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    The performative practices of consultants in a change network: an actor-network practice perspective on organizational change

    Caldwell, Raymond and Dyer, C. (2020) The performative practices of consultants in a change network: an actor-network practice perspective on organizational change. Journal of Organizational Change Management , ISSN 0953-4814. (In Press)

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    Abstract

    Purpose - This article positions actor-network theory (ANT) as a practice perspective and deploys it to explore the performative practices of internal consultancy teams as they implemented major programmatic change projects within a global telecommunication company. The change process required the creation of a “change network” that emerged as a boundary spanning and organizing network as the consultants sought to implement and translate a highly structured change methodology and introduce new meta-routines within the organization. Design/method/approach - By combining the methodological datum of ANT to “follow the actors” (whatever form they take) with the guiding principle of practice theory to focus on practices rather than practitioners, the research explored the in-between temporal spaces of performative practices as they unfolded in relation to standardised routines, material artefacts, and the tools and techniques of a systematic change methodology. By a method of “zooming out” and “zooming in” the research examined both the larger context of action and practice in which the change network emerged and the consultants’ performative practices; but without falling into static macro-micro dualism, or a purely ethnographic “thick description” of practice. The research is based on interviews (25), participant observation, and a review of the extensive documentation of the change methodology. Findings - The findings indicate both how consultants’ performative practices are embedded in the social and material arrangements of a change network, and why the intentional, expert or routine enactment of a highly standardised change methodology into practice is intrinsically problematic. Ultimately, the consultants could not rely on knowledge as a fixed, routine or pre-given empirical entity that predefined their actions. Instead, the consultants’ performative practices unfolded in temporal spaces of in-betweenness as their actions and practices navigated shifting and multiple boundaries while confronting disparate and often irreconcilable ideas, choices and competing interests. Research limitations/implications - As an ANT practice perspective, the research blends mixed methods in an illustrative case study, so its findings are contextual, although the methodological rationale may be applicable to other contexts of practice. Originality/value - The theoretical framing of the research contributes to repositioning ANT as practice theory perspective on change with a central focus on performative practice. The illustrative case demonstrates how a boundary spanning “change network” emerged and how it partly defined the temporal spaces of in-betweenness in which the consultants operated. Keywords: actor-network theory, performative practice, internal consultants, in-betweenness, change management, organizational routines.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): actor-network theory, performative practice, internal consultants, in-betweenness, change management, organizational routines
    School: School of Business, Economics & Informatics > Organizational Psychology
    Depositing User: Raymond Caldwell
    Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2020 10:19
    Last Modified: 10 Aug 2020 17:03
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/32446

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