the Association of Change Management
Professionals (ACMP).
Ed Cook, President and Co-Founder, is an experienced leader of
teams and large organizations. He’s a former Navy pilot who spent a
year in Iraq nation-building. Ed’s also a Visiting Professor at the
University of Richmond and has his PhD in Systems Modeling and
The Change Decision
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Joy Research Statement
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