THE FUNCTION WHICH COMMUNICATION FULFILS DURING ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE
PREMASTER THESIS
Start talking when one should
actua...
2
“I live in a world of others’ words. And
my entire life is an orientation in this
world, a reaction to others’ words”.
B...
3
Abstract
Purpose: This thesis has reviewed the function of communication during
organisational change in two different l...
4
Table of contents
1. INTRODUCTION..........................................................................................
5
1. Introduction
Organisations are in a constant flux with the environment. The growing complexity and
rapidly changing e...
6
during organisational change. Lewis (1999) for example, has found evidence for a strong link
between communication and o...
7
2012; Brown, Gabriel, & Gherardi, 2009; Buchanan & Dawson, 2007; Denning, 2008; Jabri,
Adrian, & Boje, 2008; Langer & Th...
8
organisational change, instead of organisational change process itself (Johansson & Heide,
2008). Thus communication is ...
9
has a special focus on communication during organisational change, although many other
factors could influence the failu...
10
2. Theoretical framework
Organisational change communication, with a specific focus on the function of
communication du...
11
who introduced a three-step model to support this process. He defined an organisational
change process into an unfreezi...
12
In the organisational change literature, communication within organisation change
processes is often perceived as a sta...
13
organisation through uncertainty during the organisational change, in order to create
community and reduce resistance (...
14
Creates community Barrett (2002); Bordia, et al. (2004); Elving (2005) 3
Reduces resistance Barrett (2002); Elving (200...
15
2.1.3 Recapitulation
The most common reported functions of communication during organisational change are
presented abo...
16
2.2 Storytelling
Storytelling is a widely used concept in many different scientific disciplines. Within the
storytellin...
17
2.2.1 Organisational change storytelling
Storytelling is used as a management support in many organisational areas. Jus...
18
The dialogical way of organising and interpreting communication has a close
connection to the polyphonic (Greek for “ma...
19
through communication. It is an ongoing dialogical communication process between
management and organisation. In the po...
20
2.2.2 Functions of storytelling during organisational change
The function of storytelling, during organisational change...
21
authors state, see table 2, that ‘creating consensus’ is a main function of communication in a
polyphonic organisation....
22
2.2.3 Recapitulation
The functions of communication during organisational change, retrieved from the storytelling
liter...
23
3. Results
For a better understanding of this chapter, it is good to state the purpose of this thesis again.
This thesi...
24
have proven their functionality. A good example of this is the important function of providing
information during organ...
25
3.1.2 Polyphonic approach
The storytelling literature starts from a perspective that change occurs in and through
organ...
26
3.1.3 Recapitulation
As demonstrated in the previous paragraphs, both perspectives offer different insights about
the f...
27
4. Discussion and conclusion
In this study the functions of communication during organisational change are reviewed,
wh...
28
worthless. It is about how communication is treated within a change process and which role it
takes in within an organi...
29
5. Limitations and recommendations
The aim of this thesis, is not to present a storytelling management tool that could ...
30
References
Appelbaum, S. H., Habashy, S., Malo, J.-L., & Shafiq, H. (2012). Back to the future: revisiting
Kotter’s 199...
31
Burnes, B. (2011). Introduction: Why Does Change Fail, and What Can We Do About It? Journal
of Change Management, 11(4)...
32
Heijden, K. van der. (2005). Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation. Chichester: John Wiley
& Sons.
Jabri, M., Ad...
33
Lewis, Laurie K., & Seibold, D. R. (1998). Reconceptualizing organizational change
implementation as a communication pr...
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Premaster thesis Ronald Schep - start talking when one should listen

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Purpose: This thesis has reviewed the function of communication during organisational change in two different literature areas. The organisational change literature and the storytelling literature are searched for the most common reported functions of communication. The reported functions of communication could, according to this thesis, be derived form a more fundamental underlying concept. With regard to the underlying concepts, a distinction is made between a mono- and polyphonic perspective. This thesis will examine how the polyphonic perspective could enrich the monophonic, with a focus on the function that communication takes in within a change process. Results: Nowadays still many organisations use a form of monophonic communication during organisational change. A communication approach which is specifically developed for a change process, with the aim to steer and support the program and to repetitive communicate the, usually by management, predetermined change goals. In a polyphonic perspective, management focuses on facilitating and coordinating multiple voices into a harmonious organisational sound instead of directing and implementing a single ‘change’ voice. It also uses to speak in Boje’s terms, the already existing blood vessels to transport change thoughts into the core of an organisation. Conclusion: The polyphonic approach can be used to enrich the organisational change process by strengthen shared meaning and enhances collective action through amplifying single voice and eventually listen to the organisational orchestra. It is not that the functions of communication, reported in the storytelling literature could replace the once that are reported in the organisational change literature, but the latter can work more effectively when they make use of the vessels of change to the reach the organisation in its heart. In this way the existing conversations serve as the basis on which the change message reaches the heart of the organisation

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Premaster thesis Ronald Schep - start talking when one should listen

  1. 1. THE FUNCTION WHICH COMMUNICATION FULFILS DURING ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE PREMASTER THESIS Start talking when one should actually listen A literature review of the impact of storytelling on communication during organisational change VU University Amsterdam Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Specialisation: Management Consulting Student name: R.J. Schep Student number: 2521964 Student e-mail: ronaldschep@hotmail.com First supervisor: Dr. H.S. Heusinkveld Second supervisor: Dr. M.J.J. Wolters Date: June 2013
  2. 2. 2 “I live in a world of others’ words. And my entire life is an orientation in this world, a reaction to others’ words”. BAKHTIN’S (1986, P. 143)
  3. 3. 3 Abstract Purpose: This thesis has reviewed the function of communication during organisational change in two different literature areas. The organisational change literature and the storytelling literature are searched for the most common reported functions of communication. The reported functions of communication could, according to this thesis, be derived from a more fundamental underlying concept. With regard to the underlying concept, a distinction is made between a mono- and polyphonic perspective. This thesis will examine how the polyphonic perspective could enrich the monophonic perspective, with a special focus on the function that communication takes in within a change process. Results: Nowadays still many organisations use a form of monophonic communication during organisational change. A communication approach which is specifically developed for a change process, with the aim to steer and support the change program and to repetitive communicate the, usually by management, predetermined change goals. In a polyphonic perspective, management mainly focuses on facilitating and coordinating multiple voices into a harmonious organisational sound instead of directing and implementing a single ‘change’ voice. It also uses, to speak in Boje’s terms, the already existing blood vessels to transport change thoughts into the core of an organisation. Conclusion: The polyphonic approach can be used to enrich the organisational change process by strengthen shared meaning and enhances collective action through amplifying single voices and eventually listen to the organisational orchestra. It is not that the functions of communication, reported in the storytelling literature could replace the once that are reported in the organisational change literature, but the latter can work more effectively when they make use of the vessels of change to the reach the organisation in its heart. In this way the existing conversations serve as the basis on which the change message reaches the centre of the organisation.
  4. 4. 4 Table of contents 1. INTRODUCTION.............................................................................................................................5 1.1 PROBLEM STATEMENT...................................................................................................................5 1.2 PURPOSE........................................................................................................................................7 1.3 PRACTICAL & SCIENTIFIC RELEVANCE..........................................................................................8 1.4 EXPLANATION OF THE THESIS STRUCTURE ...................................................................................9 2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK................................................................................................10 2.1 ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE.........................................................................................................10 2.1.1 Organisational change communication...............................................................................11 2.1.2 Functions of communication during organisational change ...............................................13 2.1.3 Recapitulation......................................................................................................................15 2.2 STORYTELLING............................................................................................................................16 2.2.1 Organisational change storytelling .....................................................................................17 2.2.2 Functions of storytelling during organisational change......................................................20 2.2.3 Recapitulation......................................................................................................................22 3. RESULTS ........................................................................................................................................23 3.1 DIFFERENT ROLE THAT COMMUNICATION TAKES IN WITHIN ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE..........23 3.1.1 Monophonic approach.........................................................................................................23 3.1.2 Polyphonic approach...........................................................................................................25 3.1.3 Recapitulation......................................................................................................................26 4. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ............................................................................................27 5. LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS..........................................................................29 REFERENCES....................................................................................................................................30
  5. 5. 5 1. Introduction Organisations are in a constant flux with the environment. The growing complexity and rapidly changing environment requires organisations to change themselves in order to survive (Bordia, Hobman, Jones, Gallois, & Callan, 2004; Gordon et al., 2000; Heijden, 2005; Johansson & Heide, 2008; By 2005). Lewis (2000) states that as a result of this constantly changing environment organisations make small to big changes at least once in every five years. Since organisations still struggle to cope with change (Rafferty, Jimmieson, & Armenakis, 2012), the interest from practitioners and scientists in this topic has kept growing, leading to a wide variety of literature for both practitioners (management literature) and scientists. Organisational change has become central theme for many practitioners, experts, change agents, gurus and academics. Despite the expanding literature, training courses, conferences and greater attention to organisational change, many change attempts still do not succeed (Elving, 2005). This raises an important question, why do change initiatives fail? This question raises even more questions; is a single answer even possible? Would a single answer solve all the problems and turn failures into successes? Strangely enough, the latter question has attracted limited attention (Burnes, 2011). A reason for that could be that many factors affect success or failure, such as experiences in the past, lack of trust in capabilities of management, failing communication, organisational culture, timing, role of change agents and so on (Elving, 2005; Ford, Ford, & McNamara, 2002). This premaster thesis will focus on the use of communication during organisational change. 1.1 Problem statement Change communication has been an interesting research topic for various academic disciplines, where much attention is given to the importance of effective communication
  6. 6. 6 during organisational change. Lewis (1999) for example, has found evidence for a strong link between communication and organisational change. The importance of internal communication during change has also been addressed in many studies (Elving, 2005; Ford & Ford, 1995; Johansson & Heide, 2008; Vuuren & Elving, 2008). Even the link between failing change initiatives and shortcomings in internal communication has been emphasized in recent research (Elving, 2005; Johansson & Heide 2008; Lewis, 2000). These studies have clearly stressed the importance and function of communication during organisational change. However, most of the studies, within the organisational change communication literature start from a planned organisational change perspective; one where communication is presented as a standalone phase within a linear change process (Gordon, 2000). The work of (Ford & Ford, 1995; Kotter, 2007; Lewis & Seibold, 1998) lays a solid foundation for this theory and approach. Although the importance of communication in organisational change is generally agreed upon, the specific functions that ‘change communication’ acquires within the organisational change literature in relation to the functions that communication acquires within the storytelling literature is still left underexposed. Within organisational change literature, communication is generally viewed as monophonic. For example, reducing uncertainty by providing transparent and useful information relevant to the change process. It is top down and functional (Bordia et al., 2004; Elving, 2005; Johansson & Heide, 2008; Jones et al., 2004). . Storytelling literature, conversely, attends to focus on polyphonic communication. A generally accepted idea, within storytelling literature, is that change comes from the inside of an organisation and dialogues are perceived as the starting point of the change itself. Thus, the role of communication is deeper and richer; in the fact communication is itself a catalyst for organisational change (Barker & Gower, 2010; Boje,
  7. 7. 7 2012; Brown, Gabriel, & Gherardi, 2009; Buchanan & Dawson, 2007; Denning, 2008; Jabri, Adrian, & Boje, 2008; Langer & Thorup, 2006). This paper aims to fill the gap in the functionality that can be assigned to communication in the organisational change literature by reviewing the given functionalities of communication during organisational change in the storytelling literature. Therefore, this thesis will address the following central question: ‘Which role, according to the organisational change literature, does communication takes in during organisational change and how could insights from the storytelling literature enrich this approach? The following sub-questions are formed to find an answer to the central question; (1) what are the main functions and purposes of communication during organisational change, as described in organisational change literature. (2) What are, in the storytelling literature, the main functions and purposes of communication during organisational change? (3) To what extent do these two visions differ and how can the storytelling vision enrich the organisational change communication vision? These sub-questions will form the basic structure of this thesis. 1.2 Purpose It is the purpose of this thesis to review the existing literature about communication during organisational change and search for functionalities of communication in the storytelling literature which could enrich the present communication approaches, described in the existing organisational change literature. The choice for analysing the storytelling literature lies in the fact that it starts with a different view on communication and organisational change. In the storytelling literature, organisational communication is defined as a kind of living organism which is the driving force behind organisational change (Jabri, Adrian, & Boje, 2008). It takes continual organisational dialogues as starting point for
  8. 8. 8 organisational change, instead of organisational change process itself (Johansson & Heide, 2008). Thus communication is no longer a part of the change process but the process itself. This could give a better understanding of the vital role that, the already present organisational communication, takes in within the organisational change process. Which ultimately could be used to improve change communication through insights gained from a storytelling perspective and this thesis could be used as a guide for more empirical research. 1.3 Practical & scientific relevance As already stated, the importance of communication during organisational change has been repeatedly concluded by many scholars (Jones, Watson, Gardner, & Gallois, 2004; Lewis & Seibold, 1998). Communication has the attention of practitioners as well as scientists, even though communication approaches to change remain underdeveloped, (Johansson & Heide, 2008). Both research areas, storytelling and organisational change, have often been linked together(Barker & Gower, 2010; Boje, 2001; Langer & Thorup, 2006; Parkin, 2004). But there is hardly any research been done on how the findings from the storytelling literature could enrich the findings in the organisational change communication literature. This thesis hopes to contribute to the literature by linking both research fields on a very specific theme. This thesis is also relevant for practitioners who are coping with organisational change. Balogun & Hope Hailey (2004), Daly, Teague & Kitchen (2003) and also Langer & Thorup, 2006, report that almost 70 per cent of all change initiatives fail1 . The outcomes of this literature study could help practitioners in the forming of new insights about the functionalities that communication can fulfil in times of organisational change. This thesis 1 The reported percentages vary vastly, thus Burnes (2011) has investigated those percentages and concludes that there is little empirical research available to support the statements. He argues that there are three reasons to explain the differences; (1) Scientists dictate a high rate but give no supportive evidence, (2) Percentages are determined on the basis of literature reviews and (3) Research that is sustained by empirical research. The latter seems to be the most reliable, but Burnes (2011) indicates that it is very difficult to perform a pre and post measurement, and which makes it complicate to estimate a percentage. Yet it can be assumed that many change projects fail to achieve the desired change (Kotter, 2007).
  9. 9. 9 has a special focus on communication during organisational change, although many other factors could influence the failure or success of organisational change, and thus contributes to that aspect alone. 1.4 Explanation of the thesis structure This thesis is structured as follows: the first part will be an exploration of relevant literature. The current literature about communication during organisational change and the storytelling literature will be reviewed, analysed and discussed to examine the functionalities that communication is given during organisational change. After those two sections, as the central part of this thesis, chapter three will be used to analyse the findings. The analysis will be based on a review to what extent the presented functions of communication can be traced back to a single underlying concept. The criteria will be based on the, earlier presented, monophonic and polyphonic concepts. These theories are retrieved from the organisational change and storytelling literature. Finally, the limitations of this thesis, the main conclusions and recommendations for further research will be described.
  10. 10. 10 2. Theoretical framework Organisational change communication, with a specific focus on the function of communication during organisational change processes, is the overarching theme of this thesis. This chapter starts with an introduction into organisational change communication by presenting an overview of the current state of theory in relevant organisational change literature. After that the storytelling literature will be presented, as both literatures will be reviewed in this chapter. The storytelling and organisational change literature are already linked by many authors (e.g. Boje, 1991a; Boje, 2012; Boyce, 1996; Brown, Gabriel, & Gherardi, 2009; Buchanan & Dawson, 2007; Dietz, 2004; Ford, Ford, & D’Amelio, 2008; Kotter & Cohen, 2002; Langer & Thorup, 2006). Especially the focus on communication has been a topic of interest for many scholars (Barker & Gower, 2010; Boje, 2001; Langer & Thorup, 2006; Parkin, 2004). Both of these literature areas can be connected with each other on the basis of the fact that they take the communication as the centre. The storytelling literature, by how communication will form and reform organisations. And in the organisational change literature on how communication takes shape within the change process. First of all the, function and focus of communication during organisational change will be described. The main approaches and thoughts will be highlighted. Secondly the main focus of communication during organisational change in the storytelling literature will be discussed. 2.1 Organisational change A large amount of organisational change literature focuses on change management. Change management is, according to By (2005), the ongoing process of challenging an organisation to keep up with the ever changing, internal and external demands. Lewin was one of the first
  11. 11. 11 who introduced a three-step model to support this process. He defined an organisational change process into an unfreezing, moving (change itself) and refreezing part (Johansson & Heide, 2008; Vuuren & Elving 2008). Many change approaches are based on this primarily model of Lewin (Erwin & Garman, 2010), includig the change model of Kotter (1995), who defined an eight-step model that leaders could follow to successfully implement change (e.g. Appelbaum, Habashy, Malo, & Shafiq, 2012; Erwin & Garman, 2010). Kotter’s model is cited, is not because of the scientific value, which is low due to the lack of rigours fundaments, but because it has been a very successful management model for a long period (Appelbaum et al., 2012). Kotter also recognized that communication plays a vital role in the success or failure of organisational change and has devoted a whole step to communication (Johansson & Heide, 2008). Many successive communication models and approaches are derived from step four of his model: “communicate the change vision – tell people, in every possible way and at every opportunity, about the why, what and how of the changes” (Appelbaum et al., 2012: 766). Jones et al. (2004) agrees and states that communication needs to gain a central position within the change process. The importance becomes clear in the sense that, when communication takes in a central place, the organisational change process becomes easier to manage (Jones et al., 2004). 2.1.1 Organisational change communication Lewis (1999: p 45) in Jones et al. (2004) state that “communication and organisational change are inextricably linked processes.” But before we look at the functions that communication fulfils in a change process it is important to examine the role communication takes in within the change process itself. The latter is important because most of the functions of communication will be based on the role which communication takes in within the change process. Many reported functions of communication during organisational change are thus a result of the purpose that communication fulfils within the entire process.
  12. 12. 12 In the organisational change literature, communication within organisation change processes is often perceived as a standalone ‘unique’ sort of communication. It is special in the sense that it is only activated when an organisational change project is in place and is not used during the normal functioning of a stable organisation. In addition, this form of communication does not make use of the dialogues that already exist within organisations. This is also reflected in the rational perspective, where change is perceived as a linear process in which communication is linearly managed (Johansson & Heide, 2008). In the same way, according to Kotter’s earlier presented model, steps need to be followed, by top management, linear and in proper sequence (Appelbaum et al., 2012). Communication thus occupies a specific time and place within the organisational change process. Similarly, Elving (2005) has found that the function of communication during organisational change is based on a top- down communication perspective. Elving recognises communication as an integral part of the change process and strategy, which indicates that change communication is perceived as a special sort of communication. Lewis (2006) has found, in line with Kotter’s ‘communication step’ and the top-down view of Elving, that it is really important for leaders to communicate transparent change visions. The above presented approaches can be summarised by the term, monophony (Greek for “single sound”) because they are more, traditional orientated, top-down directed forms of communication which are based on the rationalistic models of the 1950s and 1960s (Heijden, 2005; Langer & Thorup, 2006). Monophonic communication has its origins in a more rationalist approach, where ‘predict & control’ are the leading organisational tools (Heijden, 2005; Langer & Thorup, 2006). According to Langer & Thorup (2006), monophonic communication reflects the rationalist paradigm in the sense that management vision and values are top-down communicated. The sender (top management) aims to steer its
  13. 13. 13 organisation through uncertainty during the organisational change, in order to create community and reduce resistance (Langer & Thorup, 2006). This monophonic vision thus supports a one-way, top-down, standalone form of communication to steer organisations through the organisational change process. 2.1.2 Functions of communication during organisational change Functions of communication, in the organisational change literature, will derive from a more traditional directed communication approach. In the change literature many functions of communication during organisational change are described from that starting point, therefore it is important to remember that the interpretation which is given to these functions are based on a more monophonic vision. Table 1 shows the different functions of communication during organisational change, given by various authors. The most important will be discussed below. Table 1 Display of the, in the organisational change literature found, functions of communication during organisational change Function Authors # Provides information Barrett (2002); Bordia, et al. (2004); Elving (2005); Ford & Ford (1995); Gilly, Gilly & McMillan (2009); Lewis & Seibold (1998); Lewis, et al. (2006); Proctor & Doukakis, (2003) 8 Reduces uncertainty Bordia, et al. (2004); Elving (2005); Ford & Ford (1995); Jones, et al. (2004); Proctor & Doukakis, (2003) 5 Justifies change Bordia, et al. (2004); Elving (2005); Ford & Ford (1995); Lewis, et al. (2006); Proctor & Doukakis, (2003) 5 Motivates employees Barrett (2002); Ford & Ford (1995); Gilly, Gilly & McMillan (2009) 3 Provides reinforcement Barrett (2002); Ford & Ford (1995); Gilly, Gilly & McMillan (2009) 3
  14. 14. 14 Creates community Barrett (2002); Bordia, et al. (2004); Elving (2005) 3 Reduces resistance Barrett (2002); Elving (2005) 2 Creates participation Bordia, et al. (2004); Lewis, et al. (2006) 2 Provides feedback Gilly, Gilly & McMillan (2009) 1 Announces change Ford & Ford (1995); 1 Note: # refers to the number of sources containing the function (not exhaustive) Provides information. Many authors state that ‘providing information’ is a main function of communication during organisational change. This premise is deepened by the addition that Gilly, Gilly & McMillan (2009) argue, that leaders and change agents must provide employees with relevant information in order to increase the acceptance and participation in change processes. Lewis & Seibold (1998) go further to say that information is also to assist in understanding and dealing with organisational change processes, . Reduces uncertainty. One of the key challenges in organisational change is coping with uncertainty. The word ‘change’ indicates that there is a rupture with the status quo, which is the main source of uncertainty (Appelbaum et al., 2012; Ford et al., 2002; Rafferty et al., 2012). Elving (2005) therefore state that supportive communication, during organisational change, reduces uncertainty. This statement is followed by many other authors (see table 1) including to Jones, et al. (2004) who found that effective communication reduces uncertainty about change. Justifies change. The recognition of the necessity and decision for organisational change is often made by top management. From there it seeps slowly into lower levels of the organisation, first senior management, middle management and then employees. Thus management needs to create widespread understanding about why change is necessary in order to succeed. Communication is the right tool for this; “ensure clear and consistent messages to educate employees in the company vision, strategic goals, and what the change means to them” (Proctor & Doukakis, 2003). Barrett (2002: 220).
  15. 15. 15 2.1.3 Recapitulation The most common reported functions of communication during organisational change are presented above. But it must be noted that only a selection of the available literature is reviewed. Therefore the list is not exhaustive and more functions of communication can be found in the literature. However it is a good starting point for this explorative thesis. From the monophonic paradigm the functions of communication are essentially formed from a top-down perspective. The main presented functions have mostly to do with the transfer of thoughts, ideas or initiatives from top management to middle management and eventually to the employees. In general, in almost all the reviewed literature, authors suggests that it is vital to the success of a change program to keep employees well informed. It is generally assumed that, in all the presented functions of communication, the way in which management communicates with the employees, defines the outcome of a change program. A well-supported premise, in line with this, is that when information is offered the implementation problems will disappear (Johansson & Heide, 2008). The ability to change and steer behaviour through communication is largely accepted. In this review of organisational change, communication is thus presented as a crucial tool to inform, reduce and change. Communication is seen as an instrument to organise and control organisational change. Therefore communication programmes are created to support the internal communication processes in order to ensure the success of an organisational change program (Barrett, 2002). The ability to control and steer gives communication a central role to the change program, from which the functions of communication are derived.
  16. 16. 16 2.2 Storytelling Storytelling is a widely used concept in many different scientific disciplines. Within the storytelling literature social science, psychology, organisational science and many others have contributed to a vast amount of interdisciplinary storytelling literature (Boyce, 1996; Rhodes & Brown, 2005). Storytelling has been a broad research topic for many different scientific disciplines. This interdisciplinary lens has provided a variety of themes, definitions and applications of storytelling (Boyce, 1996). The literature reveals that three definitions of storytelling are often quoted. The first definition of storytelling that will be presented is the one that Boje uses; “collective storytelling system in which the performance of stories is a key part of members sense-making and a means to allow them to supplement individual memories with institutional memory” (Boje, 1991b: 106). A more comprehensive definition from the same work of Boje is: “an oral or written performance involving two or more people interpreting past or anticipated experience” (Boje, 1991b: 111). The second definition is used by Czarniawska (1997: 78), “stories are essentially structuration mechanisms that order the world through plot lines and similar structural qualities”; and the third is from Gabriel (2000: 239); “Stories are narratives with plots and characters, generating emotion in narrator and audience, through a poetic elaboration of symbolic material.” The difference between the definitions could be explained by the fact that the multidisciplinary lenses have created various frames of references or paradigms (Boyce, 1996). Czarniawska and Gabriel see stories as a mechanism in which people order the world around them, linear structured with a beginning, middle and plot,while Boje indicates that stories are fragmented, non-linear and fluent(he is drawing on Bakhtin’s theory of multivocality). This thesis will follow Boje’s definition of the ‘polyphonic’ view.
  17. 17. 17 2.2.1 Organisational change storytelling Storytelling is used as a management support in many organisational areas. Just to name a few: introducing change, managing change, internal communication and organisational learning (Barker & Gower, 2010; Gabriel, 2000). To further understand the function of storytelling during organisational change, it is necessary to understand which role storytelling takes in within the organisation and in specific within the change process. Boje (1991a: 8) states: “stories are the blood vessels through which change pulsates in the heart of organisational life”, which is an indication of the role that communication, and in specific storytelling, fulfils within a change process. It grabs the heart of organisational life, which means that it works from the inside of the organisation. It uses, to speak in Boje’s terms, the already existing blood vessels to transport change thoughts into the core of an organisation. In the reviewed literature, storytelling is often perceived as a rich communication form. Many different functions, definitions and roles are ascribed to storytelling during organisational change. But the main, and most significant, difference between the perspectives of the organisational change literature and the storytelling literature is that effective communication, in the storytelling literature, is perceived as dialogical (Auvinen, 2012; Barker & Gower, 2010; Boje, 1995; Boje, 2012; Brown et al., 2009; Buchanan & Dawson, 2007; Jabri et al., 2008; Rhodes & Brown, 2005). Change communication, in the organisational change literature, is also perceived as a form of exchange between sender and receiver. The difference between the two theories lies in the fact that in the organisational change literature dialogues are used to convey the management message, while in the storytelling literature dialogues serve as the starting point of change, thus bottom-up rather than top-down. Dialogical communication is defined by Jabri et al., (2008) as the ongoing process of co-creating reality by sender and receiver. In organisational research, dialogical organisations are perceived as decentralized and collaborative in nature (Boje, 2012).
  18. 18. 18 The dialogical way of organising and interpreting communication has a close connection to the polyphonic (Greek for “many sounds”) paradigm. Polyphonic organisations are, according to Hazen (1993) cited in, Kornberger, Clegg, & Carter (2006); organisations that are constituted by many voices (stories). This polyphonic vision changes the way that organisations and management approach organisational change. Instead of top-down managing, designing and controlling change, they just start listening to the organisational dialogues (organisational stories) in which change occurs. The person who lit up the communication research field is Bakhtin (Jabri et al. 2008). Bakhtin was a Russian philosopher and a linguistic critic who reviewed i.a. Dostoevsky’s novel (in Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics) and concluded that multiple voices could be heard, hence he explored the notion of polyphony (Kornberg et al., 2006). – It reaches far beyond the scope of this study to analyse Bakhtin's theory further. But it is important to mention Bakhtin’s work because it has influenced many other studies – In the light of this thesis the polyphonic or dialogical way of interpreting communication opens new perspectives to organisational change. In a polyphonic perspective, management focuses on facilitating and coordinating multiple voices into a harmonious organisational sound instead of directing and implementing a single ‘change’ voice; the latter is moreover derived from the organisational change literature (Langer & Thorup, 2006). Where listening is the key to successful organisational change, all members should be encouraged to interact. An important implication of dialogism is that management allows employees to participate in the change process, through the process of coordinating all the single voices. The polyphonic approach thus, in theory, could make better use of individual qualities, because management needs to listen to all individual voices (Jabri et al., 2008). This is closely related to the thoughts of Johansson & Heide (2008) who point out that a change program will continually be modified and adapted by organisational members,
  19. 19. 19 through communication. It is an ongoing dialogical communication process between management and organisation. In the polyphonic approach change thus occurs through and in communication. Achieving change, in this method, is not a process in which communication is used as a tool, but a process that is generated, formed and sustained through and in communication. That is in line with the thought of Boje (1991b), he sees organisations occurring in and through communication and in specific through stories. Boje and Denning find each other on this subject in the sense that Denning (2000) state that when companies encourage cooperation through storytelling, the dialogue in which reality is co-constructed, communication creates shared meaning and strengthen shared action This builds on the idea, which is generally accepted within the storytelling literature, that organisations are formed and reformed through communication. In line with this, change comes from the inside of an organisation, in which dialogues or stories, are perceived as the starting point of the change itself (Brown et al., 2009; Jabri et al., 2008; Langer & Thorup, 2006). Langer & Thorup (2006) express it even stronger, successful change can’t be based on standardisation and top- down communication. Successful organisational change is only possible when each single voice has the opportunity to express itself and contribute to the process, this gives ultimately a feeling of commitment and ownership.
  20. 20. 20 2.2.2 Functions of storytelling during organisational change The function of storytelling, during organisational change, will be derived from the polyphonic paradigm. Table 2 shows the different functions of storytelling during organisational change that are found in the reviewed literature. The most important will be discussed below: Table 2 Display of the, in the storytelling literature found, functions of communication during organisational change Function Authors # Creating consensus Allan et al., 2002; Barker & Gower, 2010; Boje, 1991a; Brown et al., 2009; Denning 2011; Taylor et al., 2002 6 Sense making Boje, 1991b; Boje, 2012; Boyce, 1996; Rhodes & Brown, 2005; Taylor et al., 2002 5 Enhances learning Barker & Gower, 2010; Czarniawska, 1997; Forster et al., 1999 3 Provides information Forster et al., 1999; Rhodes & Brown, 2005; Taylor et al., 2002 3 Co-creating vision and strategy Boyce, 1996; Heijden, 2005; Taylor et al., 2002 3 Solving problems Rhodes & Brown, 2005; Taylor et al., 2002 2 Motivates Barker & Gower, 2010; Taylor et al., 2002 2 Develops shared experiences Boyce, 1996; Rhodes & Brown, 2005 2 Raises organisational awareness Gabriel, 2000 1 Reduces complexity Taylor et al., 2002 1 Note: # refers to the number of sources containing the function (not exhaustive) Creating consensus. A main function of communicating during organisational change is creating consensus. People, in a polyphonic led organisation, try to create reality through dialogues (Taylor et al., 2002). This two-way form of communication automatically seeks consensus, because reality is co-constructed in the interaction (Jabri et al., 2008). Most
  21. 21. 21 authors state, see table 2, that ‘creating consensus’ is a main function of communication in a polyphonic organisation. Sense making. Organisations emerge from networks of narratives, seen from a sense making perspective to organising (Jones et al., 2004; Rhodes & Brown, 2005). This perspective allows different potential meanings to emerge. In line with the polyphonic approach, sense making through storytelling thus recognizes pluralisation. Sense making is important in times of organisational change, because a fracture in the status quo accelerates the sense making process (Boje, 2012; Boyce, 1996). Interestingly Rhodes & Brown (2005) note that storytelling, or stories are a means to interpret the meaning of events, which could help management to organise the change process. Enhances learning. Barker & Gower (2010) note that organisational learning evolves through dialogue. Multiple realities exchange through communication and therefore people are able to revise their own reality, which enhances learning. Further they state that improved learning will help both employees and organisation to build relationships and improve collaboration. Stories can be used to refine this process and improve individual thinking, attitudes and behaviour towards the change process (Forster et al., 1999). The link with change is important because stories can act as change catalysts. Forster et al. (1999) argue that stories generate credibility and encourage behavioural and attitudinal shifts.
  22. 22. 22 2.2.3 Recapitulation The functions of communication during organisational change, retrieved from the storytelling literature, are presented above. It is also worth noting that it is not the intention of this thesis to provide an exhaustive list of functions. The focus of this thesis is how communication fits in a change process. From the polyphonic paradigm the functions of communication are essentially conceptualised in a cooperative perspective. Almost all the presented functions of communication are based on duality, whereas reality is constructed between people who are communicating. This dialogical communication takes in a prominent part within a change program. That is because it is, in the storytelling literature, generally accepted that change occurs through communication. Olson (2001) argued that change happens by connecting with and through employees, and not through top-down control. Thus, to improve and achieve better change results, management must, according to Olson (2001), engage in the ongoing, already present, organisational dialogues, to enrich new and shared meaning which will help the organisational change process (Taylor et al., 2002). In this review of organisational change communication, storytelling is not regarded as a tool, which simply can be used to improve the organisational change outcomes. Rather, storytelling can be used to enrich the organisational change process by strengthen shared meaning and enhances collective action through amplifying single voice and eventually listen to the organisational orchestra. Communication, during organisational change in the storytelling literature, should therefore not be seen as a tool to strengthen the process. Communication is the manner in which organisations change, the starting point of the change itself. Change is a process where everyone is involved and has their own opinion, from top-management to employees and external shareholders. Hooking into current organisational dialogues is, therefore, of great importance.
  23. 23. 23 3. Results For a better understanding of this chapter, it is good to state the purpose of this thesis again. This thesis has an explorative character where’, on a conceptual/theoretical level the role that communication takes in within an organisational change process, in two different literature areas, is reviewed. In this chapter the findings of the literature study will be discussed. The previous chapters have highlighted the different functions of communication, during organisational change. This chapter will be used for analysing the basic underlying concept on which the functions of communication are built. As stated previously, the functions of communication can be traced back to underlying monophonic & polyphonic concepts and will therefore be analysed in this chapter to form answers to the sub-questions. Ultimately this will form the theoretical body to find an answer to the main question. To gain a deeper understanding of the conceptual enrichments that both approaches can deliver, it is necessary to separate both theories and to exclude the implication of the persistent practice, in order to gain a clearer vision. To further understand where the storytelling literature, with a polyphonic perspective, could enrich the organisational change literature, with a monophonic perspective, the results of both perspectives will be reviewed. 3.1 Different role that communication takes in within organisational change This thesis will examine how the polyphonic perspective could enrich the monophonic perspective during organisational change, with a focus on the function that communication takes in within a change process. 3.1.1 Monophonic approach Nowadays still many organisations use a form of monophonic communication during organisational change. A explanation for the use of a more monophonic approach lies in the fact that many functions of communication, which are derived from the monophonic concept,
  24. 24. 24 have proven their functionality. A good example of this is the important function of providing information during organisational change, which is one of the key functions of communication described in the organisational change literature. It is therefore not righteous to neglect the value of the monophonic approach. The described functions of communication are important means for those who are implementing organisational change and the effect of communication on the outcome of a change program are also comprehensively described by for example Elving (2005). Thus it is not the purpose of this thesis to solely criticise the monophonic approach and its arising functionalities. The main point is that there is only one voice to be heard; i.e. the voice of management and that the communication program is separated from the already existing organisational communication infrastructure. A result of this is that in this more directive way of communicating, the potentiality of the functions of communication are not fully exploited. They do not come to full advantage in a more monophonic approach because this ‘unique’ communication form is solely used in existence of organisational change. A communication approach which is thus specifically developed for a change process, with the aim to steer and support the program and to repetitive communicate the, usually by management, predetermined change goals. It starts with the organisational change goals in mind when it searches for the most effective means of communication to achieve those goals. This starting point deteriorates the potentiality of communication, and its functions, during organisational change. Because it takes not the full advantages of the existing organisational dialogues, this is because it mainly separated from the already existing communication patterns. From the presented functions of communication during organisational change it could be concluded that, in a single voice approach, there is hardly any room for dialogue between employees and management.
  25. 25. 25 3.1.2 Polyphonic approach The storytelling literature starts from a perspective that change occurs in and through organisational communication. The presented functionalities from communication during organisational change are also derived from this perspective. Which ultimately are derived from a more collaborative perspective in which multiple voices are allowed to be heard. The most important implication of this approach is that management should support and stimulate organisational dialogues. Because, as stated earlier, dialogues are the vessels through which ideas and thoughts can reach the organisational hart. The focus on dialogical communication literally gives space to the rise of change from the inside, the hart, of an organisation. It means that dialogues become the eyes and ears of change agents and management team, instead of imposing a single monophonic voice (Jabri, 2008). In this manner change agents and management only need to hook in into the already existing organisational dialogues to carry out their organisational change ideas. But more importantly, the dialogical way of communicating also states that one must listen very carefully. Because for example, resistance to organisational change will find its way back in the form of organisational narratives. The embedded organisational infrastructure can thus be used to steer and change the stories that are told, also the negative ones. Because if dialogues shape a organisational change process and its outcomes, than this gives the management the ability to manage communication by scripting the narratives (Buchanan & Dawson, 2007). Eventually this provides management teams with a whole new perspective in which they can deal with communication during organisational change. This ‘open’ perspective allows change stories (organisational dialogues) to travel throughout the whole organisation. It is therefore of great importance that nothing hinders this naturally narrative flow. The polyphonic approach should leverages and supports these organisational dialogues. By listing to the dialogues many ideas and thoughts about the organisational change process will automatically reach surface.
  26. 26. 26 3.1.3 Recapitulation As demonstrated in the previous paragraphs, both perspectives offer different insights about the function of communication during organisational change. Where the monophonic perspective is perceived as a top-down and rational communication approach. Focusses the polyphonic perspective mainly on shared communicative experiences. The main cause of the difference between the presented approaches emerges from a different theoretical starting point. The change processes in a polyphonic approach, is considered as non-linear, fragmented and as an unpredictable chain of events. Whereas in the monophonic approach, communication follows a predetermined sequence of change events, which are linearly managed. This is the underlying explanation why communication is treated differently within a change program. Concluding, it is good to mention that it is not due to the lack of functionality that the monophonic approach is perceived as less effective, it is due to the role that communication takes in within an organisational change program that influence the effectiveness of change communication. Where the polyphonic approach uses the existing dialogues as communication mean, is the monophonic approach perceived as a standalone unique form of communication.
  27. 27. 27 4. Discussion and conclusion In this study the functions of communication during organisational change are reviewed, wherein an attempt is made to unravel the underlying communication concepts. Two literature areas are examined to find an answer to the following central question: ‘Which role, according to the organisational change literature, does communication takes in during organisational change and how could insights from the storytelling literature enrich this approach? This study showed that communication takes in a central role within an organisational change program. The most common functions of communication, as presented in this thesis, are the proof of this. Those functions all have to do with managing the organisational change through different phases in which communication thus takes in a central position. Both approaches are reviewed on the role that communication takes in within an organisational change program, and it can be concluded that both perspectives recognise the importance of communication. The monophonic and polyphonic approach are both aware of the crucial role that communication has in the success of organisational change. The purpose of this thesis also was to investigate which insights from the storytelling literature could enrich the organisational change literature on communication during organisational change. The following findings contribute to a deeper understanding of the conceptual richness of the polyphonic approach. (1) the dialogical way of communicating between employees and management and (2) the use of existing dialogues to transfer change thoughts. At this stage it is desirable to pay more attention to the underlying concepts, given that those two findings already have been extensively described in this thesis. The underlying concepts differ in the fact that they take in a different communication role in organisational change process. The issue, that this thesis would address, is not that the monophonic approach does not work or that the reported functions of communication are
  28. 28. 28 worthless. It is about how communication is treated within a change process and which role it takes in within an organisational change process. It is about on which way and from which perspective communication supports an organisational change process. It is about how the communicational translation is being made so that the change goals reach the organisational heart. That is the core where the polyphonic approach can contribute to the monophonic approach. It could be argued that the functions of communication, reported in the organisational change literature, remain upright. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ‘providing information’ or ‘reducing uncertainty’ and it is not that the functions of communication, reported in the storytelling literature could replace the once that are reported in the organisational change literature, but the latter can work more effectively when they make use of the vessels of change to the reach the organisation in its heart. The reported functions of communication can be more effective when management encourages dialogues and conduct the organisational voices into a harmonious orchestra. It is therefore not enough to communicate solely from a management perspective. In this way, dialogical communication can be stimulated in which the existing conversations serve as the basis on which the change message reaches the heart of the organisation. In conclusion, it is important to note that storytelling cannot be seen as a kind of management tool that easily can be implemented into an organisational change process. It provides guidance to recognize the power of the already existing organisational narrative infrastructures instead of a storytelling tool to be used in an organisation.
  29. 29. 29 5. Limitations and recommendations The aim of this thesis, is not to present a storytelling management tool that could enrich communication during organisational change. The aim of this thesis is a more theoretical one, how could the different roles that communication takes within an organisational change program, within the storytelling literature, enrich the role that communication takes in within the organisational change literature. In the knowledge that functions of communication, during organisational change, are derived from the role that communication takes in within the change process. Little research has especially addressed this subject and combined the two literature areas. The challenge is, to overcome the created paradigms and accept other visions to enrich the organisational change communication as a main research subject. This thesis could therefore guide further (empirical) research. It is thus hoped that findings of this thesis will go beyond, only addressing a communication issue. The alternative view of communication in times of organisational change could help practitioners to further understand the natural link between communication and change management. This thesis has mainly addressed a vision of communication. Not a tool that simply can be used, but a broadened perspective on organisational change and the fundamental role the communication fulfils. Limitations of this thesis are, because of the assumptions being made, in the first place the necessity of organisational change but also the lack of research of other factors that could influence the success or failure of organisational change, beside communication.
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