Browsing by Subject "discourse"

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  • Segercrantz, Beata (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2011-04-15)
    Many Finnish IT companies have gone through numerous organizational changes over the past decades. This book draws attention to how stability may be central to software product development experts and IT workers more generally, who continuously have to cope with such change in their workplaces. It does so by analyzing and theorizing change and stability as intertwined and co-existent, thus throwing light on how it is possible that, for example, even if ‘the walls fall down the blokes just code’ and maintain a sense of stability in their daily work. Rather than reproducing the picture of software product development as exciting cutting edge activities and organizational change as dramatic episodes, the study takes the reader beyond the myths surrounding these phenomena to the mundane practices, routines and organizings in product development during organizational change. An analysis of these ordinary practices offers insights into how software product development experts actively engage in constructing stability during organizational change through a variety of practices, including solidarity, homosociality, close relations to products, instrumental or functional views on products, preoccupations with certain tasks and humble obedience. Consequently, the study shows that it may be more appropriate to talk about varieties of stability, characterized by a multitude of practices of stabilizing rather than states of stagnation. Looking at different practices of stability in depth shows the creation of software as an arena for micro-politics, power relations and increasing pressures for order and formalization. The thesis gives particular attention to power relations and processes of positioning following organizational change: how social actors come to understand themselves in the context of ongoing organizational change, how they comply with and/or contest dominant meanings, how they identify and dis-identify with formalization, and how power relations often are reproduced despite dis-identification. Related to processes of positioning, the reader is also given a glimpse into what being at work in a male-dominated and relatively homogeneous work environment looks like. It shows how the strong presence of men or “blokes” of a particular age and education seems to become invisible in workplace talk that appears ‘non-conscious’ of gender.
  • Vaara, Eero; Monin, Philippe (Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences, 2010-12-21)
    This paper challenges the predominant view that legitimation is merely a specific phase in merger or acquisition processes. We argue that a better understanding of postmerger organizational dynamics calls for conceptualization of discursive legitimation as an inherent part of unfolding merger processes. In particular, we focus on the recursive relationship between legitimation and organizational action. We have two objectives: to outline a theoretical model that helps one to understand the dynamics of discursive legitimation and organizational action in postmerger organizations, and to examine a revealing case to distinguish the inherent risks and problems in discursive legitimation. Our case analysis focuses on the merger between the French pharmaceutical companies BioMérieux and Pierre Fabre. We adopt a critical multimethod approach and distinguish specific discursive dynamics and pathological tendencies in this case. The analysis highlights the unintended consequences of discursive legitimation, the central role of sensegiving and sensehiding in discursive legitimation, the inherently political nature of legitimation and the risks associated with politicization, the special problems associated with fashionable discourses and the role of the media, the use of specific discursive strategies for legitimation and delegitimation, and the crucial role of actual integration results. This analysis adds to the existing research on mergers and acquisitions by treating discursive legitimation as part of the merger dynamics. In particular, our case analysis provides a new explanation for merger failure. We also believe that the recursive model connecting discursive legitimation and delegitimation strategies to concrete organizational action makes a more general contribution to our understanding of organizational legitimation.
  • Vaara, Eero; Monin, Philippe (Organizational Science, pp. 1–20, 2008)
    This paper challenges the predominant view that legitimation is merely a specific phase in merger or acquisition processes. We argue that a better understanding of postmerger organizational dynamics calls for conceptualization of discursive legitimation as an inherent part of unfolding merger processes. In particular, we focus on the recursive relationship between legitimation and organizational action. We have two objectives: to outline a theoretical model that helps one to understand the dynamics of discursive legitimation and organizational action in postmerger organizations, and to examine a revealing case to distinguish the inherent risks and problems in discursive legitimation. Our case analysis focuses on the merger between the French pharmaceutical companies BioMérieux and Pierre Fabre. We adopt a critical multimethod approach and distinguish specific discursive dynamics and pathological tendencies in this case. The analysis highlights the unintended consequences of discursive legitimation, the central role of sensegiving and sensehiding in discursive legitimation, the inherently political nature of legitimation and the risks associated with politicization, the special problems associated with fashionable discourses and the role of the media, the use of specific discursive strategies for legitimation and delegitimation, and the crucial role of actual integration results. This analysis adds to the existing research on mergers and acquisitions by treating discursive legitimation as part of the merger dynamics. In particular, our case analysis provides a new explanation for merger failure. We also believe that the recursive model connecting discursive legitimation and delegitimation strategies to concrete organizational action makes a more general contribution to our understanding of organizational legitimation.
  • Segercrantz, Beata (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2007-06-12)
    We all have fresh in our memory what happened to the IT sector only a few years ago when the IT-bubble burst. The upswing of productivity in this sector slowed down, investors lost large investments, many found themselves looking for a new job, and countless dreams fell apart. Product developers in the IT sector have experienced a large number of organizational restructurings since the IT boom, including rapid growth, downsizing processes, and structural reforms. Organizational restructurings seem to be a complex and continuous phenomenon people in this sector have to deal with. How do software product developers retrospectively construct their work in relation to organizational restructurings? How do organizational restructurings bring about specific social processes in product development? This working paper focuses on these questions. The overall aim is to develop an understanding of how software product developers construct their work during organizational restructurings. The theoretical frame of reference is based on a social constructionist approach and discourse analysis. This approach offers more or less radical and critical alternatives to mainstream organizational theory. Writings from this perspective attempt to investigate and understand sociocultural processes by which various realities are created. Therefore these studies aim at showing how people participate in constituting the social world (Gergen & Thatchenkery, 1996); knowledge of the world is seen to be constructed between people in daily interaction, in which language plays a central role. This means that interaction, especially the ways of talking and writing about product development during organizational restructurings, become the target of concern. This study consists of 25 in-depth interviews following a pilot study based on 57 semi-structured interviews. In this working paper I analyze 9 in-depth interviews. The interviews were conducted in eight IT firms. The analysis explores how discourses are constructed and function, as well as the consequences that follow from different discourses. The analysis shows that even though the product developers have experienced many organizational restructurings, some of which have been far-reaching, their accounts build strongly on a stability discourse. According to this discourse product development is, perhaps surprisingly, not influenced to a great extent by organizational restructurings. This does not mean that product development is static. According to the social constructionist approach, product development is constantly being reproduced and maintained in ongoing processes. In other words stable effects are also ongoing achievements and these are of particular interest in this study. The product developers maintain rather than change the product development through ongoing processes of construction, even when they experience continuous extensive organizational restructurings. The discourse of stability exists alongside other discourses, some which contradict each other. Together they direct product development and generate meanings. The product developers consequently take an active role in the construction of their work during organizational restructurings. When doing this they also negotiate credible positions for themselves
  • Solitander, Nikodemus (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2011-05-17)
    The thesis focuses on one of the most dominant articulations of the relation between geographical place and development, clusters - internationally competing place-bound economic system of production in related industries. The dominant articulation of cluster discourse represents the subnational region as a system of production, and as a means for competitiveness for Western countries. Its reproduction in theories has become one of the most prolific exports of economic geography to other disciplines and for policymaking. By analysing cluster discourse the thesis traces how the languages and processes of globalization have over time altered the understandings of the relation between geographical place and the economy. It shows how in its latest incarnation of the cluster discourse, the language of mainstream economics is combined with ‘softer’ elements (e.g. community, learning, creativity) in the economic geographic discourse. This is typical for the idea of soft capitalism, wherein it is assumed that economic success emanates from soft characteristics, such as knowledge, learning and creativity, rather than straightforward technological or cost advantages. A reoccurring critique against the dominant understanding of the relationship between competitiveness and regions, as articulated in cluster discourse, has pinpointed the perspective’s inability to reconcile the respective and reciprocal roles of local standard of living with firm competitiveness. The thesis traces how such critique is increasingly appropriated through the fusion of the economic, social and cultural landscape into the language of capitalism. It shows how cluster discourse has appropriated its critique, by focusing on creativity, with its strong associations to arts, individual artists and the cultural sphere in general, while predominantly creating its meaning in relation to competitiveness. The thesis consists of six essays that each outlines the development of the cluster discourse. The essays show how meaning systems and strategies are created, accepted and naturalized in cluster discourse, how this affects individuals, the economic landscape and society at large, as well as showing which understandings are marginalized in the process. The thesis argues that clusters are a) inseparable from ideology and politics and b) they are the result of purposeful social practice. It calls for increased reflexivity within corporate and economic geographic research on clusters, and underlines the importance of placing issues of power at the centre of analysis.
  • Sorsa, Virpi (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2012-10-31)
    “Strategizing has become one of the most important managerial practices. It is becoming harder and harder to find an organization, which wouldn't engage in yearly strategic planning and implementation cycles. Although the theorizing of "planning" is becoming less popular in strategy research and the theorization of "process" and "practice" is gaining more and more ground, the practice itself - the managerial elite's strategy workshops, the writing of official strategy documents and the employees' and interest groups' various innovative ways of interpreting and using those documents - has become accustomed, legitimate and even expected in contemporary organizations. This thesis examines the social practice of strategizing in municipal and congregational strategy work through various discursive perspectives and explains how strategy enters into and figures in the daily lives of people organizations. The contributions of this thesis are presented in six essays, which examine the actual strategy conversations and texts. This approach gives the reader a unique opportunity to access information and learn about issues which are typically kept out of sight to outside eyes. The results of this thesis emphasize the constitutive role of discourse and communication at different sites of social life within the context of strategizing. With its distinctive approach to studying the transcripts and videorecordings of strategy work, this thesis sensitizes scholars to pay careful attention to language and its role in social practice of strategy and will be invaluable to scholars, researchers, and graduate students in strategy communication.”
  • Joutsenvirta, Maria; Vaara, Eero (Scandinavian Journal of Management (2009) 25, 85—96, 2009)
    Despite the central role of legitimacy in corporate social responsibility debate, little is known of subtle meaning-making processes through which social actors attempt to establish or de-establish legitimacy for socially contested corporate undertakings, and through which they, at the same time, struggle to define the proper social role and responsibility of corporations. We investigated these processes in the context of the intense socio-political conflict around the Finnish forest industry company Metsa¨-Botnia’s world-scale pulp mill in Uruguay. A critical discursive analysis of Finnish media texts highlights three types of struggle that characterized the media coverage: legalistic argumentation, truth fights, and political battles. Interestingly, this case illustrates how the corporate representatives — with the help of the national media — tend to frame the issue in legalistic terms, emphasize their expert knowledge in technical and environmental evaluations, and distance themselves from political disputes. We argue that similar tendencies are likely to characterize corporate social responsibility debates more generally.
  • Louvrier, Jonna (Hanken School of Economics, 2013-08-27)
    In many countries diversity management has become an increasingly common way of treating differences between people in the world of work. Companies may sign diversity charters to show their engagement in promoting diversity, design and implement diversity management programmes, and communicate about their diversity initiatives to internal and external stakeholders. But what does diversity in the workplace mean? Who is defined as being different? And what do those defined as being different think about diversity and difference in work? By addressing these questions this book sheds light on the complex meanings of diversity management. The meanings of diversity management have long been developed and discussed in relation to equality and anti-discrimination policy and practice. A key question has been whether diversity management is a better way to enhance equality between organisational members or, on the contrary, is it diluting the results of equality approaches. The scope of this study is broader and shows that meanings of diversity management are constructed by drawing on not only knowledge about equality and anti-discrimination, but also understandings of society, the organisation, the individual, and the nature of differences. The study is informed by poststructuralist theory and based on interview data produced with 23 diversity managers and 52 ethnic minority employees in diversity promoting organisations in Finland and France. The findings contribute to the field of diversity management in several ways. First of all, the results show that there is no unitary meaning of diversity, difference and diversity management, but a number of discourses together forming the complexity and variety of what diversity management can come to mean in a given context and at a given point of time. Secondly, the findings challenge the idea that diversity management initiatives would be based solely on essentialist views of difference. However, the findings also show that even when differences are seen to be socially constructed, the organisation is not seen as participating in the construction of differences and in the production of related inequalities. Thirdly, the findings show that ethnic minority employees rarely draw on their differences as positive resources in work, and that they often are left alone to manage challenging situations related to difference, even in organisations promoting diversity. Lastly, the study highlights the importance of being attentive to national societal context, as discursively constructed, throughout the research process.
  • Vaara, Eero; Tienari, Janne; Koveshnikov, Alexei (2019-06-13)
    There is a paucity of knowledge of one key aspect of diversity in and around international organizations: national identity. This is especially the case with research on multinational corporations (MNC) that has focused on cultural differences instead of processes of national identification or national identity construction. Drawing on a critical discursive approach, this paper offers four perspectives that can help to advance this area of research. First, MNCs can be viewed as sites of identity politics, within which one can study ‘us vs. them’ constructions and the reproduction of inequalities. Second, MNCs can be seen as actors engaged in identity building and legitimation vis‐à‐vis external stakeholders, and the analysis of the discursive dynamics involved illuminates important aspects of identity politics between the organization and its environment. Third, MNCs can be viewed as part of international relations between nations and nationalities, and analysis of discursive dynamics in the media can elucidate key aspects of the international struggles encountered. Fourth, MNCs can be seen as agents of broader issues and changes, which enables us to comprehend how MNCs advance neocolonialism or promote positive change in society.
  • Pietiläinen, Tarja (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2001)
    In this working paper I discuss gendered entrepreneurship by exploring how the media writes about female entrepreneurship. The starting point is that the media when talking and writing about female entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurship, mould meanings of gender in entrepreneurship. I view entrepreneurship and gender as socially constructed, discursive phenomena. To uncover the processes of constructing gender in female entrepreneurship this paper applies a discursive framework, which treats language as a representational system producing and circulating meaning. The focus on language use as action implies that practises of writing and talking about female entrepreneurship ‘make’ gender as much as the women entrepreneurs) themselves: both involve working on culturally shared meanings to make reality intelligible. The data consists of articles published in Yrittäjä, a pro-SME magazine, in 1990-1997. In the analysis I show how gender is constructed in media talk. as a women’s issue Women entrepreneurs are constantly compared with men and with an implicitly masculine ideal of entrepreneurship and with strengths and weaknesses of women are displayed pointing out that the meaning making of gender taking place in the data refers to equality discourse. Finally I discuss possible consequences of the hegemonic equality discourse and suggest lines of further research.
  • Tienari, Janne; Vaara, Eero; Björkman, Ingmar (Sage Publications, 2010-12-21)
    In this article, the authors explore media coverage of a recent acquisition across national borders. Their starting point is that the media represent a key arena of “discursive strategizing” for actors such as corporate managers. They illustrate and specify how global capitalism, as discourse relying on economic and financial rationale and exemplified here by the acquiring firm’s attempts to expand, meets national spirit, exemplified here by the complexity in selling the acquisition target to foreigners. The main contribution of this study lies in identifying how key actors draw on and mobilize rationalistic and nationalistic discourses in public discussion. The analysis illustrates that the same actors can draw on different—even contradictory—discourses at different points in time. Furthermore, different actors—even with opposing objectives—may draw on the same discourse in legitimizing their positions and pursuing specific ends.
  • Koveshnikov, Alexei (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014-08-05)
    Multinational corporations (MNC) are often presented as powerful but ‘faceless’ institutional actors that shape the world we live in. However, we have lately seen increasing interest in actual ‘faces,’ that is the key actors, behind the MNC’s functioning in relation to the cases of fraud and bankruptcy that, together with other factors, led to the severe financial crisis at the end of 2000s. The cases of Enron and Lehman Brothers easily come to mind. It raised concerns that power abuses and tricky political games developing and proliferating within MNCs can have tremendous corporate as well as societal impacts and consequences. Yet, as of now, the micro-level power and political relations between actors in MNCs and their implications, i.e. what I call in this thesis ‘micro-politics,’ are seldom examined. Moreover, neither is the role that the institutional, cultural and sociopolitical contexts play in these micro-political relations among actors within MNCs sufficiently understood. Against this background, in this thesis I attempt to give ‘a face’ to the MNC. That is, I apply a number of ideas from comparative institutional theory, social cognition and translation studies to examine micro-political aspects of the interactions between organizational actors in MNCs that determine how these corporations function both on day to day basis and in a longer run. By so doing, I strive to offer a more nuanced, contextualized, and actor-focused sociological understanding of power and political interactions among organizational actors within the MNC. It is important to study and comprehend these processes in order to better explain them and to some extent control them.
  • Vaara, Eero; Sorsa, Virpi; Palli, Pekka (2010)
    Despite increasing interest in the discursive aspects of strategy, few studies have examined strategy texts and their power effects. We draw from Critical Discourse Analysis to better understand the power of strategic plans as a directive genre. In our empirical analysis, we examined the creation of the official strategic plan of the City of Lahti in Finland. As a result of our inductive analysis, we identified five central discursive features of this plan: self-authorization, special terminology, discursive innovation, forced consensus and deonticity. We argue that these features can, with due caution, be generalized and conceived as distinctive features of the strategy genre. We maintain that these discursive features are not trivial characteristics; they have important implications for the textual agency of strategic plans, their performative effects, impact on power relations and ideological implications.
  • Vaara, Eero; Tienari, Janne (2010)
    Although extant research has highlighted the role of discourse in the cultural construction of organizations, there is a need to elucidate the use of narratives as central discursive resources in unfolding organizational change. Hence, the objective of this article is to develop a new kind of antenarrative approach for the cultural analysis of organizational change. We use merging multinational corporations (MNCs) as a case in point. Our empirical analysis focuses on a revelatory case: the financial services group Nordea, which was built by combining Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Norwegian corporations. We distinguish three types of antenarrative that provided alternatives for making sense of the merger: globalist, nationalist, and regionalist (Nordic) antenarratives. We focus on how these antenarratives were mobilized in intentional organizational storytelling to legitimate or resist change: globalist storytelling as a means to legitimate the merger and to create MNC identity, nationalist storytelling to relegitimate national identities and interests, Nordic storytelling to create regional identity, and the critical use of the globalist storytelling to challenge the Nordic identity. We conclude that organizational storytelling is characterized by polyphonic, stylistic, chronotopic, and architectonic dialogisms and by a dynamic between centering and decentering forces. This paper contributes to discourse-cultural studies of organizations by explaining how narrative constructions of identities and interests are used to legitimate or resist change. Furthermore, this analysis elucidates the dialogical dynamics of organizational storytelling and thereby opens up new avenues for the cultural analysis of organizations.
  • Vaara, Eero; Mantere, Saku (Organization Science Vol. 19, No. 2, March–April 2008, pp. 341–358, 2008)
    We still know little of why strategy processes often involve participation problems. In this paper, we argue that this crucial issue is linked to fundamental assumptions about the nature of strategy work. Hence, we need to examine how strategy processes are typically made sense of and what roles are assigned to specific organizational members. For this purpose, we adopt a critical discursive perspective that allows us to discover how specific conceptions of strategy work are reproduced and legitimized in organizational strategizing. Our empirical analysis is based on an extensive research project on strategy work in 12 organizations. As a result of our analysis, we identify three central discourses that seem to be systematically associated with nonparticipatory approaches to strategy work: “mystification,” “disciplining,” and “technologization.” However, we also distinguish three strategy discourses that promote participation: “self-actualization,” “dialogization,” and “concretization.” Our analysis shows that strategy as practice involves alternative and even competing discourses that have fundamentally different kinds of implications for participation in strategy work. We argue from a critical perspective that it is important to be aware of the inherent problems associated with dominant discourses as well as to actively advance the use of alternative ones.
  • Vaara, Eero; Tienari, Janne; Laurila, Juha (Organization Studies 27(6): 789–810, 2007)
    Despite the central role of legitimacy in social and organizational life, we know little of the subtle meaning-making processes through which organizational phenomena, such as industrial restructuring, are legitimated in contemporary society. Therefore, this paper examines the discursive legitimation strategies used when making sense of global industrial restructuring in the media. Based on a critical discourse analysis of extensive media coverage of a revolutionary pulp and paper sector merger, we distinguish and analyze five legitimation strategies: (1) normalization, (2) authorization, (3) rationalization, (4) moralization, and (5) narrativization. We argue that while these specific legitimation strategies appear in individual texts, their recurring use in the intertextual totality of the public discussion establishes the core elements of the emerging legitimating discourse.
  • Schildt, Henri; Mantere, Saku; Vaara, Eero (Journal of Management Inquiry, 2011)
    We examine institutional work from a discursive perspective and argue that reasonability, the existence of acceptable justifying reasons for beliefs and practices, is a key part of legitimation. Drawing on philosophy of language, we maintain that institutional work takes place in the context of ‘space of reasons’ determined by widely held assumptions about what is reasonable and what is not. We argue that reasonability provides the main contextual constraint of institutional work, its major outcome, and a key trigger for actors to engage in it. We draw on Hilary Putnam’s concept ‘division of linguistic labor’ to highlight the specialized distribution of knowledge and authority in defining valid ways of reasoning. In this view, individuals use institutionalized vocabularies to reason about their choices and understand their context with limited understanding of how and why these structures have become what they are. We highlight the need to understand how professions and other actors establish and maintain the criteria of reasoning in various areas of expertise through discursive institutional work.
  • Maaranen, Anna; Tienari, Janne (2020-04-08)
    In this article, we aim to contribute to research on social media as an arena for gender relations and inequality by elucidating how social media and hyper‐masculine work cultures are interconnected. We focus empirically on the fiery social media commentary #MeToo sparked on Wall Street in New York. While the possibility of this movement backfiring has received relatively little research attention, we argue that online reactions illustrate the unpredictable nature of social media movements and their reception in organizations. Our analysis shows how they work to naturalize gender differences and polarize opinions, often with highly suspect humour. Focusing on interconnections of hyper‐masculine work cultures, on the one hand, and popular misogyny gaining ground online, on the other, offers ways to critically explore the constitutive role of social media as a medium in shaping contemporary workplaces and society. More research on social relations and technology is needed in organizations that are less obviously hyper‐masculine but deeply gendered nevertheless.
  • Jalonen, Kari; Schildt, Henri; Vaara, Eero (2018-09-18)
    Research Summary: The purpose of this article is to illuminate the role of concepts in strategic sensemaking. Based on a longitudinal real-time study of a city organization, we demonstrate how the concept of “self-responsibility” played a crucial role in strategic sensemaking. We develop a theoretical model that elucidates how strategic concepts are used in meaning-making, and how such concepts may be mobilized for the legitimation of strategic change. Our main contribution is to offer strategic concepts as a missing micro-level component of the language-based view of strategic processes and practices. By so doing, our analysis also adds to studies on strategic ambiguity and advances research on vocabularies.  Managerial Summary: Our analysis helps to understand the role of strategic concepts, that is, specific words or phrases with established and at least partly shared meanings, in an organization's strategy process. We show how adopting the concept “self-responsibility” helped managers in a city organization to make sense of environmental challenges and to promote change. Our analysis highlights how such concepts involve ambiguity that can help managers to establish common ground, but can also hinder implementation of specific decisions and actions if it grows over time. We suggest that under environmental changes, development of new strategic concepts may be crucial in helping managers to collectively deal with environmental changes and to articulate a new strategic direction for the organization.
  • Vaara, Eero; Laine, Pikka-Maaria (Human Relations, Jan 2007, 60(1): 29-58, 2007-01)
    We have seen growing interest in discursive perspectives on strategy. This perspective holds great promise for development of an understanding on how strategy discourse and subjectivity are intertwined. We wish to add to this existing research by outlining a discursive struggle approach to subjectivity. To understand the complex subjectification and empowering/disempowering effects of organizational strategy discourse, this approach focuses on organization-specific discourse mobilizations an various ways of resistance. Drawing on an analysis of the discourses and practices of ‘strategic development’ in an engineering and consulting group we provide an empirical illustration of such struggles over subjectivity. In particular, we report three examples of competing ways of making sense of and giving sense to strategic development, with specific subjectification tendencies. First, we show how corporate management can mobilize and appropriate a specific kind of discourse to attempt to gain control of the organization, which tends to reproduce managerial hegemony, but also trigger discursive and other forms of resistance. Second, we will illustrate how middle managers resist this hegemony by initiating a strategy discourse of their own to create room for manoeuvre in controversial situations. Third, we show how project engineers can distance themselves from managerial-initiated strategy discourses to maintain a viable identity despite all kinds of pressures. Although our examples are case-specific, we believe that similar discursive dynamics also characterize strategizing in other organizations.