Discourse and Audience: Organizational Change as Multi-Story Process

David Buchanan, Patrick Mark Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Citations (Scopus)


This article is critical of monological research accounts that fail to accommodate polyvocal narratives of organizational change, calling for more fully informed case studies that combine elements of a narrative approach with processual/contextual analysis. We illustrate how contrasting versions of the same change event by different stakeholders and by the same stakeholder for different audiences, raise theoretical and methodological issues in the analysis and presentation of data on organizational change. Our argument is that research narratives (that seek to develop understanding of change processes) are necessarily selective and sieved through particular discourses that represent different ways of engaging in research. They are authored in a particular genre and written to influence target audiences who become active co-creators of meaning. Organizational change viewed from this perspective is a multi-story process, in which theoretical accounts and guides to practice are authored consistent with pre-selected narrative styles. These, in turn, are purposefully chosen to influence target audiences, but this subjective crafting is often hidden behind a cloak of putative objectivity in the written and oral presentations of academic research findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-686
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number5
Early online date19 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • narrative approach
  • middle managers
  • politics
  • inquiry
  • sensemaking
  • technology
  • stories
  • science
  • sense
  • tales


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