Miners’ Tales: Storytelling in Times of Change

GOM_72ppiRGB_150pixwPatrick Dawson of the University of Aberdeen and Peter McLean of the University of Wollongong published “Miners’ Tales: Stories and the Storying Process for Understanding the Collective Sensemaking of Employees During Contested Change” this month in Group Organization Management’s OnlineFirst section. Professor Dawson kindly provided the following brief reflection on the study:

Interest: This work builds on a longstanding interest in traditional working communities and change aligning well with previous studies in the automotive industry and on the railways.

UntitledFindings: The findings that were especially interesting related to the temporal aspects of sensemaking and sensegiving and how these contrasted with post-hoc rationalisations and documented accounts of change processes. It also draws attention to some of the limitations of existing story typologies (the narrative turn) where lot of emphasis is put on coherence and the backward glance. This suggests the need for more of a storying turn that embraces relational concepts of time (prospective, retrospective and the here-and-now).

Future research and practice: The research draws attention to the causality embedded in research narratives and case study accounts, particularly in the way that these may inadvertently reinforce the tendency to develop n-step models that promote best practice guidelines for managing change. This highlights the need for further research on temporality and change in order to consider alternative ways of presenting research material (for example, how to deal with both objective event sequences and lived subjective experiences) and for dealing with concepts of time in conducting longitudinal research in organizations.

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