6

The politics of imagined stability

This chapter explores the politics of change in organizations in order to clarify the broad organizational conditions and potential impact of strategic learning. The discussions are linked to the issues I have raised in previous chapters and are particularly related towards understanding processes that both contribute to and question the establishment that organizing creates. There is already a very considerable literature covering planned change, which conceptualizes change in relation to an event, as the solution of problems, or as the implementation of a strategic process. The focus of this chapter is in a different area. My starting point in thinking about change is a continuation and development of previous writing, where I have reflected that change 'happens in connection with others, through friendships and collaboration, it happens as a result of uncertainty and risk, through organizational politics, and it happens for reasons I cannot fathom' (Vince, 1996:88). Change is seen as an ongoing process with unpredictable outcomes (Orlikowski and Hofman, 1997) and the management of change is bound up with the internal dynamics of organizing, with 'interests, values, power dependencies and capacity for action' (Greenwood and Hinings, 1996:1023), as well as with the potency of the emotions and fantasies that shape organization.

My thinking in this chapter once again emphasizes the interrelation between individual and collective emotional experience and politics. I try to represent and explore some of the emotional and political complexities and connections involved in the management of change. The study of the interplay between politics and emotion plays an important part in understanding and organizing change because, as I have shown from previous examples in this book, political behaviour and action frequently emerge from fears and anxieties about the direction and consequences of change. In any attempt to manage change, the change process will be bound up with internal organizational dynamics, with unconscious processes and defences, with emotions, power relations and capacities for action and inaction.

I am also seeking to further develop an understanding of political perspectives on change, supporting the move beyond the fantasy that once politics have been understood they can be managed (Knights and McCabe, 1998). My use of the words 'management of change' is to an extent informed by doubt as to whether

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Rethinking Strategic Learning
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - An Introduction 1
  • 2 - Strategic Learning and Hrd 13
  • 3 - Power, Emotion and Organizational Learning 38
  • 4 - Emotion and Strategic Learning 58
  • 5 - Being Taken Over 76
  • 6 - The Politics of Imagined Stability 91
  • 7 - Organizing Reflection 106
  • 8 - Redefining Leadership 127
  • 9 - The Point of Intervention 146
  • References 161
  • Index 170
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