Narrating organizational change

Authored by: Melanie Bryant , Julie Wolfram Cox

The Routledge Companion to Organizational Change

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415556453
eBook ISBN: 9780203810279
Adobe ISBN: 9781136680908


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Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, narrative has increasingly been used as an analytical tool, a methodological approach and as a focus for constructing knowledge about organizational change. Although examples of the use of narrative in organizational research are evident from as early as the 1950s (see, for example, Dalton, 1959), the postmodern and linguistic turns (Alvesson and Kärreman, 2000) in organizational studies have increased the popularity of language and text-based tools to analyse narratives, stories, discourse and conversations. Within the specific context of organizational studies, narrative has provided scholars with opportunities to explore not only human experiences, but also the various forms of talk and text that transpire within organizational settings. Along with, for example, discourse and story-based research, narrative approaches enable exploration of the dialogic nature of organizations in which the organization is recognized as a ‘multiplicity of discourses which reflect…“plurivocal” meanings’ (Grant et al., 1998, p. 7) of those who participate in organizational life. Furthermore, narrative approaches highlight a move in organization studies towards ‘a widening acceptance of alternative epistemologies’ (Pinnegar and Daynes, 2007, p. 7) and for recognition of the interdependence of the roles of researcher and participant. This contrastswith empiricist approaches to organization studies, or modernist, monologic views in which a single perspective – such as a viewpoint provided by senior managers that purportedly reflects the views of the collective organization – is presented and used as a basis for theorizing about organizational events and processes (Boje, 1995).

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