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Having your cake and eating it too: discourses of transcendence and their role in organizational change dynamics

Abdallah, Chahrazad and Denis, J.L. and Langley, A. (2011) Having your cake and eating it too: discourses of transcendence and their role in organizational change dynamics. Journal of Organizational Change Management 24 (3), pp. 333-348. ISSN 0953-4814.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09534811111132730

Abstract

Purpose – Previous work on paradox and contradiction has argued for management approaches that transcend dilemmas through a kind of creative synthesis. The purpose of this paper is to investigate empirically how change leaders’ efforts to transcend contradictions emerge, evolve and contribute to organizational change. Design/methodology/approach – The paper analyses three case studies in different sectors drawing on interviews, documents and observations. Findings – It is found that discourses of transcendence emerge as leaders bring new elements to the debate and supply a rationale that creatively bridges opposite poles of a dilemma. The credibility of the discourse is enhanced when it is embedded in extant institutional ideas, when stakeholders’ interests and values appear to be accommodated and when leaders are viewed as legitimate. However, inherent contradictions tend to resurface over time, suggesting that while transcendence offers a powerful stimulus for change, its range and lifetime may be transitory. Three mechanisms associated with the acceptance of transcendent ideas (quasi-resolution of conflict, strategic ambiguity and groupthink) may sow the seeds of their eventual re-evaluation and dissolution. Originality/value – By examining the antecedents and consequences of transcendent discourses over time, the paper provides a nuanced view of their potential and limitations.

Item Type: Article
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): organizational change, contradiction, transcendence, case studies
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Business, Economics & Informatics > Management
Depositing User: Dr Chahrazad Abdallah
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2012 17:38
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:33
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/5827

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