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Finding the organization in the communication: Discourse as action and sensemaking
Unformatted Document Text:  FINDING THE ORGANIZATION IN THE COMMUNICATION 20 "planned decisions," the casual "one-to-one decision making," and the family "pulling rank." These problems stemmed, they intimated, from the underlying "family organization" and Mr. Sam’s highly personal style of management. This controversy illustrates two ways of interpreting how text contributes to the establishment of agency. One of them has a rhetorical edge (Potter, 1996). In this one, Mr. Sam musters his skills as a storyteller ("So here’s what happens. I meet one of our managers having lunch upstairs…") to plant in people's minds a set of circumstances that set up his interpretation of the situation. In this interpretation, he intends to have an effect on his listeners and to impel them toward a certain line of action ("Now listen to what I'm telling, each and every one of you"): i.e., keep prices low. This example illustrates what Alvesson and Kärreman (2000) mean by "discourse," with a lower- case "d". It reflects the immediate, short-term dynamic of organizing that is characteristic of one organization at one point in history. It reflects what Giddens (1984) calls the "system" of that organization, and it leads to assumptions about underlying structurational imperatives (to use Giddens', 1984, terminology), including who exerts what power, what kinds of behaviors people regard as legitimate, and what they do not. It indexes the network of interlocking agencies that make up the object-oriented coorientation of the organization. Embedded below the discourse, however, are more enduring language patterns, rooted in the dimension of "Discourses" (with an upper-case "D"). We need to see the Steinberg's of 1969 as part of a longer organizational evolution. Until about the middle of the nineteenth century, the modal form of an organization in North America was the family firm or a minuscule government secretariat (Chandler, 1962; Williamson, 1975). Between 1869 and 1969, however, a sea change occurred in transportation and communication and the organizational landscape became dotted

Authors: Taylor, James. and Robichaud, Daniel.
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FINDING THE ORGANIZATION IN THE COMMUNICATION
20
"planned decisions," the casual "one-to-one decision making," and the family "pulling rank."
These problems stemmed, they intimated, from the underlying "family organization" and Mr.
Sam’s highly personal style of management.
This controversy illustrates two ways of interpreting how text contributes to the
establishment of agency. One of them has a rhetorical edge (Potter, 1996). In this one, Mr. Sam
musters his skills as a storyteller ("So here’s what happens. I meet one of our managers having
lunch upstairs…") to plant in people's minds a set of circumstances that set up his interpretation
of the situation. In this interpretation, he intends to have an effect on his listeners and to impel
them toward a certain line of action ("Now listen to what I'm telling, each and every one of you"):
i.e., keep prices low.
This example illustrates what Alvesson and Kärreman (2000) mean by "discourse," with a lower-
case "d". It reflects the immediate, short-term dynamic of organizing that is characteristic of one
organization at one point in history. It reflects what Giddens (1984) calls the "system" of that
organization, and it leads to assumptions about underlying structurational imperatives (to use
Giddens', 1984, terminology), including who exerts what power, what kinds of behaviors people
regard as legitimate, and what they do not. It indexes the network of interlocking agencies that
make up the object-oriented coorientation of the organization.
Embedded below the discourse, however, are more enduring language patterns, rooted in the
dimension of "Discourses" (with an upper-case "D"). We need to see the Steinberg's of 1969 as
part of a longer organizational evolution. Until about the middle of the nineteenth century, the
modal form of an organization in North America was the family firm or a minuscule government
secretariat (Chandler, 1962; Williamson, 1975). Between 1869 and 1969, however, a sea change
occurred in transportation and communication and the organizational landscape became dotted


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