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Why I Act Differently: Studying Patterns of Legitimation Among CIOs Through Motive Talk

Journal article
Authors Johan Magnusson
Bendik Bygstad
Published in Information Technology and People
Volume 26
Issue 3
ISSN 0959-3845
Publication year 2013
Published at Centre for Business Solutions (CFA)
Department of Business Administration
Department of Business Administration, Accounting
Language en
Keywords IT Governance, IS professionals, Institutional theory, behavior, speech act theory, motive talk
Subject categories Economics and Business, Business Administration


Purpose – IT Governance has become the recognized norm system for Chief Information Officers. The purpose of this paper is to understand how CIOs relate to these norms, by studying how they legitimate incompliance with the norms. Design/methodology/approach – An interpretive, qualitative, structured interview study with 18 CIOs in large Swedish organizations regarded as having excellent IT Governance practice, using Motive Talk as analytical lens to identify the informants’ relationship to norms. Findings – The study identifies norm-specific patterns for how CIOs legitimate incompliance with IT Governance, finding that CIOs use a combination of excuse and justifications as strategies of legitimation. The study also finds that CIOs display a tendency of not contesting IT Governance related norms unless these are in conflict with neighboring professional jurisdictions. This is regarded as an identification of the ‘margins’ of IT Governance. Research limitations/implications – The study illustrates how the theory of Motive Talk is a viable road ahead for future studies of IT professionals. The generalizability of the identified patterns of legitimation is limited by the selection of large organizations with solely male CIOs, as well as the selection of solely organizations that have succeeded in establishing external legitimacy concerning IT Governance and the organizations being Swedish. Practical implications – CIOs aspiring to increase their legitimacy should avoid direct conflicts with neighboring professions. In addition to this, they should also aspire to be clear in a separation of motive talk and actual practice, since full norm compliance may be detrimental to their factual operations. Originality/value – The originality of this paper lies in the methodological approach of combining motive talk and speech acts to investigate CIO legitimation practices. Keywords – IT Governance, IS professionals, Institutional theory, behavior, speech act theory, motive talk Paper type – Research paper

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