Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

Time, Narrative and Organizational Culture: A Corporate Perspective

Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

Time, Narrative and Organizational Culture: A Corporate Perspective

Article excerpt


This paper is a generalized discussion related to the nature and implications time, story and organizational culture play in corporate decision-making, CEO selection; treatment of long-term employees; the change process and the language used to present and promote the corporation. The paper provides a beginning point for revisiting how unrecognized (societal and individual) assumptions affect choice and decision-making. Practically, the paper also provides a starting point for organizations to self assess their external and internal approaches and whether they align superficially or whether the mission and vision are lived in mundane daily activities. The paper is based on qualitative, experiential and anecdotal evidence gathered by the author.


The corporate and organizational issues discussed in this paper are based on societal beliefs and underlying assumptions that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They are, a faith in science, from which emerged a greater confidence in the future, which engendered a belief in unlimited progress.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries because science could produce material benefits and knowledge, it replaced religion as the most popular faith system. The growing confidence in knowledge and the "present", resulted in a pervasive belief in progress and a break with the past. The intellectual belief in a progress without limits came to dominate social, political and economic development and discourse. European and American governments encouraged progress and it's by product, growth. This growth, combined with the confidence and optimism of progress, led to a belief that the future was more relevant than the past. The assumption underlying this belief was that modern people had surpassed all previous generations in knowledge, wealth, technology and social institutions. The past was no longer the place to look for knowledge, understanding or answers. The focus was squarely on the future. Progress and growth was the solution to all human problems. (Kramer 2002)

The residual nature of these beliefs is still evident in corporations today. Unlimited growth, progress and a future orientation still affect corporate expectations and decision-making. These beliefs and choices create the organizational narrative and culture.


Besides the historical issues discussed above, there are additional issues related to the present day memory of corporations. In this discussion, I propose a different view for the word corporation. In this view corporations are living breathing entities. They are human. The dictionary suggests that corporations don't have souls. Yet the bookstores are crammed with books on corporate "soul."

"Corporate" means "body" whether that pertains to a human or an organization. Writers have a "body of work." That too, is "corporate" in some sense. It assumes an integrated, albeit perhaps not evident whole. This "body" is created over time. It can be physical or invisible. It can be collective, individual or both.

Humans create in the physical, visible and external world. This is evident in the creation of art, societies, governments, countries, and corporations. All reflect human consciousness, the best and worst. And as humans change so do their creations and manifestations.

Corporations are organic. They mirror societal trends as seen in the beginning of this discussion. They are reflections of society and the individual. Corporations are us. Some would argue corporations are "other"; shadows, symbols of the worst part of humanity. But that is a limited view. The history and legacy of industrialization, from which corporations were bom, reflects the human struggle to make a mark on the world, to become an individual. Corporations, with the help of governments (also us) and societies increased the desires and wants of the masses. The strengths of progress, growth and a total focus on the future creates unforeseen consequences. …

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