Vol. 21 - 2
Interconnecting the practice turn and communicative approach to organizing: A new challenge for collective action?
Nicolas Arnaud, Bertrand Fauré, Jeanne Mengis, François Cooren.
Pages : 691-704
This special issue advances knowledge of collective action―one of the most challenging issues for contemporary businesses and organizations―by bringing together theoretical and empirical contributions at the intersection of the practice turn (Feldman & Orlikowski, 2011; Knorr-Cetina, Schatzki, & Von Savigny, 2005; Nicolini, 2012; Rouleau, 2013; Whittington, 2011) and communicative approaches to organizing (Cooren, 2015; Putnam & Nicotera, 2008).
Scholars from various disciplines (e.g. sociology, management, psychology, communication, economics and ergonomic studies) have long been interested in the ongoing transformation and enactment of collective action at work in relation to wider organizational transformations. Interpretive (Putnam & Pacanowsky, 1983) or process theories (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002), in particular, have proposed seeing collective (or co-oriented) action as relying upon the heedful interrelating of actions (Weick & Roberts, 1993) rather than on the establishment of shared organizational knowledge or culture. Accordingly, we can understand collective action as the capacity of a collective to generate a performance by constantly re-enacting the meaning and orientation of their action in a singular experience within a wider cultural and historical experience (Arnaud & Mills, 2012).
Today, more than ever, collective action is a distributed and hybrid performance, a polyphonic dance of human and non-human agency not necessarily performed within a formal organization (Cooren, 2010; Robichaud & Cooren, 2013). Within these developments, while recognizing the possibility of a “community without a unity” (Corlett, 1989; Nicolini, 2012), the question of how the diversity of practices across time and space become interrelated, organized and recognized as a collective is particularly salient. In particular, what is the role of communication in making connections between diverse bundles of practices so that a sense of collectiveness is formed? How can multiple voices become the one voice of an organized entity, thus gaining coherence while remaining different? This is what collective action is about in modern organizing: a phenomenon in between situated communication and practice.
The first section of this introduction explores the hypothesis that collective action is about how people work within a social and organizational setting to construct and mobilize interests and resources, and how people create the conditions under which social change can occur for the greatest benefit of all concerned. The second section shows how the research presented in this special issue extends our knowledge of the achievement, support and transformation of collective action by studying it from the dual perspective of practice theory and an organizational communication approach. The third section proposes avenues for future research.
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From boat to bags: The role of material chronotopes in adaptive sensemaking
Geneviève Musca Neukirch, Linda Rouleau, Caroline Mellet, Frédérique Sitri, Sarah de Vogüé.
Pages : 705-737
In following a material turn in communications, this paper explores how adaptive sensemaking in an extreme context is materially framed and reframed through both time and space. By drawing upon an ethnographic study of the Darwin Expedition, the paper examines in fine-grained detail what Weick (1993) would call a cosmology episode: during Days 9 and 10 of this expedition, climbers felt that their universe was no longer rational or ordered. A discursive analysis reveals that the boat and bags had become two central material chronotopes, through which meaning-making was being collectively reframed once the sense had collapsed. This work assesses the accounts surrounding both objects and moreover explains their roles in prompting the expedition team to reframe core meanings and enact a radical shift in sensemaking. The conclusion discusses the contribution of chronotopes in frame-shifting and the importance of focusing on the central objects structuring the collective sensemaking process in order to yield a better understanding of the role of materiality in an extreme context.
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Power to the People? How an energy company’s strategic texts constitute the company-consumer interface working against collective action
Colleen E. Mills, Claire Burlat.
Pages : 738-772
This paper presents an instructive case study showing how strategic communication designed to achieve European Union directives regarding energy saving plays out in practice. The two-year qualitative study examined the impact of a French energy supply company’s strategic practices. These practices were designed to transform not only the way consumers think about energy but also their consumption practices and how they made sense of these practices. Paradoxically, the texts that the supply company exchanged with customers, as their primary form of strategic practice, acted in ways that blocked the achievement of their strategic intent. The texts exhibited alternative forms of agency that (re)constituted the company-customer interface. In revealing this outcome, the paper contributes to a scant literature on the performance of mundane strategic tools, offering a unique example of an “ideological fantasy of ‘empowerment’” (Wright, 2012) that was not realized in practice. The findings provide a warning, in this case to energy suppliers, that strategic texts have unintended and independent agency in the collaborative process of negotiating customers’ understanding of energy and consumption options.
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Managing Strategic Discussions in Organizations: A Habermasian Perspective
Benoît Journé, Mathieu Detchessahar.
Pages : 773-802
The paper draws on Jurgen Habermas’ theory of communicative action to propose a renewed theoretical framework for “strategy work” (Mantere & Vaara, 2008) and “strategic episodes” (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2011; Corley & Gioia, 2011; Hendry & Seidl, 2003). While recognizing that the use of Habermas is quite problematic in organization studies–largely because his theory deals with democracies and free discussion, which have been presented by Habermas himself as incompatible with any kinds of management and hierarchical organizations—we argue that such a perspective is not only conceptually possible but also very useful for practitioners. In a provocative way, we assume that discussions in organizational settings have to be managed to become free and produce the outcomes expected from a discussion. Our research provides a theoretical framework to describe how interpersonal communication unfolds as well as guidelines, in a normative perspective, for organizing an ideal speech situation in order to support strategic discussion. We identify organizational and managerial conditions for the design and management of “strategic episodes” and “discussions”. Finally, our results contribute to the strategy-as-practice and the CCO (communication constitutes organizations) literatures. They are discussed as a way to strengthen the “dialogization” (Detchessahar, Gentil, Grevin & Journé, 2017) discourse that impedes the participation of various groups of practitioners in strategy work.
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Discursive struggles between bidding and target companies: an analysis of press releases issued during hostile takeover bids
Emmanuelle Nègre, Marie-Anne Verdier , Charles H. Cho.
Pages : 803-833
What are the types of interactions in the discursive struggles between the two parties involved in a hostile takeover bid? How is the legitimacy of the bid (de)constructed by both the bidding and target companies during their discursive struggles? This paper aims at addressing these research questions. Discursive struggles between the bidding and target companies are studied in a sample of 66 press releases related to seven hostile takeover bids approved by the French Market Regulator between December 2006 and December 2014. A study of the sequence followed by each party in issuing their press releases confirms the existence of strong interactions in all the hostile takeover bids studied. Using a manual content analysis methodology, we find that the disclosures made by the bidding and target companies consist of a series of attacks and defenses in which target companies are particularly offensive. We also give evidence that the two companies use legitimation, (de)legitimation and (re)legitimation arguments during discursive struggles, revealing the reciprocity of the communication between the two protagonists. We underline the symbolic or strategic dimensions of these legitimacy strategies in the view of the outcome of bids. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings for regulators and make suggestions for future research. Based on the metaphor of ventriloquism, our research highlights the importance of considering disclosures as a dynamic and mutual influence process.
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Counting before acting? The performativity of carbon accounting called into question - Calculation acts and dispositifs in a big French construction company
Franck Aggeri, Morgane Le Breton.
Pages : 834-857
The emerging field of carbon accounting, a system based on conventions and designed to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in companies and organizations, is currently generating interest both in industry and among researchers. The literature has however highlighted the fact that companies’ use of carbon accounting has often been limited to public relations practices and has failed to result in low-carbon strategic collective action by companies. This article explores how carbon accounting practices could be performative, that is to say, able to deeply transform companies’ practices and strategies. In order to do so, a case study of one specific company, “company V,” is examined. In particular, the process of performation through elementary calculation acts – in other words, managerial situations where speech acts are based on a calculation – are considered. We show that calculations based on carbon accounting, if repeated and integrated into a broader strategic dispositif, are performative. The contribution is twofold, for we show: first from an empirical standpoint, little-known phenomena pertaining to the actual use of carbon accounting in organizations; and second from a theoretical standpoint, the role of calculation acts in the launching and maintenance of the new form of collective action that a strategic dispositif is.
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‘Making a Difference’: The performative role of values in the constitution of organizations
Oana Brindusa Albu.
Pages : 858-883
This study provides an overview of the current literature of organizational values and offers a research agenda for the future investigation of values from a performative perspective. The article encourages methodological pluralism by indicating ways of studying how organizational values exhibit both ordering and disordering agency, and how the same value can have different modes of manifestation (espoused, attributed, shared, and/or aspirational, negotiated, and/or embodied/embodying). By drawing on ethnographic methods and a study of a cooperative organization, the paper makes a twofold contribution to management and organization studies. Namely, the findings show that: a) values have ordering properties, since they foster identification and collective action when invoked by managers in day-to-day work; and b) values have disordering properties (generating tensions, resistance and discursive struggles) when these position people to speak on their behalf.
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Strategy making as a communicative practice: the multimodal accomplishment of strategy roles
Birte Asmuß, Sae Oshima.
Pages : 884-912
This paper deals with the communicative accomplishment of strategy practices and processes (Cooren Bencherki, Chaput & Vásquez, 2015; Pälli, 2017; Vásquez Bencherki, Cooren & Sergi, 2017). We do so by investigating one significant activity within an organizational strategy making process, namely strategy meetings. Here, members of the upper management group create concrete drafts for the actual strategy document, and we focus on a specific action sequence where strategy actors propose changes to the strategy document. Specifically, we investigate how the participants subsequently deal with the proposal, how such interaction work facilitates the accomplishment of strategy roles, and how the interaction impacts the decision making process.
Our study shows that strategy actors, when making these decisions, not only orient to an acceptance or rejection of the proposal but also to questions of entitlement (Asmuß & Oshima, 2012). This orientation involves multimodal resources, ranging from talk (Samra-Fredericks, 2003) to embodied and material resources. The study thus provides an empirical demonstration of the processual aspects of strategy work and their impact on strategic outcomes; further, it highlights the importance for practice studies to acknowledge communicative (verbal, embodied and material) aspects in capturing the complexity of strategy work.
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Connecting Strategic Practices, Regionality and Institution: A Ventriloquism Perspective on Creativity in Agencies
Pages : 913-943
When it comes to establishing or maintaining an organization, the choice of region is a key strategic factor. This is even truer for creative organizations, whose social capital is based on the presence of innovative clusters (Delgado, Porter & Stern, 2010; Porter, 2007), a “creative class” (Florida, 2003; Pratt, 2008), and a network that helps establish its value and spur its creative production (Simon, 2009). In this article, I set out to demonstrate the interdependence between the effects of a “region,” understood as acting in and through the discourse of employees, and the macro-institutional (Vaara & Whittington, 2012) effects of the cult of creativity in the advertising industry. Drawing on two case studies within two respective advertising agencies in outlying regions (SAORs), and based on the approach of the constitutive role of communication in organizations (Cooren & Robichaud, 2011; Cooren, 2015; Putnam & Fairhurst, 2015; Putnam & Nicotera, 2008) and more specifically the premise of ventriloquism (Cooren, 2013), the article shows how certain cultural figures produce strategic practices to counter the effects of the region, whereas others cause the agency to tend toward an institutionalized ideal of advertising creativity. In doing so, the article will demonstrate how observing what is done against the name of this region already reveals practices that push a (creative) organization in a given direction, bringing into play strategic orientations of becoming that must be taken into account in order to avoid undermining creativity. The article responds to a call for a conceptualization of institutionalized constitutive effects as they are ventriloquized in strategic practice (Jarzabkowski, Burke & Spee, 2015; Smets, Greenwood & Lounsbury, 2015; Vaara & Whittington, 2012), but in relation to regionality, which has rarely been explored in strategy as practice (SAP) approaches. | Download PDF (EN) | Télécharger PDF (FR)