In this article I present brand-centred control as a new form of normative control and examine the ways in which it affects employees. To do so, I draw on the results of a qualitative case study of a consumer products company with a strong corporate culture and brand, and examine internal branding as an extension of culture management. The key insights of the case study show that brand-centred control – unlike traditional normative control that typically works inside the company – also engages an external audience (customers, fans, and the wider public) as an additional source of normative control. As employees internalise the brand image of this external audience, they turn into brand representatives even in absence of face-to-face interactions with others and in their private lives. Brand-centred control thus blurs the boundaries between work and employees’ private lives in unprecedented ways. I discuss the ways in which employees respond to and resist brand-centred control and point to further research on brand-centred control as a significant new form of normative control.
Why do groups form to influence policy outcomes? Classic notions of collective action tell us that a small number of homogeneous individuals are more likely to organize and thus achieve their preferred policy outcomes. Yet, this is not always reflected in the empirical record as external factors, such as the state, influence the costs of organizing. Instead, the traditional collective action literature largely assumes a purely rational or passive state. While the institutional entrepreneurship literature highlights the key role these actors can play in shaping institutions and, at times, organizational fields, it does not seek to explain why change agents appear in some instances and not others. This article seeks to fill this theoretical gap by drawing on the co-evolution literature, which helps explain the variation in group formation by underscoring how the state and institutional entrepreneurs shape one another. Utilizing rich qualitative data from the microfinance industry in Brazil and Mexico, this research asserts that the formation of microfinance associations is a function of actors’ ability to access the state, which results in distinct processes: co-evolution by isolation or co-optation. This process has subsequent implications for institutional change, policy outcomes, and, ultimately, the distribution of power and prospects of development within emerging economies.
Social movement scholars and activists have recognized the difficulties of mobilizing people for the long haul, moving from the exuberance of the protest to the dull and ordinary work necessary to produce sustainable change. Drawing on ethnographic work in La Juanita, in Greater Buenos Aires, we look at local actions for and from the neighborhood in order to resist political domination, taken by people who have been unemployed for long periods of time. We identified concrete and local practices and interventions—which we call mundane and everyday politics – that are embedded in a territory and go beyond the typical practices of social movements and the expected infrapolitical activity in allowing the disfranchised to engage in the political process.
Why are some organizations famous? We argue that fame results from a conjunction of several audience-specific reputations. Expert reputation (i.e. reputation among members of a knowledgeable group, such as a cultural elite or critics) acts as a mediator for achieving fame for organizations held in high esteem by their peers and clients. Based on a unique database of 103 architectural companies in France, our analysis uses structural equation modelling (SEM) combined with mediation effects to reveal that expert reputation can lead to fame by mediating peer and client reputations. We contribute to the literature by explaining why only some organizations already reputed among peers and clients are famous in society at large.
This paper uses data from a longitudinal, seven-year, cross-national study to explore the translation of a trade union idea. The aim of the paper is to examine and explicate the nature of the translation work undertaken to translate a trade union idea in a multi-organizational setting. In examining how the idea of the learning representative initiative was translated into the New Zealand context we draw upon a narrative analysis to reveal the complexities of the dynamic and ongoing translation of the idea and identify the nature of the translation work required. As such we contribute to the literature on the translation of ideas firstly by explicating the concept of real-time translation work in a novel empirical context, and secondly theoretically, by drawing attention to the distinctive characteristics of trade union translation work. In doing so we argue that translation work in this distinctive socio-political context requires ongoing vigilance and proprietorship of the idea by trade union actors and that such proprietorship is crucial in other cases where translators are coming from subordinate positions.
Processes of collective empowerment are essentially concerned with the production of social and emotional configurations fostering a mutual awareness that social change is both desirable and feasible. Using an ethnographic study of an intentional community of activists, this paper analyses how friendship practices produce enduring forms of empowerment based on democratic praxis. The analysis shows that nurturing affective bonds of friendship facilitates the prefiguration of alternative ways of life through the experience of living together. This is supported by the cultivation of hexis as a political frame, which reassesses the centrality of human beings’ otherness and fosters complex equality within relationships.
The central focus of this paper is a largely unexplored research domain relating to how low-power for-profit actors can shape their political and regulatory environment and create economic opportunities that affect their survival and growth. The paper builds on and extends the concept of "negotiating the environment" and on how organizations create their environment, with an emphasis on low-power actors. Resource dependence theory (RDT) has been very influential in exploring the many ways in which firms can decrease or overcome resource vulnerabilities in their environment with a focus on high-power actors (large companies, resource-rich companies, industrial associations, and political power of highly endowed companies). However, whether and how low-power actors can shape their political, regulatory, and economic environment was not central to RDT analysis, which is the focus of this paper. The empirical context for this research is the emergence and enactment of automobile emissions standards in Japan following the adoption in the United States of the Clean Air Act in December 1970. The focal firm is the Honda Motor Company, which, at that time, was a negligible competitor in the Japanese automobile industry and had no legitimate political or institutional standing. Yet the company was successful in undoing the cartel-like dominance of the two largest Japanese automobile manufacturers and the Japanese Environmental Protection Agency. The focus of this paper is describing the phenomenon and developing new theoretical insights relating to how low-power for-profit actors are able to negotiate their environment.
Emerging multinational enterprises (EMNEs) often engage in strategic-asset-seeking foreign direct investment (FDI) for competitive catch-up. This study explores the linkages between an EMNE’s competitive scenario consisting of a configuration of its awareness-motivation-capability (AMC) conditions and the comparative institutional advantages of its strategic-asset-seeking destination. Our configurational analyses of Chinese FDIs in the technology-intensive industries of OECD countries reveal a taxonomy of four distinct asset-seeking strategies of EMNEs. Our findings shed novel insights into the strategic variations within EMNEs based on a theoretically and methodologically extended AMC framework. This study also extends the varieties of capitalism literature by addressing the implications of comparative institutional advantages for foreign entrants, rather than domestic incumbent firms.
Recent studies of temporary organizing and project-based work explain how organizational actors establish and maintain clear role structures and harmonious relations in the face of precariousness by engaging in stabilizing work practices. This focus upon ‘order’ undervalues conflict-ridden negotiations and power struggles in temporary organizing. This paper demonstrates that in temporary organizing conflict and order may exist in tandem. Drawing close to the collaborative dynamics in a large-scale global project, we analyse the political struggles over role patterns and hierarchic positioning of client and agent in the temporary organization of the Panama Canal Expansion Program (PCEP). In such projects, the agent typically takes the position of project leader. In this case however, the client was formally in charge, while the agent was assigned the role of coach and mentor. The diffuse hierarchy triggered project partners to engage in both harmony-seeking social and discursive practices and to enter into conflict-ridden negotiations over authority relations in the everyday execution of the PCEP project. Our study contributes to existing literatures on temporal organizing by presenting a case of simultaneous practices of harmonization and contestation over mutual roles and hierarchic positions. We also show that studying collaboration between project partners involves, not merely analysing project governance structures, but also offering a context-sensitive account of everyday social and discursive practices. Finally, we reflect on a view of ‘permanence’ and ‘temporariness’ as themselves contested categories and symbolic sites for struggle.
In this paper we examine the management of internal complexity in federations as a means of shedding new light on how the challenges inherent in governing these forms of inter-organizational networks are managed. Our analysis reveals that these networked organizations differed as a function of their approach to four complexity management activities: perspective shifting, shaping interactions, managing standards and constructing commitment. Based on the use of these four activities we identify three approaches to complexity management in this study – leveraging complexity, suppressing complexity and disengaging from complexity. Each of these approaches differed in their focus on differentiation or integration in the implementation of complexity management activities. We found that only leveraging complexity went beyond separate management activities aimed at differentiation or integration and employed policies and activities that possessed the capacity to optimize both simultaneously. In doing so, our study highlights new possibilities for complexity management by revealing the ways in which management activities can be designed to optimize both integration and differentiation.
Online communities have displaced or become complements to organizations such as churches, labor unions and political groups which have traditionally been at the center of collective action. Yet, despite their growing influence and support of faster, cheaper and more flexible organizing, few empirical studies address how online communities are built and become enduring agents of social change. Using Internet-based ethnographic methods, this inductive field study examines how an online community called Anonymous transitioned from being a small gathering of contributors focused on recreation to becoming a community of trolls, activists and hackers incubating myriad projects. Findings reveal that the interplay of digital technology and a culture of transgression supported experimentation that culminated with the adoption of a resilient organizing platform that enabled several community factions to coexist in continuous engagement. This paper infuses community building research with an important emphasis on the role of the techno-cultural, highlighting how online formation and maintenance processes are shaped and shape mutually contingent technologies and cultures.
Colour is inescapable. It fills and forms the world, shaping what can be felt and known, desired and expressed. It thus becomes social technology and organizational tool. At the same time, however, colour betrays, undermines and subverts the attempts to manage it. Based on an understanding of colour as aesthetic force and medium of transformation, the essay presents a montage of scenes that set up encounters with what colour does: how it affects organization, and how it is affected by organization; how it organizes what is given to perception, knowledge and organization itself, and how it is reorganized in return.
The article seeks to further our understanding of the process of organizing nascent social ventures. It builds upon current research on the political and collaborative nature of the social entrepreneurial process, and takes an ANT-inspired processual approach to follow the organizational practices carried by a nascent social venture in its efforts to mobilize stakeholders, bring about collaboration and ultimately secure resources. It draws upon empirical material generated during the first year of a social venture I founded and continue to chair. Findings highlight the adaptive and fluid nature of the organizational practices involved in nascent organizations and indicate that the capacity to continuously adjust the qualities of the eventual venture to the stakes of potential partners is instrumental to start up the venture. The article suggests the notion of tinkering to underscore the fluidity, the ongoing and piecemeal everyday work of such organizing processes. Further, findings highlight the extent to which social ventures, as well as the engaged scholar, are caught in the networks that contribute to reproduce the social problem they aim to change.
Alliances are formed according to firms’ expectations about postalliance value generated by partners, which are based on certain conditions during the processes of selecting a partner and forming an alliance (i.e., the prealliance conditions). This study predicts that alliance terminations are likely to occur when such expectations are not satisfied, which is likely when partners’ postalliance characteristics are inferior to their prealliance levels, or when firms have heightened expectations of alliance partners because they have forgone superior potential partners before alliance formation. Results of an analysis using data of codeshare alliances in the global airline industry show that alliance termination results from reduced market complementarity or a reduced number of common partners relative to prealliance levels, and from the presence of not-chosen prealliance potential partners characterized by high market complementarity or large numbers of common partners. The results also show a general propensity for these effects to diminish as alliance duration increases.
This article considers the strategies developed by a coalition of innovators and supporters to contribute to the consecration of a controversial innovation that transgresses the established codes. It does so through the analysis of Impressionism (1874–1900) that provoked a dramatic shift from classical to modern art. The case study suggests that such consecration can be achieved while claiming the distinctiveness of the controversial innovation, instead of toning it down. The findings reveal the importance of distributed strategies developed by loosely coordinated coalition members. More specifically, they point to simultaneous, and potentially contradictory, strategies: strategies aimed to enforce the distinctiveness of this controversial innovation, and strategies aimed to extend support for it, insisting that contradictory tensions between those strategies can prove useful in achieving consecration. Overall, the article contributes to research on the consecration of controversial innovations, as well as to the literature on framing and brokerage.
This paper introduces the concept of ‘organizational readiness’: socio-cultural expectations about working selves that prepare young people (albeit indirectly and in complex and multi-faceted ways) for their future life in organizations. This concept emerges from an analysis of Disney animations and how they constitute expectations about working life that may influence children through their representations of work and gendered workplace roles. The paper’s exploration of Disney’s earlier animations suggests they circulated norms of gender that girls should be weak and avoid work. In contrast, its contemporary productions circulate gender norms that suggest girls should be strong and engage in paid work. In this reading, the continued circulation of earlier alongside contemporary animations may convey to young viewers a paradox: girls must and must not work; they must be both weak and strong. We thus offer new insights into the puzzle of the continued relegation of women to the sidelines in organizations; more optimistically, we also point to ways in which future generations of employees may forge ways of constituting forms of gendered selves as yet hardly imaginable.
This paper focuses on the development of trust in temporary inter-organizational relations. One specific form of such relations is public construction projects established by competitive tendering. In this context, previous studies have suggested that the shadow of the future only moderates behavior to a limited extent and trust may seem hard to come by. The present in-depth case study adds to the theorizing of trust dynamics by demonstrating that reciprocal norms at the industry level, as well as reciprocal norms developing during project execution, contribute to the development of trust. The study connects trust, reciprocity, and actions, giving insight into the interplay between trust and reciprocity, the interplay between reciprocal norms at the industry level and the project level, and the role of small and large actions in the trust process.
This article, first, proposes critical grounded theory (CGT) as a way to develop systematically an array of methods and theoretical propositions into a coherent critical methodology for organization studies (and beyond). Second, it demonstrates CGT’s usefulness through a case study of competing recovery projects from the Icelandic financial crisis. CGT is developed in engagement with the emerging paradigm of cultural political economy (CPE) and its preferred method of critical discourse analysis (CDA). CPE analyses the evolution of ‘economic imaginaries’ in both their structural/material and semiotic/discursive dimensions. This requires a critical realist, multi-dimensional research strategy which emphasizes ethnographic methods and substantial theoretical and historical work. The proposed methodology of CGT enables a retroductive research process that combines deductive theoretical deskwork with inductive fieldwork enabled by grounded theory tools to analyse organizational process, stability and change.
This article shows how innovations in projects may be diffused successfully within a large project-based organization (PBO) and how they ‘live on’ through their adaptation. We draw on the metaphorical notion of anthropophagy, literally ‘human cannibalism’, which is used to explain the appropriation of otherness resulting in ongoing organizational life. Prior organization literature has stressed the difficulties of the transition from the temporary to the permanent, especially the failure of database-oriented approaches, and argued that these barriers may be overcome with repeatable standardized templates. In contrast we show that multiple innovations may be adopted within the same PBO, which manifest as differentiated, combined forms. Cases in the large energy and engineering company, Petrobras, show a systematic innovation process involving subject experts, but centrally a database containing records of 1104 mandatory and discretionary innovations. The article analyses these data, process documentation and observations of 15 completed innovation projects. The article argues that in addition to technical factors the anthropophagic attitude motivates adopters to take on the innovations of others with the appetising prospect of appropriation and adaptation.
A firm’s growth and survival depends on the ability of its managers to explore for new business and knowledge; yet, exploration is challenging for most large, established firms. Extending prior research into networks and exploration, we propose that a key characteristic of managers’ external networks – the extent to which their networks include relationships built using predominately individual rather than firm resources – is positively related to managers’ abilities to explore for new business and knowledge in large firms. We propose that networks with more individual ties provide more diverse knowledge, enable greater autonomy and ease access to resources from contacts, hence facilitating exploration. Analysis of an original dataset of external networks of 77 senior managers in a large global consulting firm provides support for our arguments. We find that individual ties are positively related to exploration and, furthermore, that the positive (negative) relationship between sparse (dense) networks and exploration increases with the number of individual ties in managers’ networks.
Research highlights how coexisting institutional logics can sometimes offer opportunities for agency to enterprising actors in organizational fields. But macro- and micro-level studies using this framework diverge in their approach to understanding the consequences of institutional complexity for actor autonomy, and correspondingly in the opportunities they identify for agents to resist, reinterpret or make judicious use of institutional prescriptions. This paper seeks to bridge this gap, through a longitudinal, comparative case study of the trajectories of four ostensibly similar change initiatives in the same complex organizational field. It studies the influence of three dominant institutional logics (professional, market and corporate) in these divergent trajectories, elucidating the role of mediating influences, operating below the level of the field but above that of the actor, that worked to constrain or facilitate agency. The consequence for actors was a divergent realization of the relationship between the three logics, with very different consequences for their ability to advance their interests. Our findings offer an improved understanding of when and how institutional complexity facilitates autonomy, and suggests mediating influences at the level of the organization and the relationship it instantiates between carriers of logics, neglected by macro- and micro-level studies, that merit further attention.
Organizations are often required to meet contradictory but interrelated objectives. An important response to such paradoxes is transcendence: the ability to view both poles of the paradox as necessary and complementary. Despite the centrality of transcendence to existing frameworks within the paradox literature, we still know little about its practice. We address this gap by surfacing and analysing rhetorical practices across three science organizations. We outline four rhetorical practices that constitute transcendence (Ordering, Aspiring, Signifying, and Embodying) as well as the underlying features of these practices that explain how they construct a response to paradox. In particular, we show that transcendence entailed balancing the enabling features of focus (paradoxical content/context), time (stability/change) and distance (maintaining/reducing). Finally, we develop a dynamic view of transcendence as a process of oscillation, showing how these practices are bundled together and interrelate to construct moments of transcendence.
What are the power/identity implications of the increasing Englishization of non-Anglophone workplaces around the world? We address this question using an analytical framework that combines a focus on micro/meso-level processes of identity regulation with attentiveness to the macro-level discourse of English as a global language. Drawing on reflexive fieldwork conducted at a major French university, we show how Englishization is bound up with processes of normalization, surveillance and conformist identity work that serve to discipline local selves in line with the imperative of international competitiveness. Concomitantly, we also show that Englishization is not a totalizing form of identity regulation; it is contested, complained about and appropriated in the creative identity work of those subject to it. Yet, moving from the micro/meso- to the macro-level, we argue that Englishization is ultimately ‘remaking’ locals as Anglophones through a quasi-voluntary process of imperialism in the context of a US-dominated era of ‘globalization’ and ‘global English’. We discuss the theoretical implications of these insights and open some avenues for future research.
Lying is an endemic feature of social life but has remained under-researched in organization studies. This paper examines the case of VoiceTel, a market leader in the high-quality virtual reception business that practised ‘strategic deception’ (Patwardhan et al., 2009). Receptionists concealed that they were not physically located in their clients’ premises and lying was an intrinsic and enduring feature of their work. We adapt and extend Ashforth and Anand’s (2003) ‘normalization of corruption’ framework to develop a new model of the ‘normalization of lying’. We examine how lying becomes institutionalized, rationalized and socialized into the structure and culture of an organization such that it becomes embedded, maintained and strengthened over time as a legitimate and integral part of the job. Our model of normalization integrates organizational and group levels to examine the significance and interaction of ‘bottom-up’ as well as ‘top-down’ processes. Employees gained recognition from their proficiency in deception and drew considerable satisfaction, self-esteem and status as employees who are ‘trusted to deceive’.
This paper offers new theoretical and empirical understanding of interruptions to strategy implementation by drawing attention to their ghostly nature. The paper proposes a theoretical framework for thinking about the ghostly by combining Freud’s concept of the uncanny with theorizing in cultural geography on collapses of linear time as well as with Avery Gordon’s sociological work on ghostly matters. Empirically, the paper examines the ghostly nature of strategy interruptions through a detailed analysis of conversations between middle managers at a strategy seminar in a Danish local government. I portray the uncanny moments where the familiar account of organizational purposes is not so self-evident anymore, but all of a sudden appears rather disturbing. I show how middle managers envision other, darker futures and express the feeling that something else, something different from before, must be done, although they cannot say exactly what. Going beyond previous accounts of strategy interruption, for example as deliberate resistance by middle managers, the paper contributes with new insight into the moments where the neat ordering of organizational realities performed by corporate strategies breaks down and middle managers come into contact with the broader social and political stakes of their work.
Employee identity is shaped by a need to feel similarity to, as well as distinctiveness from, others in organizations. While this paradoxical tension is important we know little about how it is managed over time, especially when senior managers prioritize one element of the paradox over the other. Consequently I investigate how senior managers and employees negotiate the similarity–distinctiveness identity paradox over time, doing so through a longitudinal case study of a police organization undergoing change. The study contributes to prior paradox literature in two significant ways. First, it reveals how senior managers and employees negotiate tensions in employee identity between similarity and distinctiveness as an emergent and cyclical process of identity regulation and heterogeneous identity work. This shows how the balance between similarity and distinctiveness is both elusive to achieve for all organizational participants and difficult to sustain over time. Second, it highlights how defensive approaches to identity paradox may lead to positive outcomes, with this contingent on organizational participants’ ability to make strong claims about the importance of the paradox element they favour for the organization’s future.
While research has provided ample evidence that temporal (dis-)continuity in partnering is highly consequential for the governance and performance outcomes of temporary organizations, we know much less about the conditions that drive the members of temporary organizations to engage in recurrent partnering. Focusing on project organizations, the present research offers theoretical arguments and related empirical evidence that illuminate when and why project-leading organizations expect to continue collaboration with the same project partner in future projects. Specifically, we show that expectations of recurrent collaboration are a function of backward-looking experiential learning and forward-looking opportunity cost assessments. Our findings contribute to better understanding of temporality in temporary organizations by uncovering a set of factors conducive to explaining when and why the same partners engage in temporary sequences of projects.
We use a longitudinal examination of the production of a complex vessel to develop theory concerning operational flexibility behaviors within interorganizational projects. We find that operational flexibility behaviors are enabled by trust between project participants, sense of urgency, and the availability of resources. These enablers are in turn positively influenced by positive experiences in previous interactions ("shadow of the past") and expectations of possible future collaboration ("shadow of the future"), the temporary nature of interorganizational projects and slack in project tasks, respectively. The positive effect of enablers on operational flexibility is weakened by the time pressure project participants experience. The latter is also caused by the temporariness of interorganizational projects. Based on our findings, we propose that the different time dimensions play a crucial role in explaining flexibility behaviors in interorganizational projects: the temporariness that is an essential characteristic of interorganizational projects has two potentially opposite effects on the behavior of its participants, and we argue that shadows of the past and future play a decisive role in which of the two effects will dominate. The theoretical framework based on our case study suggests that the temporariness of interorganizational projects is indeed important—as acknowledged in the literature—but that its effect is contingent on shadows of past and future.
Both intuition and rationality can play important roles in strategic decision making. However, a framework that specifically accounts for the interplay between intuition and rationality is still missing. This study addresses this gap by using a paradox lens and conceptualizes the intuition–rationality duality as a paradoxical tension. We draw on seven case studies of innovation projects to empirically derive a three-step process for managing this intuition–rationality tension through paradoxical thinking. Our empirical data suggest that management of the tension starts with preparing the ground for paradoxical thinking by creating managerial acceptance for the contradictory elements of rational and intuitive approaches to decision making. The process then continues by developing decision-making outcomes through the integration of intuitive and rational practices. Finally, the outcomes of paradoxical thinking are embedded into the organizational context. For each step of the model, we indicate a set of practices that, by leveraging intuitive or rational characteristics of decision making, practitioners can use to deal with this cognitive tension in the different steps of our model.
In this study, we explicitly engage with the historical dimension of discursive legitimation to understand how a sense of legitimacy is maintained for a controversial actor over a long period of time. Analyzing articles in The Economist that address opposition against multinational corporations during the current wave of globalization, we identify and situate the different multinational corporation-related controversies and discursive legitimation strategies in their specific historical context. Our historical interpretation suggests three phases, each representing the discursive creation of particular actor images that either legitimize multinational corporations or de-legitimize its opponents. From our findings, we propose that, over time, the nature of discursive legitimation changes and introduce ‘discursive antagonism’ and ‘discursive co-optation’ as two different forms of legitimation. We further reflect on our present understanding of multinational corporations, reinterpreting their current political role as a historical product of the legitimacy process over time.
This article presents results from a case study of media activities in a Swedish governmental agency where we illustrate a) how the media logic is translated and become embedded in the studied agency, and b) how different professional groups inside the organization shape the translation process. Theoretically we do this by re-visiting the notion of translation. Translation theory focuses on the local enactment and embeddedness of institutional models, ideals and practices. Institutional logics literature, on the other hand, focuses on the creation and flow of field-level meaning systems. By combining these two theoretical perspectives we are able to form a framework for understanding the local embeddedness and enactment of field-level institutional logics. The result of our study suggests that institutional logics – once they become introduced in a given context – consist of four elements that are interpreted and enacted differently inside organizations. We identify three local, profession-based value systems that shape the translation of the media logics, and we use this finding to theorize the role of professional value systems in shaping local translation processes.
In this paper, we develop an approach to the study of whistleblowing as a critical practice that is involved in the contestation of truth and power in the workplace. We situate our analysis in the context of practice-based thinking and specify the social practice of whistleblowing with reference to Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘parrhesia’ (frank speech). We then introduce the case of Guido Strack, a former European Union official who worked as section leader at the Office des Publications Officielles des Communautés Européenne from 1995 to 2002. Strack spoke out against malpractice in the EU in 2001 and officially reported alleged financial misconduct in 2002. In our analysis, we focus on the interplay between and effects of different modes of truth-telling in the context of this specific organization – a context marked by the uneasy coexistence of different normative and discursive frames. We argue that the parrhesiastic modality of truth-telling threatens the established ‘working solutions’ that reconcile the tensions inherent in the regime of practices and thus introduces a ‘critical opening’ that harbours the potential for both personal and organizational transformation. We conclude by highlighting the potential of a nuanced understanding of parrhesia for studying ‘critical practices’ more generally.
Outlaw organizations are neglected in organization studies. This is understandable given the presumption of illegitimacy they attract. Our article challenges the presumption by positing the concept of ‘bandit organizations’, demonstrating how some can build impressive levels of legitimacy among their audience. The case of Christopher ‘Dudas’ Coke, a philanthropic Jamaican drug cartel leader, and his ‘Shower Posse’ gang, is used to investigate how contemporary bandit organizations foster legitimacy. By placing ‘shadow economy’ organizations like this in the spotlight, we seek to extend scholarship on organizational legitimacy, while avoiding any undue romanticization of criminal organizations.
The study of power and politics in multinational companies (MNCs) has been a niche area of study for both scholars of organization studies (OS) and international business (IB). Further, the awareness of each research community with regard to the efforts of the other has been rather superficial. Hence, bridge-building efforts to cross-fertilize ideas developed in IB and OS in order to enhance our understanding of the nature and role of politics and power in the MNC are overdue. In order to develop the basis for integration, we trace the conceptual developments in the two disciplines, that enables us to highlight particularly promising opportunities for integrative advances. Using a typology which differentiates among four ‘faces’ of power in the study of management and organization, we discuss how focusing on each of these four dimensions may help us to both see and make sense of different aspects of power relations and facets of politics in MNCs. We then use the ‘four faces’ framework to outline how OS and IB approaches can be integrated to develop a more complete understanding of politics and power in MNCs. Finally we suggest some directions for future research.
How do paradoxical tensions become salient in organizations over time? Ambidexterity and paradox studies have, thus far, primarily focused on how tensions inside organizations are managed after they have been rendered salient for actors. Using a longitudinal, embedded case study of four strategic business units within a media organization, we theorize the role of the top management team leader’s practices in enabling tensions to become salient for their respective lower-level managers when there are initial differences in how tensions are interpreted across levels. Our findings extend a dynamic equilibrium model of organizing by adding interpretive context as an enabling condition that shapes the emergence of salience through the provision of a constellation of cues that guide sensemaking. Informed by a practice-based perspective on paradox, we also contribute a conceptual model of leadership as practice, and outline the implications for ambidexterity studies.
Our study explores the discursive strategies of legitimation that organizations employ as they occupy different positions in an emergent institutional field. By examining both the frame-alignment strategies and the frame targets of two organizations in the U.S. wireless telegraphy field, we show how an organization’s position – and its positional changes over time – affects the discursive strategies it uses to promote or protect its goals in the face of pressure from other field actors. Our results indicate that three distinct field positions – peripheral, central, and niche – are associated with three different legitimation strategies – which we label "robust," "co-optive," and "focused" – around which the discursive strategies coalesced. Organizations at the periphery attempt to break in to a field by employing a diverse range of frame-alignment strategies targeted toward a variety of relevant field actors. Those in a central position target fewer actors, but pursue a similar variety of frame-alignment strategies. Those in a niche position use fewer alignment strategies and target a smaller number of field-level actors. Our study enriches the literature on discursive strategies of legitimation by focusing on the ways in which central and non-central actors employ them, and the ways in which these strategies evolve alongside the field itself. More broadly, our work contributes to our understanding of discursive skills required to confront complex institutional pressures. These efforts depend on the interactive nature of discursive strategies from the vantage point of different field positions.
This paper adopts a practice approach to paradox, examining the role of micro-practices in shaping constructions of and responses to paradox. Our approach is inductively motivated. During an ethnographic study of an organization implementing paradoxical goals we noticed a strong incidence of humor, joking, and laughter. Examining this practice closely, we realized that humor was used to surface, bring attention to, and make communicable experience of paradox in the moment by drawing out some specific contradiction in their work. Humor thus allowed actors to socially construct paradox, as well as—in interaction with others—construct potential responses to the multiple small incidences of paradox in their everyday work. In doing so, humor cast the interactional dynamics that were integral in constructing two response paths: (i) entrenching a response, whereby an existing response was affirmed, thereby continuing on a particular response path, and (ii) shifting a response, whereby actors moved from one response to paradox to another, thereby altering how the team collectively responded to paradoxical issues. Drawing on these findings, we reconceptualize paradox as a characteristic of everyday life, which is constructed and responded to in the moment.
In this paper we offer a preliminary study of the various ways in which ‘ruin’ has significance for organization studies. One important motif associated with both modern and romantic treatments of ruins concerns the revelatory impressions they make. In this respect the tradition of ruin writing will talk of their ‘beauty’, their ‘strangeness’ or their capacity to ‘intimidate’, which somehow never fails to strike a responsive nerve in us. In order to attend to this elusive phenomenon we must necessarily breach some of the self-imposed boundaries of our ‘discipline’. Taking up this challenge we follow W. G. Sebald in his use of contiguity as both method and textual structuring device, allowing us to drift across iconic ruin images, ruin theories and our own ruinous research experiences. This helps us learn how to ‘dwell’ in the ruin – without any impatient reaching after fact or explaining away ruins in the terms of an established tradition of theorizing in organization – and open up new analytic spaces and associations for organizational researchers. These concern specifically (a) a distinctive approach to time, history and memory; (b) an increased awareness of the multiplicity of forces impinging on organization, forces from which we so easily retreat behind the cordon sanitaire of organization-studies-as-usual; and (c) a cognisance of how the very way we write is a mode of doing organization that is crucial for our ability and willingness to look into ‘all corners of reality’ so that we might better grasp organizational phenomena.
We studied an interprofessional collaboration to understand how professionals engaged with paradox in collective decision-making. At the beginning of our study, we observed vicious cycles in which conflict led to negative tension. Professionals were holding tightly to a particular pole of the paradox, and the higher-status pole was consistently overrepresented in collective decision-making. By the end of our study we observed the presence of virtuous cycles, where conflict led to more positive tension, and where professionals engaged in collective decision-making with more equal representation of conflicting approaches. We call this change process protecting the paradox and we identify three strategies that support this process: (1) promoting equality of both poles, (2) strengthening the weaker pole, and (3) looking beyond the paradox by focusing on desired outcomes. We contribute to the paradox literature by showing how vicious cycles can be shifted to virtuous cycles, how professionals and managers can work together to protect a paradox, and how status differences between poles can be redistributed.
The paper advances our understanding of managerial identity work in the context of HQ–subsidiary relations. We argue that a key part of this identity work is related to cultural stereotypes. On the basis of an analysis of two Finland-based MNCs operating in Russia, the paper elucidates three forms of stereotype-based identity work with enabling or constraining power implications. The first form, stereotypical talk, refers to identity work whereby managers enact their stereotypical conceptions of ‘the other’ to bolster their self-image and ‘inferiorize’ ‘the other’. The second form, reactive talk, is identity work that emerges as a reaction to stereotypical talk whereby managers aim at renegotiating the proposed social arrangement for their own benefit. Finally, the third form, self-reflexive talk, refers to identity work whereby managers attempt to go beyond the social arrangement produced through stereotypical and reactive talk by distancing themselves in a self-reflexive manner from essentialist cultural conceptions. Overall, the paper offers an initial attempt to elucidate how stereotype-based identity work is used to justify or resist existing power structures and power asymmetries in HQ–subsidiary relations within the MNC.
We examine the case of a corporate spin-off, in which its reacquisition by the parent firm radically changed its structure and culture. Employing a discourse lens, we study paradoxical tensions of innovation as key members "talk into being" the paradoxical circumstances of their environment. From our analysis, we develop the concept of tensional "knots," discursive formulations in which members construct tensions, not only as co-occurring, but as Gordian (inseparable) entanglements of interdependence. Knotted tensions can be amplifying (exacerbating) or attenuating (improving) in their effects on one another, but with very different consequences to innovative action. Specifically, knotted tensions and the way in which members manage them set up counter-intuitive logics that serve to justify courses of innovative action or inaction. We propose a process model advancing understanding of interlinked tensions in more complex ways than current paradox theory allows. We conclude with a discussion of our contributions to paradox theory in innovative contexts, along with suggestions for future research.
Even if people may always have been bored, ‘boredom’ as a phenomenon is not a universal feature of human existence. Rather it is deeply connected to organization as a reaction to the gradual emergence in Western culture of the management and administration of time. As an acquired capacity of those able to tell and endure time in an organized manner, boredom is a perceived loss of meaning inferred by the lived experience of a discrepancy between the involvement with transient means in everyday life and their value in a larger vision of existence. But boredom also signifies a concurrent protest against such a loss, which potentially leads new possibilities with it. In this essay, I explore the connection between boredom and organization, focusing on these two interrelated aspects of the phenomenon: how boredom can be understood as an experience of a loss of meaning, but also how this loss itself can be viewed as an imperative towards meaning that remains the source of new forms of organizing.
We present a typology and process model that integrate dialectical and paradox perspectives on managing contradictions in organizations. Whereas paradox research depicts tensions between contradictory elements as irreconcilable and best managed through acceptance and synergy, the dialectical perspective portrays the relationship of such elements as adversarial and transformed through conflict. Our integrated typology and process model account for both dialectical and paradox approaches to managing contradictions and also identify two approaches, assimilation and adjustment, which combine the two. The model also identifies a key contingency, the expected distribution of power between contradictory elements, as a key influence on actors’ approaches to managing contradictions. For paradox researchers our integrated model emphasizes the need for more attention to the political, institutional, and social contexts of contradictions, practices for managing conflict, and transformation of organizational contradictions. Our integrated model suggests that dialectics researchers pay attention to the strategies managers use to productively manage tensions between contradictory elements, take a contingent view of transformation, and recognize that acceptance of contradiction may play a role in transformation. Hence our integrated model suggests a broadened agenda for both paradox and dialectics researchers.
Organization theorists have predominantly studied identity and organizing within the managed work organization. This frames organization as a structure within which identity work occurs, often as a means of managerial control. In our paper our contribution is to develop the concept of individuation pursued through prefigurative practices within alternative organizing to reframe this relation. We combine recent scholarship on alternative organizations and new social movements to provide a theoretical grounding for an ethnographic study of the prefigurative organizing practices and related identity work of an alternative group in a UK city. We argue that in such groups, identity, organizing and politics become a purposeful set of integrated processes aimed at the creation of new forms of life in the here and now, thus organizing is politics is identity. Our study presents a number of challenges and possibilities to scholars of organization, enabling them to extend their understanding of organization and identity in the contemporary world.
This article advances a theory of practice approach to the study of conflictual practice sharing in the multinational corporation (MNC). The article demonstrates distinct opportunities offered by practice theory in researching the multiple lines of conflict and cooperation over local organizational practices, policies and strategies that emerge in the face of global HQ demands. Extant literature concentrates on how transfer outcomes are shaped by institutional or cultural distance at the national level and inter-unit relationships, often taking the subsidiary as a unit of analysis. Therefore, intra-unit conflicts over global practice sharing are under-researched, particularly how such conflicts are shaped by actors’ differential situatedness in the immediate societal context of the subsidiary. In explicating a practice theory agenda for the study of MNCs, we contribute to an understanding of how actors’ social positioning within and outside the firm, combined with their career opportunities, shape both the character and dynamics of intra-unit conflicts over the local configuration of organizational practices mandated by HQ. Building on an extended case study of an MNC in a Mexican special economic zone (SEZ), we thus examine how subsidiary actors accommodate, actively support and resist various parts of an HQ-mandated management control system.
This paper investigates the political maneuvering that accompanies subsidiary initiative taking in multinational corporations. On the basis of an explorative empirical investigation of subsidiary initiative taking in the French subsidiaries of six German MNCs, the paper explores the activities that subsidiaries undertake to sell their initiatives, and the relationships among issue selling, subsidiary power and headquarters’ hierarchical power. The findings suggest that the use of issue-selling tactics is common when subsidiaries engage in initiative taking. In addition, the paper demonstrates that a low degree of issue selling is needed to obtain approval of an initiative in less asymmetrical headquarters–subsidiary power relationships (i.e. relationships in which subsidiaries are relatively powerful). In cases where power relationships are highly asymmetrical, issue selling is a necessity, but it is hardly a sufficient condition for obtaining headquarters’ approval. This renders issue selling to a second-rank power in subsidiary initiative taking, as it only works in conjunction with subsidiary power.
This research is an attempt to understand and measure mythological roles in attributional processes. Drawing upon Carl Jung’s work on the archetype we, first, argue how role archetypes from fantasy dramas and worldwide fairy tales populate organizational life, and further, contend that they have extensive influence on how group members sort their judgments of each other. In the second part of the article, our understanding of role archetypes is aided by quantitative measurements: participants in 31 consecutive leadership development classes are asked which fellow classmates they spontaneously associate with each of seven good and seven bad fairy tale roles (deep roles), if any. Our main question is to evaluate the magnitude of agreement on the assignment of roles. Results give strong support to the assumption that group members quite easily categorize fellow members into stereotypes identified by fairy tale roles. Given the evidence in the present analysis, we posit that the role imagoes most frequently assigned (The Big Five of Fairy Tales) are isomorphic with core family roles, and further, that broad personality traits have their roots in archetypal imaginations. To more effectively secure that mythological mechanisms will not triumph over more rational, complex and balanced ways of judgments, we suggest that organizational research should acknowledge the subtle and hidden world of deep role archetypes.
In this essay, we oppose current conceptualizations of anger as, at least, a temporary individual psychological disorder and as the cause of a social disorder. We develop the view that anger can be a profoundly moral emotion aimed at maintaining moral order and restoring social order when this has been ruptured. Moral anger is distinguished from other types of anger, like the ones arising from routine frustration, break-downs of communication and ego violations. Through a close reading of the jury drama Twelve Angry Men, we demonstrate that moral anger has an information dimension, signaling a rupture of a moral code, as well as an energic dimension, as a source of energy aimed at putting right a wrong. We conclude that a world without anger would be, possibly, a compliant and quiescent world but not a just world.
There is an established body of politically informed scholarly work that offers a sustained critique of how corporate business ethics is a form of organizing that acts as a subterfuge to facilitate the expansion of corporate sovereignty. This paper contributes to that work by using its critique as the basis for theorizing an alternative form of ethics for corporations. Using the case of the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal as an illustrative example, the paper theorizes an ethics that locates corporations in the democratic sphere so as to defy their professed ability to organize ethics in a self-sufficient and autonomous manner. The Volkswagen scandal shows how established organizational practices of corporate business ethics are no barrier to, and can even serve to enable, the rampant pursuit of business self-interest through well-orchestrated and large-scale conspiracies involving lying, cheating, fraud and lawlessness. The case also shows how society, represented by individuals and institutions, is able to effectively resist such corporate malfeasance. The ‘democratic business ethics’ that this epitomizes is one where civil society holds corporations to account for their actions, and in so doing disrupts corporate sovereignty. This ethics finds practical purchase in forms of dissent that redirect power away from centres of organized wealth and capital, returning it to its democratically rightful place with the people, with society.
The article uses a qualitative case study of fifteen years in the production network that revolves about Fiat Auto to depict the "network firm" as a political coalition. The analysis touches on Fiat’s radical outsourcing of production in the 1990s, a short-lived and ill-fated alliance with General Motors in 2001, a descent to the brink of bankruptcy in 2004, a return to profitability by 2007, and, finally, the acquisition of control of Chrysler in 2009. The article reconstructs James March’s classic Carnegie model of the firm in light of the blurring of organizational boundaries. By marrying that model with ideas drawn from the literatures on organizational networks, social movements, and organizational politics, the article demonstrates that strategic decision-making at Fiat and at key suppliers shaped, and was shaped by, an interplay of frames and relational embedding within and across organizational boundaries. This shows how coalitional politics shape and are shaped by the shifting boundaries of the firm, and how those politics affect the evolution of the production networks that prevail across many contemporary industries.
This study reconsiders the meaning and implications of reflexivity for the theory of routines. Due to their mundane nature, routines tend to be considered unambiguous phenomena that everyone can readily understand. The performative theory of routines has challenged this view by suggesting there is no guarantee that participants have the same understanding of a routine. Nonetheless, this theory has yet to explain how routines are possible in relation to divergent understandings. Through empirical analyses of customer-provider interactions videotaped at sushi bars, this study shows how participants themselves exhibit and use their understandings of routines within the routine performance. That is to say, understandings of a routine are a reflexive part of the routine performance. It is not necessary to assume that divergent understandings are reconciled prior to the routine performance. Reflexivity helps clarify how routines are possible without a priori shared understanding.
In this paper we contribute to knowledge of power and politics in international business by developing the understanding of the role of discourse and sensemaking in the subsidiary–headquarters relationship. Based on an ethnographic action research study in a British subsidiary of an American multinational corporation, we conduct an ethnomethodologically informed discourse analysis of the accounts, stories and metaphors through which power and politics in the subsidiary–headquarters relationship were created as social facts. We then broaden the analytic frame to trace longitudinally how these facts led the subsidiary managers to hide, dilute or restrict their ‘local sense’ from the headquarters, including their knowledge of the local market and their preferred strategic direction for the firm: a process we term sense-censoring. We reveal how the subsidiary used power and politics as reasoning procedures to decide against pursuing a preferred course of action, despite a strongly held belief to the contrary, due to anticipated reactions or counter-actions, thereby transforming potential strategic action into inaction. Sense-censoring is significant for international business management, we propose, because it impacts upon knowledge flows, innovation diffusion and organizational learning. We conclude by outlining the implications of systems of sense-censoring and strategic inaction for the management of global–local relations in multinational corporations.
The focus on routines as ‘generative systems’ often portrays them as patterns of action relatively divorced from their context. History can help to supply a deeper and richer context, showing how routines are connected to broader structural and cultural factors. But it also shows that routines themselves have a history. This is explored using the illustration of the history of one particular organizational routine, that of the visitation of local organizational units by central church bodies, in three times and places: 15th century Italy, 18th century England and 18th century Scotland. This illustration shows that similar routines can be found but these are given very different inflections by the broader social, cultural and political context. Attention is drawn in particular to the differential involvement of lay actors and the implications for broader impacts. The case is made for analytical narratives of emergence of routines which can reconnect organizational routines both with their own history and with their broader context.
The rapid rise of alternative organisations such as social enterprises is largely due to the promotional activities of intermediary organisations. So far, little is known about the affective nature of such activities. The present article thus investigates how intermediary organisations make social entrepreneurship palatable for a broader audience by establishing it as an object of desire. Drawing on affect-oriented extensions of Laclau and Mouffe’s poststructuralist theory, hegemonisation is suggested as a way of understanding how social entrepreneurship is articulated through a complementary process of signification and affective investment. Specifically, by examining Austrian intermediaries, we show how social entrepreneurship is endowed with a sense of affective thrust that is based on three interlocking dynamics: the articulation of fantasies such as ‘inclusive exclusiveness’, ‘large-scale social change’ and ‘pragmatic solutions’; the repression of anxiety-provoking and contentious issues (constitutive quiescences); as well as the use of conceptually vague, floating signifiers (moments of indeterminacy). Demonstrating that the hegemonisation of social entrepreneurship involves articulating certain issues whilst, at the same time, omitting others, or rendering them elusive, the article invites a counter-hegemonic critique of social entrepreneurship, and, on a more general level, of alternative forms of organising, that embraces affect as a driving force of change, while simultaneously affirming the impossibility of harmony and wholeness.
We analyse political sensegiving and sensemaking by expatriates and host country employees through exportive, contestative and integrative stages of knowledge assimilation at two China-based subsidiaries of different Japanese MNCs. Comparative case study analysis indicated that efforts by expatriates and HQ-based experts to convey, routinize and standardize home country practices during the exportive and contestative stages, while involving traditional ‘one way’ knowledge transfer, can provide a foundation for a subsequent integrative stage, during which host country employees’ locally embedded knowledge is assimilated despite geopolitical asymmetry between home and host countries. Without this foundation, knowledge assimilation can remain ‘frozen’ at the contestative stage, with host country employees resisting importation of good practices from the HQ, and expatriates marginalizing host country employees’ contributions unless these are exceptionally compelling.
We examine the processes and mechanisms of translating broader field-level change to the local community, drawing on insights from the inhabited institutions perspective and community-based institutionalism. In particular, we develop the concept of linking organizations as key actors in institutional change that connect the broader field and community levels. We use multiple forms of qualitative data, collected over a two-year time frame, to study the processes of a community foundation, the ‘Rainbow Wellness Foundation’, as a linking organization that engaged five community coalitions to embed a new wellness approach, locally. Our findings suggest that linking organizations interpret the central tenets of the approach, define them locally around relevant aims, and regulate community organizations’ adherence, to ensure legitimacy with the field. In addition, by engaging and negotiating with the community and helping manage ambiguity, linking organizations enable local ‘filling-in’ of these models with practices that meet community needs and interests. This study contributes to the literature on institutional change by identifying the activities of linking organizations as agents that translate broader field change, locally.
In this article we focus on the study of history through the use of narratives, within the context of the prevalent form of organization worldwide: the family business. Specifically we consider the dilemma of the impossible gift of succession using Nietzsche’s discussion of the burden of history and paralleling the story of a family business succession with that of Shakespeare’s King Lear. This way, we seek to make a contribution to organizational studies by answering recent calls to engage more with history in studies of business organizations. By implication, the study also initiates an integration of family business studies into organization studies.
We present the first elaboration of the field-level institutional repair work enacted by government inquiry reports into severe and protracted breaches of the institution of medicine in the English National Health Service. Our examination of the interplay between the rhetorical argumentation strategies communicated, the modes and types of institutional work conveyed, and the institutional pillars targeted for repair enhances understanding of field-level institutional repair work in three ways. First, our analysis of forensic and deliberative rhetoric reveals how these communicate aligned ethos, logos, and pathos appeals in a tactical buttressing manner that simultaneously harnesses maintenance, adapted creative and disruptive modes of institutional work. Ensuing repair work is primarily directed to the regulatory and normative pillars of the breached institution, though their consequential effects seek to realign the cultural-cognitive pillar. Second, adapted creative and disruptive modes interact to generate elaborative and/or eliminative institutional work. This fosters a dynamic form of institutional maintenance, wherein the breached institution evolves in order to endure within the changing terrain of the field. Finally, our elaboration of field-level institutional repair work offers insight into the relative plasticity of the institution of medicine, and contributes to understanding of the dark side of institutional work.
This article presents a process-model for the abandonment of a practice. This complements earlier research on adoption and abandonment by allowing for fluctuations in the level of commitment across time and by demonstrating the persistent role for both institutional pressure and performance-based concerns on the maintenance of a practice. It also provides a novel means for identifying differences in the method of abandonment through the introduction of a concept of decommitment. Further, it helps resolve the question of how firms respond when faced with conflicting internal and external evidence of the success of an adopted practice. Using the divestiture of unrelated business segments by 100 U.S. firms between 1970–96, I estimate post-adoption commitment to a practice and the likelihood of a given firm decommitting. I find that treating abandonment as a process clarifies the evolving role of institutional and performance-based concerns and helps identify when a given firm is more subject to either source of pressure. The implications of this approach and these findings for current research on resistance to adoption and de-institutionalization are explored in the conclusion.
This paper focuses on the question of the extent to which the institutional founding environment affects organizational success after a radical institutional change. We analyse firms founded in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) that experienced the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990 and focus on how the institutional environment of their founding period influences their failure rates. Results show that organizational failure rates vary after institutional change due to differences in institutional founding conditions. This variation is influenced by the degree of (dis)similarity between the imprinted past and the present institutional context. Discussing the time-varying effect of institutional founding conditions, we contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of imprinting and organizational failure in situations of institutional change.
This paper aims to contribute to the literature on ‘institutional maintenance work’. Focusing on the institutional disruption resulting from a regulatory project of market rationalization, it enriches the description and analysis of the specific institutional maintenance work performed by powerful actors who engage in resistance against what they perceive as a threat to their discretion. Built on an in-depth qualitative study, our case concerns an attempt to change the form of over-the-counter markets as part of a recent financial reform. The paper contributes to the expanding literature on the maintenance of institutions by suggesting, in particular, that the creation of incommensurables should be added to the list of strategies available to powerful incumbents seeking to resist institutional change. Bridging the gap between the literatures on institutional maintenance and commensuration, it also demonstrates that specific institutional changes can usefully be understood as changes in commensuration systems. This innovatively suggests the existence of degrees of commensuration and calls for a finer-grained understanding of the institutional work required to maintain institutions in a context where the degree of commensuration experienced by a field or a market threatens to increase under coercive pressure.
This article focuses on the dynamics and interplay of meaning, emotions, and power in institutional work. Based on an empirical study, we explore and elaborate on the rhetorical strategies of emotion work that institutional actors employ to mobilize emotions for discursive institutional work. In an empirical context where a powerful institutional actor is tasked with creating support and acceptance for a new political and economic institution, we identify three rhetorical strategies of emotion work: eclipsing, diverting and evoking emotions. These strategies are employed to arouse, regulate, and organize emotions that underpin legitimacy judgments and drive resistance among field constituents. We find that actors exercise influence and engage in overt forms of emotion work by evoking shame and pride to sanction and reward particular expedient ways of thinking and feeling about the new institutional arrangements. More importantly, however, the study shows that they also engage in strategies of discursive institutional work that seek to exert power—force and influence—in more subtle ways by eclipsing and diverting the collective fears, anxieties, and moral indignation that drive resistance and breed negative legitimacy evaluations. Overall, the study suggests that emotions play an important role in institutional work associated with creating institutions, not only via "pathos appeals" but also as tools of discursive, cultural-cognitive meaning work and in the exercise of power in the field.
What role do organizations play in the enactment of large-scale violence against a specific group of people? In this paper, I depart from existing literature that focuses on violence within organizations, and instead emphasize the influence of external actors. Specifically, I examine the ways in which supporting organizations can first legitimate, and then actively maintain, violence against a group of vulnerable people. Drawing upon a unique, recently-published archive of data, these ideas are developed through an analysis of a case study in which large-scale violence was carried out on a vulnerable group: Ireland’s industrial school children. I draw on Kristeva’s notion of abjection to show how an excluded, distasteful ‘other’ is discursively co-constructed such that violence is seen as acceptable, and then actively maintained in the abject position as a boundary object that encompasses shared meanings across different organizations. Contributions include a framework for understanding the role of organizations in the perpetration of large-scale violence, which highlights how violence can be legitimated via the construction of subjects as abject boundary objects in extreme cases, and how this abject position can be maintained through inter-organizational dynamics comprising excessive rules and regulation, the suppression of care, and active policing. Finally, scholarship on boundary objects is extended by this paper’s interrogation of the ‘dark side’ of this inter-group phenomenon, an area that is rarely studied.
In this paper I explore a new approach to the understanding of trauma. I call into question the widely held assumption that trauma tends to engender feelings of dejection, lethargy and helplessness. Instead, I argue that it can lead to a quite different, active and over-optimistic response that involves an attempt at fusion with those who have inflicted, or might yet inflict, trauma. Drawing on concepts from psychoanalysis, I introduce the term ‘fantasy of fusion’ to encapsulate this idea. This concept is illustrated by an examination of the role of European leaders in the crucial decision to launch the single currency, and an exploration of its ramifications in creating the conditions for the eurozone crisis. The contribution of this paper is threefold. First, calling into question the assumption that trauma leads to feelings of helplessness, this paper introduces and develops the novel idea of ‘fantasy of fusion’. Second, it sheds further light on the challenges of leadership. Third, it provides a new deep structure explanation for the origins of the eurozone crisis.
This paper argues that scholarly work is increasingly situated in narrowly circumscribed areas of study, which are encouraging specialization, incremental adding-to-the-literature contributions and a blinkered mindset. Researchers invest considerable time and energy in these specialized areas in order to maximize their productivity and career prospects. We refer to this way of doing research and structuring careers as boxed-in research. While such research is normally portrayed as a template for good scholarship, it gives rise to significant problems in management and organization studies, as it tends to generate a shortage of novel and influential ideas. We propose box-breaking research as a strategy for how researchers and institutions can move away from the prevalence of boxed-in research and, thus, be able to generate more imaginative and influential research results. We suggest three versions: box changing, box jumping and, more ambitiously, box transcendence.
This article develops Foucault’s later work on ethics and his concept of ethical askesis in the transformation of the self as a new approach to understanding organizational ethics. Scholars within the field of management and organization studies have already proposed the development of a Foucauldian approach to ethics, but the precise nature of such an ‘art of living’ has yet to be clarified. To address this gap in the literature this article builds on Foucault’s theoretical and practical interest in the work of historical and contemporary social movement organizations. The article investigates the role that social movement organizations play as crucibles for the creation of new forms of organizational subjectivity and novel ethical practices. In this way the article develops a synthesis between the Foucauldian scholarship and social movement organization theory. The contribution of the article shows how social movement organizations act as sites for the creation of novel organizational subjectivities and ethical practices, and reconceptualizes organizational ethics in Foucauldian terms as a form of ethical askesis to transform the self.
Knowledge appropriation has been underpinned by an assumption of the organization’s ‘entitlement’ to appropriate knowledge and the outcomes of its utilization. Given the complexity of knowledge and the potentially conflicting views held about it, this assumption is revealed to be theoretically imprecise in the way it marginalizes alternative voices through the pursuit of competitive advantage and ‘value capture’. We attribute this approach to the functionalist analytical lens which sees knowledge as an asset appropriable almost exclusively by the organization in the form of financial/economic ‘rents’. In order to advance understanding of the multi-faceted nature of the organization-individual appropriation regime, we make the case for an expansion of the discursive space for talking about the phenomenon, and posit the concept of ‘property in knowledge’ which we tie to the way individuals construct their identities.
This article challenges the understanding and use of the Hofstede and GLOBE national culture models in much extant culture-related theory development. Both the Hofstede and GLOBE culture dimensions are derived from individual-level survey data aggregated to, and analysed at, the national level. But their culture scales that are correlated at the national (ecological) level are not correlated in the same manner at the individual or organizational level. To presume they are is a form of ‘ecological fallacy’ that, despite warnings, has often been overlooked by culture researchers. We analyse five research articles in top journals in organizational behaviour, general management, international business, marketing and accounting and show how the articles commit an ecological fallacy by projecting national-level culture characteristics onto individuals or organizations. The implications of this ecological fallacy include the development of invalid culture-related theory and the persistence of erroneous practitioner stereotyping. We provide the first comprehensive explanation of the origins, effects and implications of the ecological fallacy in national culture research and practice. A way forward for culture-related research is also suggested.
In this paper we explore how organizations are using new social technologies as tools in the discursive struggle over legitimacy. Using critical discourse analysis, we investigate one such struggle between the corporate blog published by Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company, and traditional local newspapers. In this particular battle, Petrobras used several discursive strategies to challenge the media’s legitimacy and build its own credibility. Furthermore, we suggest that Petrobras, to underline and to support these strategies, employed a meta-discursive strategy based on a discourse of e-democracy that gave it legitimacy as a discourse producer. In addition, this article contributes to the literature on organizational discourse by uncovering the new social media’s characteristic of hyper-intertextuality that was central in transforming the dynamics of power and resistance and the nature of discursive strategies. Our work analyses how organizations can actively and effectively engage these new tools, which embody socially recognized discourses, to create their own discursive arena and legitimate their counter-narratives.
Organizations within challenger movements often exhibit differences in what they do, with whom they interact, and how they understand or present themselves. This article attempts to understand what underlies such heterogeneity in challenger movements. Adopting a mixed method approach, we explore the heterogeneous nature of the work undertaken by institutional challengers in the US environmental movement. Drawing on the tools of social network analysis, we develop a method to identify a set of distinct social positions. Next, drawing upon qualitative data on identity and work from websites and interviews with senior managers in environmental non-governmental organizations, we identify configurations of social position, identity, and work that result in a distinct set of challenger roles. Our analysis reveals how identity and social position can both enable and constrain individual organizations within a challenger movement in terms of their ability to undertake different types of institutional work. We also identify a form of work thus far not explicitly identified in prior studies of institutional work–indirect work, which we theorize may be an important potential moderator to the effectiveness of direct forms of institutional work.
The conventional negative understanding of the scientific management movement has been challenged in recent decades by heterodox scholars who hold that the movement supported the democratization of the management process and in so doing worked closely with unions and with progressives within and around Roosevelt’s New Deal administration. This paper seeks to strengthen this challenge to orthodoxy by documenting how the leadership of the Taylor Society, a body established by Frederick Taylor’s inner circle as a vehicle to develop and promote their mentor’s ideas, strove to internationalize the diffusion of participatory management in tandem with the International Labour Organization, a body whose core purpose was and is to promote codetermination both in workplaces and in wider society.
This paper develops a theory of organizational ghosts, a concept that describes the haunted and burdensome aspects of organizational life and in particular of leadership action. The concept of organizational ghosts is not offered as yet another metaphor, a lens through which to analyse particular organizations. Rather, I offer my discussion of ghosts as a theoretical concept that explains how inheritances of the past haunt the relations and struggles of the present. I tell a ghostly tale of the everyday leadership and learning practices of UK local government chief executives, and provide an exploration of organizational ghosts as a contribution to the growing interest in the action in the shadows, atmospheres, margins and boundaries of organizations. Drawing upon an ethnographic study of UK local councils, and embracing the multiplicity and heterogeneity of organizational ghosts, the paper considers the theoretical, political and ethical stakes involved in taking ghosts seriously. Its contribution is to show how ghosts are insinuated in organizations and to highlight leaders as figures who are both willing agents and uneasy hosts of hauntings, and to point to the mediating role of leaders in handling confrontations between the past, the present and the future.
Corporate social commitment (CSC) and corporate environmental commitment (CEC) are often combined under the general rubric of corporate social responsibility. Although the two sets of activities are similar, they are also very different. Both CSC and CEC respond to issues raised by stakeholders, but CEC tends to be more "technical". This characteristic demands that CEC fit with the organization, which exposes greater economic opportunities than CSC. As a result, we argue that the extent to which these practices are implemented differs across firms over time. We analyze the extensiveness of implementation of CSC and CEC across 266 firms from 1991 to 2003, using latent growth curve modeling and one-way ANOVA. We find that firms moved towards at least a moderate level of CSC over time, but tended to bifurcate in the extent to which they implemented CEC practices, towards either the high or low end of the scale, over time. In this paper, we contribute to the institutional analysis of practice diffusion by examining how the characteristics of different kinds of practices shape the extensiveness of firm adoption patterns. As well, this research also speaks to corporate social responsibility researchers, pointing to the need to sometimes discriminate between social and environmental practices.
Recent developments in control hold that professionals are best managed through normative and concertive as opposed to bureaucratic and coercive mechanisms. This post-structuralist approach appeals to the notion of congruent values and norms and acknowledges the role of individuals’ subjectivity in sustaining professional autonomy. Yet, there remains a risk of over-simplifying the manifestations of such control initiatives. By means of an in-depth case study, this article considers the challenge of implementing a knowledge-sharing portal for a community of R&D scientists through management control initiatives that relied on a blend of presumed ‘peer pressure’ and the rhetoric of ‘facilitation’. Arguing that traditional approaches such as normative/concertive control and soft bureaucracy only partially explain this phenomenon, we draw from Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of ‘symbolic violence’ to interpret a managerial initiative to appropriate knowledge and affirm the structure of social relations through the complicity of R&D scientists. We also examine how the scientists channelled resistance by reconstituting compliance in line with their sense of identity as creators of knowledge.
Theory building is conditioned by three registers – the ontological (reality), the epistemological (knowledge) and the ethical (values). The significance of the first two is widely acknowledged. But the third register tends to be overlooked, especially where a positive/normative dichotomy is assumed. Post-positivist thinking problematizes this dichotomy but leaves the ethical register unthematized. The paper addresses this neglect and illustrates the role of the ethical register in processes of theory formation. Attentiveness to the ethical register is seen to invite radical reflection on a dominant, anthropocentric value-orientation, and thereby problematize the institutionalized estrangement of researchers from the ‘objects’ of their analysis and the abstraction of organizations from their embeddedness in the biosphere.
This paper brings into focus the concept of organizational secrecy, defined as the ongoing formal and informal social processes of intentional concealment of information from actors by actors in organizations. It is argued that existing literature on the topic is fragmented and predominantly focused on informational rather than social aspects of secrecy. The paper distinguishes between formal and informal secrecy and theorizes the social processes of these in terms of identity and control. It is proposed that organizational secrecy be added to the analytical repertoire of organization studies.
The purpose of this paper is to elaborate and extend a sensemaking view of how ethics issues emerge in and around organizations. Current research in ethical decision making relies predominantly on a definition of ethics that distinguishes moral decision-making processes from amoral or non-moral decision-making processes through the intrapsychic use of explicit moral concepts. I recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach and propose a model which builds on previous empirical work to explain how morality emerges in organizations through social interaction. This sensemaking model illustrates the role of disruptions, labeling, and action in the emergence of moral issues, and recasts the emergence of ethical issues, not as the individual recognition of objective moral content, but as more or less reliable interrelating. The model developed in this paper contributes to theory about ethical decision making by: (1) moving beyond the categorization of construals as moral or amoral to examining the similarities and differences across construals and the effects of this overlap for joint action; (2) reinstating the role of action and its interpretation in the story of how moral issues emerge; (3) redescribing ethics as more or less reliable interrelating, which broadens the toolkit for improving organizational conduct; and finally, (4) highlighting how every decision frame has the potential to create a moral issue in interaction.
This paper casts a net across spaces that are designed to be bland and identity-less. It posits that white is more than just a colour in design and that it is appropriated by organizations to spread sameness across public spaces. In this way, the article draws upon Foucauldian theories of power and organizational aesthetics in an effort to show that people become caught up in an institutionalization of space. White spaces become infused with an energy that is also derived from plain surfaces and which then offers up an illusion of spatial order. The article uses examples of the church, the parliament building, the prison, the hospital and the university to discuss ways in which whiteness transcends the limits of temporal colour and enters the psyche as an agent of power in the control of spaces and subjects.
The Burrell and Morgan model for classifying organization theory is revisited through meta-theoretical analysis of the major intellectual movement to emerge in recent decades, post-structuralism and more broadly postmodernism. Proposing a retrospective paradigm for this movement, we suggest that its research can be characterized as ontologically relativist, epistemologically relationist and methodologically reflexive; this also represents research that can be termed deconstructionist in its view of human nature. When this paradigm is explored further, in terms of Burrell and Morgan’s assumptions for the ‘nature of society’, two analytical domains emerge – normative post-structural and critical post-structural. Assessing the types of research developed within them, and focusing on actor-network theory in particular, we describe how post-structural and postmodern thinking can be classified within, rather than outside, or after, the Burrell and Morgan model. Consequently we demonstrate not only that organizational knowledge stands on meta-theoretical grounds, but also how recent intellectual developments rest on a qualitatively different set of meta-theoretical assumptions than established traditions of agency and structure.
This paper focuses on the aesthetics of the uncanny to inquire into and perform affective sites of organizing that are imbued with feelings of uncertainty and uneasiness. We argue that the uncanny forms an ‘unconcept’ that allows us to think and apprehend ‘white spaces’ of organization not as new or other spaces but through a process of relating intensively with the conventional places, streets and squares that form the backdrop to everyday life. We also make use of the notion of ‘unsiting’ to show how organizational research is able to enhance our appreciation of the aesthetic dimension of organization in ways that expose and undermine that which has become familiar and taken-for-granted. Based on an artistic intervention by the theatre collective Rimini Protokoll, we encounter and analyse such processes of unsiting through the affective and spatial doublings at work in the organization of urban space. Theorizing the organizational uncanny opens up new sites/sights in organization by forging an interconnection of the recent affective, spatial and aesthetic ‘turns’ in organizational theory. To do this demands what we call scholarly performances that involve the witnessing and enacting of everyday sites of organizing.
How organizations cope with multiple and sometimes conflicting institutional demands is an increasingly familiar yet little understood question. This paper examines how four French business schools responded to demands that they internationalize their management education whilst retaining their traditional identities. We trace the role played by field-level actors in pushing and articulating competing logics and the importance of institutional and organizational identity in how organizations respond. By highlighting the role of identity aspirations we show that what matters is not how an organization sees itself—i.e., what it is—but how it wants to see itself—i.e., what it wishes to become. Finally, we unpack and explain why status differences across organizations affect the nature of the opportunities that are perceived and the scale and format of the responses that are implemented.
Locating organizations is a difficult task, making it difficult to study them and difficult to represent that study. There is no single phenomenon of organization. We identify them through their buildings, brands, products, employees, customers, marketing materials, legal status and so on, but it is hard to identity a single unified entity. This research note argues that organization lies in our encounters with it, that is, our experience of organization which constitutes its existence. In order for scholars of organization to be able to say anything about these experiences we need a methodology designed to capture experience. The work of John Dewey is useful here with his insistence on art as experience. This note takes Dewey’s work on art and applies it to a particular case example – The Body Shop International – and demonstrates how organization studies can be enhanced through an arts or studio-based approach. Indeed, it argues, along with Dewey, that any civilized community of practice might be expected to produce art, and that the organization studies community should welcome an arts practice as a sign of its own maturity.
This paper argues that children and childhood constitute a ‘white space’ in organization studies, which should now be explored, mapped and analysed. Rather than being separate, children and organization are deeply implicated in one another, which provides a rich basis for theoretical inquiry. The paper draws on Spivak’s concept of the subaltern and on actor-network theory to articulate how and where organization studies might critically engage with, and find a place for, children and childhood. It frames such an inquiry around six potential research trajectories: epistemological, methodological, ontological, temporal, political and reflexive.
This paper presents findings from an in-depth case study of a bank that has drawn on an anti-globalization discourse and the idea of the "local in opposition to the global" to create a niche for itself in the highly consolidated Australian retail banking market. The paper explores why, despite the contradiction inherent in its discourse, the bank has been able to garner the funds and volunteer effort of locals to establish and extend its branch network. In exploring what motivated the volunteers involved in the establishment of the local bank the paper shows how seemingly impersonal abstract processes of globalization are embedded in local places and worked out through localized practices of agency. These agentic practices were experienced as being connected, authentic, and in control. Yet as always the paradox of agency came into play and throughout the case study we see how these practices of agency are both enabled and constrained by "being local". By highlighting processes of globalization at the local level these findings move us beyond overarching and overly "neat narratives of globalization" (Maurer, 2003). So that rather than invitations and invocations to "act locally" being seen as "anti-globalization" they should be understood as embedded processes of globalization.
Despite abundant prescriptions regarding what boards should do, we know little about what they actually do, especially in the face of the paradoxical goals of both ensuring control (as expressed in agency theory) and fostering collaboration (as expressed in stewardship theory) simultaneously. Drawing from the study of a co-operative over a 10-year period (including ethnographic data collection spanning 3 years), this paper shows the role of numbers in mediating paradoxes of governance. We show that numbers from very different spheres support different models of governance, prompt their change, but also their coexistence. Paradoxical control–collaboration dynamics are embraced, fed by two number-supported micro-practices: personalizing/professionalizing issues and creating new calculable spaces. These practices enable board members to both "act at a distance" and control, while they are also "kept at a distance" from the general manager, who ensures the board’s collaboration.
This paper explores trust-building in multi-stakeholder partnerships. Through an analysis of the development of one multi-stakeholder partnership between a multinational corporation, two levels of government, and local indigenous peoples, we found that trust-building is a dynamic process in which emotionality plays a key role. Critical emotional incidents can unexpectedly punctuate the partnership process, serving as turning points in the development of trust. We also found that the practices used by the partners to navigate these incidents transformed negative emotions into positive ones. We theorize on the role that critical emotional incidents and emotional engagement practices play in multi-stakeholder partnerships.
Women continue to be under-represented in senior positions in universities and their relative absence from the top jobs in management and business schools remains a cause for concern. The aim of this study is to extend understanding of this situation by drawing on the feminist psychoanalytical post-structuralist theories of Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. The theoretical frame proposed engages with debates over language, discourse and the body and allows development of a theory of the disembodied symbolic order explaining women’s continued marginalization and devaluation in academe. This is achieved through analysis of empirical findings of the experiences of women faculty in nine management and business schools in England. The study demonstrates how male norms and woman’s absence from symbolic representations disables their participation in equivalent terms in the institutions studied, and how women often both collude with and resist their own marginalization in academia.
How can organizations spanning institutionalized categories mitigate against the possibility of reduced attention by audiences? While there has been a good deal of research on the illegitimacy discount of category spanning, scant attention has been paid to how organizations might strategically address this potential problem. In this paper, we explore how the strategic naming of products might enhance audience attention despite the liabilities associated with category spanning. Drawing on a sample of films released in the United States market between 1982 and 2007, we analyze different naming strategies and show that names that simply signal familiarity are not potent enough to offset the illegitimacy discount, while names imbued with known reputations serve as a symbolic device that enhances audience attention to genre-spanning films.
This paper draws on Kristeva’s (1982) notion of abjection to conceptualize the nature of organizational defences against anxiety. The abject is that aspect of the self which lies outside the symbolic order, evoking feelings of anxiety, disgust, repulsion and fear. These feelings index the attempt by the individual to distance the self from what is felt to be improper or unclean in order to establish subjectivity and identity. Located within UK public mental health services which have recently been subject to New Public Management restructuring, the paper explores how contemporary preoccupations with regulation, surveillance and governance in public mental health institutions may be characterized as a symbolic attempt to gain mastery over feelings unconsciously deemed to be abject reminders of the body. A short case example drawn from my work as psychotherapist and supervisor in a primary care mental health service is offered to illustrate how feelings of psychological distress come to be abjected within the organization. I conclude by proposing that theorizing abjection offers rich prospects for future debate and research within the field of organization studies.
This paper examines the pervasive role of Microsoft’s presentation software PowerPoint as a genre of professional and organizational communication. Frequently, PowerPoint is not only used for the primary function it was initially designed for, i.e., facilitating live presentations, but also for alternative purposes such as project documentation. Its application in a neighboring domain, however, poses a functional dilemma: does the PowerPoint genre preserve the features of its primary function, i.e., presentation, or rather adapt to the new function, i.e., documentation? By drawing on a communication-centered perspective, this paper examines PowerPoint’s role in the domain of project documentation as a clash between the constitutive affordances of professional and of organizational communication. To investigate this issue empirically, I conducted a case study at a multinational business consulting firm. The study allows identification of three distinct PowerPoint subgenres, which differ in how they adapt to the function of project documentation. This paper contributes to organization studies by specifying the boundary conditions under which a genre of professional communication such as PowerPoint can be expected to maintain its genre-inherent characteristics even in the face of contradictory organizational requirements and to impose these characteristics on a neighboring domain of organizational communication practices.
My research suggests that organizational fields are patchy and uneven. This patchiness allows organizations at the margins of fields to sidestep pressures for conformity. As a case study, this paper examines the private school field in Toronto, Canada. Data come from interviews and site visits at 60 Toronto private schools. My findings suggest that Toronto’s private school field is segmented, incorporating diverse private school forms, including elite, religious, and ‘rogue’ (non-elite, non-religious) schools. Within one subfield – small rogue private schools – a high degree of heterogeneity exists. These findings suggest a nuanced conception of institutional fields, with more attention to organizational agency, multiple field logics and diversity among organizational forms. This paper examines how organizations at the margins of fields are able to evade pressures for conformity, and how a heterogeneous organizational field can also be comprised of clusters of homogeneity.
Searching for knowledge to solve non-routine problems allows middle managers not only to design new solutions but also to develop organizational capabilities. We focus on knowledge search to develop our understanding of how individuals engage with organizational knowledge in practice, how they acquire and use knowledge, and the implications for organizational knowledge development. Investigating middle managers’ knowledge search practices in response to non-routine events, we uncover four practices: isolating; overcoming knowledge distribution challenges; socializing; and mastering solution development. From these, we identify two aspects of knowledge search: not only can it produce new solutions but it can also have different effects in terms of developing organizational capabilities, either modifying existing routines or creating new ones. We argue that organizations with a knowledge use advantage, namely, an ability to mobilize accessible knowledge by organizing for knowledge circulation and a socialized search that deals with the organization’s challenges of knowledge distribution in order to master solution development – especially at mid-level – can pursue capability development. We discuss the implications of our findings for the literature on organizational knowledge and middle managers’ roles in organizational knowledge processes.
This study sought to explain the puzzle of firm noncompliance under conditions of highly salient and coercive institutional pressures from stakeholders. Based on a qualitative study of the Canadian banking industry’s responses to institutional pressures from government, clients, and the media for higher-quality banking service to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), results revealed that oligopoly power could not account exclusively for firms’ dismissiveness of salient stakeholder expectations. We introduce the concept of industry identity to explain how market power interacted with industry identity to predict firms’ nonconformity to institutional pressures and their willingness to maintain identity–image misalignment. Our study contributes new insights into theories of institutional conformity, identity, and oligopoly behavior.
Can a dramaturgical analysis of sales encounters further our understanding of the social organization of selling and buying in contemporary markets? The main argument of this paper is that limiting economic action in markets to the formal and often stylized and abstract properties of the exchange, as economists suggest, misses the material and social organization of this endeavor. Employing ethnographic methods, we apply our dramaturgical approach to three research sites in three different countries. We show how an often overlooked fundamental ingredient of economic transactions, the situated constitution of social obligation, is achieved locally on the sales floor. Social obligation allows the sellers and the buyers to move from one stage of the sales encounter to the next, and enables the closing of deals. As part of the constitution of obligation, market actors appeal to scripts which are observable, recurrent activities and patterns of interaction characteristic of a particular setting. Scripts are presented here as a basic unit of analysis in social studies of markets. We place most emphasis upon what we call "material scripts", and show how they are organized to produce an escalating scale of obligation which helps buyers and sellers to produce and reproduce the underlying social and material logic of markets.
Using longitudinal qualitative and network data capturing five years of evolution of an interorganizational network, this paper explores network orchestration – the process of assembling and developing an interorganizational network. In particular, we analyze shifts in the network orchestrator’s actions and the network’s structure and composition. We find that an orchestrator builds the capacity to assemble a network over time through the accumulation of resources and specialized expertise. However, as the network develops, an orchestrator faces an evolving set of dilemmas arising from the need to demonstrate value for various members and audiences. To resolve these dilemmas, orchestrators may shift their actions, moving from initially encouraging serendipitous encounters between network members ("blind dates") to increasingly selecting members and more closely influencing their interactions ("arranging marriages"). We discuss implications of our findings for a processual understanding of orchestrated network assembly and growth.
How did historically marginalized groups learn to become professional managers? This paper studies the identity work of a manager in a colonial work setting, focusing specifically on the aspirational quality of professional identity, and on the forms of subordination enmeshed in organizational work, through a close reading of an autobiography. Beyond Punjab describes the career of Prakash Tandon in the multinational Lever Brothers India. He eventually became its first Indian Chief Executive and a respected public figure. Studies of such colonial work settings can seem indebted to existing research within postcolonial studies in management. But I argue that the dominant attention of postcolonial studies in management has not been on identity work and practices, but the historical enduring force of representations. Therefore this paper offers a complementary engagement, developing Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus for a fuller understanding of how managerial identity was constituted in colonial work settings. Implications for contemporary organizations and professional identity in postcolonial societies such as India are discussed.
Advice-seeking is one of the most basic practices in making real-life decisions and has been shown to be a predominant mode of knowledge acquisition at the upper echelons level. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in particular seek advice to obtain formulated judgments, opinions, and suggestions about current strategic directions and recommended alternatives for future courses of action. In this study we distinguish between intra-organizational and extra-organizational sources of advice and examine how factors at the environmental, firm, and top management team (TMT) level relate to patterns of CEO advice-seeking. We develop and test hypotheses linking perceived environmental dynamism, relative competitive firm performance, and TMT heterogeneity to CEO advice-seeking from internal and external sources and uncover asymmetric patterns. We discuss implications for upper echelons theory and strategic decision-making research.
We adapt Erving Goffman’s (1974) frame analysis to discover how frames shape individuals’ decisions in a poker-based experiment. The frames that surfaced in our subjects’ verbalizations suggest the ways in which they form very different impressions of "what is going on" in an identical situation. Our findings revealed that people’s frames drive the information they attend to in a situation, the interpretation they put on that information, and the way they synthesize the information to make a decision. The thematic frames that emerged differed dramatically across groups of individuals; they also were cohesive, multifaceted, and relatively few in number. As a result they were predictive: one could foretell a person’s behavior across multiple situations given the consistency in the frame adopted. In most cases, frames also revealed a significant mismatch with the requirements of the situation. Management scholars and practitioners would be wise to be more alert to frames which can do as much to derail effective decision-making as to facilitate it.
The present paper argues that recent research on public sector reforms offers few contributions to the body of knowledge on this topic because it adds little to the conclusions drawn during the first generation of research in this area. Although these later studies have often been context-specific and have explored the details of the process of change in some depth, it is rather difficult to compare their results or to make reasoned judgements of the comprehensiveness and centrality of the analysed change. Although most public sector reforms that affect hospitals, schools or social services are initiated and designed by national governments, individual case studies of local administrations often fail to capture the generic traits of nationwide reforms. However, public sector change cannot be approached as if it comprises collections of nominally independent local events. The present paper argues for two new approaches to the study of public sector change: (i) the systematic categorization of the different forms of governmental intervention under study and (ii) analysis of the ways in which these forms of intervention are linked and interact. Based on extensive empirical research, this paper suggests a generic classification of these forms of intervention that can be used in empirical research on comprehensive public sector change. Consequently, five interventions in public sector organizations are suggested, namely political intervention, intervention by laws and regulations, intervention by audit and inspection, intervention by management and intervention by rationalizing professional practice. The model is particularly well suited to the longitudinal analysis of complex public sector reforms. This approach provides a conceptual tool to distinguish between interventions based on different forms of knowledge and to investigate how they are linked to each other vertically and horizontally. We demonstrate the usefulness of the model by analysing two empirical examples of reforms in which a variety of interventions were imposed at the local level, through legislation as well as a spectrum of voluntary measures proposed by government agencies, by national associations for local and regional councils and by other national or regional actors.
Small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are recognized as drivers of economic growth, yet commonly face low innovation and organizational success due to insufficient cross-functional integration. We pose the simple question: what factors hinder cross-functional integration from occurring? We analyse cross-functional integration at management level by developing the framework of dominant ideological modes of rationality, composing professional identity, power relations and rationalities and through the construct of ‘members’ categorization devices’ (MCDs). The article builds theory from a longitudinal in-depth empirical investigation of ‘everyday’ micro-political processes involved in cross-functional integration by drawing on political and ethnomethodological perspectives. It provides novel findings on the dynamics between power relations and cross-functional integration, the influence of ‘thought worlds’ of different functions involved in the innovation process, and contributes empirical evidence that professional identity produces power relations and rationality. Implications for theory, method and practice are considered.