On Organizational Becoming: Rethinking Organizational Change

Tsoukas, Haridimos; Chia, Robert
September 2002
Organization Science;Sep/Oct2002, Vol. 13 Issue 5, p567
Academic Journal
Traditional approaches to organizational change have been dominated by assumptions privileging stability, routine, and order. As a result, organizational change has been reified and treated as exceptional rather than natural. In this paper, we set out to offer an account of organizational change on its own terms--to treat change as the normal condition of organizational life. The central question we address is as follows: What must organization(s) be like if change is constitutive of reality? Wishing to highlight the pervasiveness of change in organizations, we talk about organizational becoming. Change, we argue, is the reweaving of actors' webs of beliefs and habits of action to accommodate new experiences obtained through interactions. Insofar as this is an ongoing process, that is to the extent actors try to make sense of and act coherently in the world, change is inherent in human action, and organizations are sites of continuously evolving human action. In this view, organization is a secondary accomplishment, in a double sense. Firstly, organization is the attempt to order the intrinsic flux of human action, to channel it towards certain ends by generalizing and institutionalizing particular cognitive representations. Secondly, organization is a pattern that is constituted, shaped, and emerging from change. Organization aims at stemming change but, in the process of doing so, it is generated by it. These claims are illustrated by drawing on the work of several organizational ethnographers. The implications of this view for theory and practice are outlined.


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