Measuring the Discrepancies of Organizational Identity in an Automotive Firm and its Corporate Spin-off

Thesis (MA)

Advisor(s): Anna Keilbach (


Disruptive digital technologies create new value-creation potentials (Porter & Heppelmann, 2015) that require a digital mindset and a new organizational identity (OI) (Wessel et al., 2021). Established manufacturers face a unique challenge in digital transformation (DT) initiatives as they must form a new OI integrating two identities: the identity of operational excellence to create complex physical products of high quality, and the identity of being a service provider that can enhance this product through digital services. A clear understanding of the employees’ current identity perspectives and the desired “should be” OI helps deriving guidelines to form this new OI.

Empirical research studies investigated how external reactions to the organization influenced the way organizational members viewed their own organization (e.g., Dutton & Dukerich, 1991; Elsbach & Kramer, 1996; Gioia & Thomas, 1996). With few exceptions (e.g., Foreman & Whetten, 1994; Gustafson & Reger, 1999) little attention is paid on measuring the tensions between two conflicting OIs that co-exist in an organization and how to manage these conflicting OIs. In addition, the concept of OI is applied ambiguous in extant literature (Albert et al., 1985; Hatch & Schultz, 2000) and diverse methods are used by researches to measure OI (Van Rekom & van Riel, 2000). Goal of this thesis is to synthesize the literature, develop a model that captures this ambiguity, and test the model at an automotive company that is changing its OI.


  • Review relevant literature and structure extant knowledge in the respective field
  • Synthesize and operationalize different items of OI
  • Conduct the survey to measure conflicting OIs
  • Derive guidelines how to reconcile the difference between the two OIs


  • High degree of autonomy and individual responsibility
  • Interest in research on OI in the field of DT
  • Experience in the conduction of a survey research

Further Information

The thesis can be written in English or German. The topic can also be adapted to your interests to some extent. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Please send your application including our application form, a current transcript of records, and your CV to Please note that we can only consider applications with complete documents. 


Albert, S., Whetten, D. A., Cummings, L., & Staw, B. (1985). Organizational identity.

Dutton, J. E., & Dukerich, J. M. (1991). Keeping an eye on the mirror: Image and identity in organizational adaptation. Academy of Management Journal, 34(3), 517-554.

Elsbach, K. D., & Kramer, R. M. (1996). Members' responses to organizational identity threats: Encountering and countering the Business Week rankings. Administrative Science Quarterly, 442-476.

Foreman, P., & Whetten, D. A. (1994). An identity theory perspective on multiple expectations in organizations. Academy of Management Meetings,

Gioia, D. A., & Thomas, J. B. (1996). Identity, image, and issue interpretation: Sensemaking during strategic change in academia. Administrative Science Quarterly, 370-403.

Gustafson, L. T., & Reger, R. K. (1999). Beyond collective organizational identity: Empirical evidence for multiple subidentities. Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois.

Hatch, M. J., & Schultz, M. (2000). Scaling the tower of Babel: Relational Differences Between Identity, Land Culture in Organizations. In The expressive organization: Linking identity, reputation, and the corporate brand (pp. 11-35). Oxford University Press.

Porter, M. E., & Heppelmann, J. E. (2015). How smart, connected products are transforming companies. Harvard Business Review, 93(10), 96–114.

Van Rekom, J., & van Riel, C. B. M. (2000). Operational measures of organizational identity: A review of existing methods. Corporate Reputation Review, 3, 334-350.

Wessel, L., Baiyere, A., Ologeanu-Taddei, R., Cha, J., & Blegind-Jensen, T. (2021). Unpacking the difference between digital transformation and IT-enabled organizational transformation. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 22(1), 102-129.