All on board? Exploring metaphors and the symbolic management of change: A qualitative case study in a large Swedish bank

Detta är en Magister-uppsats från Lunds universitet/Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Sammanfattning: The purpose of this paper was to develop a better understanding of the discursive, cognitive and emotional experience of symbolic management attempts of strategic change and its enactment in the organizational practice from both a managerial and a non-managerial perspective. To realize this research purpose, we conducted an explorative, ethnographically-inspired qualitative case study in a single organization. The empirical material was constructed from interviews, participant observations and document studies. Three levels of analysis: text, meaning, and practice. The theoretical framework was organized into three parts. Firstly, theory on strategic management, change management and symbolism provided the theoretical backdrop of the study. Secondly, the metatheoretical framework was sensemaking (and sensegiving). Thirdly, the principal theoretical framework was managerial metaphors in the symbolic management of change. Metaphors were used both as a theoretical lens to make sense of social phenomena in organizations and studied as an empirical phenomenon in itself. The case study organization was Swedbank, a Swedish bank. The empirical focus was threefold (three hierarchical levels of the organization): sensemaking and sensegiving practices, with particular reference to a journey metaphor and a boat metaphor, among top management, middle management, and co-workers. The main finding in this paper was that managerial metaphors in the symbolic management of change were constructed, made sense of and enacted in different ways along different hierarchical levels of the organization. However, despite misalignments between how managers and co-workers theorized the managerial metaphors in the discourse of change, its meanings and the emotions evoked, the (local) organization performed par excellence. Therefore, we raised questions about the possibility for and the instrumental value of managing the sensemaking of others to create systems of shared vocabularies, meanings and emotions in change work. We also questioned if it always is possible to act on such sharedness. Along these lines, we called for a reflexive approach to metaphor in change work.

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