Project Organizing as Negotiation of (Dis)Ordering
University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration, UZH Business Working Paper No. 304
58 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 26, 2012
This paper proposes to study the constitution of organization at the interstice of order and disorder. By putting forward the processual, heterogeneous, and fragmented nature of organization, it explores the mediating role of communication in organizational becoming (Tsoukas and Chia, 2002). More specifically, the paper focuses on how organizations overcome the inherently precarious, contingent, and disorderly character of their existence in and through language use. Taking a communicative centered approach, the paper argues for considering language-in-use as intrinsically embedding both order and disorder. To do so it relies on the empirical material of three extensive qualitative case studies in three distinct project-based organizations: a science and technology diffusion program, a software development company, and a management consulting firm. The transversal analysis of these studies shows that efforts of ordering are continuously haunted by disordering, that is, the plurality of many potential orders, which are at work in communication. Furthermore, the analysis highlights the key and yet paradoxical role of ordering devices (in the three cases studied inscribed in texts), which are designed to create and maintain order, and because of their language-based nature, generate contingency and undecidability. Language is indeed a source of ambivalence (Weick, 1990). As such, the call for order can (usually does) trigger disorder and the other way around.
Keywords: communication constitutes organizations (CCO), (dis)ordering, organizational communication, organization theory, process ontology, project organizing
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