The Agency of Organizing

Extra! Extra! Hear all about it.

Agency is certainly a central concept in all of organization theory. The idea of a communicative constitution of organization (CCO, you know) has here and there given agency some thought, but no coherent treatment of the concept has existed until today.

Boris Brummans has taken on the editorship of the latest Routledge volume on The Agency of Organizing. Here’s the backcover story:

The Agency of Organizing explains why the notion of agency is central to understanding what organizations are, how they come into existence, continue to exist, or fade away, and how they function. Written by leading organizational communication scholars, the chapters in this edited volume present seven different theoretical perspectives on agency in the dynamics of organizing. Authors discuss how they conceptualize agency from their own perspective and how they propose to investigate agency empirically in processes of organizing by using specific methods. Through insightful case studies, they demonstrate the value of these perspectives for organizational research and practice.

Boris brings together a great number of scholars from or at least sympathetic to the CCO perspective. The table of contents almost reads like a who-is-who in organizational communication. Of course, there are notable exceptions, but the volume already has 240 pages.

  • Foreword: Theorizing Agency by Making the Implicit Explicit (Linda L. Putnam)
  • Introduction: Perspectives on the Agency of Organizing (Boris H. J. M. Brummans)
  • The Distribution of Decision Rights at ICANN: A Luhmannian Perspective on Agency (Steffen Blaschke)
  • Being Able to Act Otherwise: The Role of Agency in the Four Flows at 2-1-1 and Beyond (Joel O. Iverson, Robert D. McPhee, and Cade W. Spaulding)
  • Agency in Structurational Divergence and Convergence: Insights from Nursing (Anne M. Nicotera)
  • Targeting Alex: Brand as Agent in Communicative Capitalism (Dennis K. Mumby)
  • Releasing/Translating Agency: A Postcolonial Disruption of the Master’s Voice among Liberian Market Women (Kirsten J. Broadfoot,Debashish Munshi, and Joëlle Cruz)
  • Acting for, with, and through: A Relational Perspective on Agency in MSF’s Organizing (François Cooren)
  • Agential Encounters: Performativity and Affect Meet Communication in the Bathroom (Karen Lee Ashcraft and Timothy R. Kuhn)
  • Conclusion: Further Theoretical and Practical Reflections on Agency (George Cheney and Dean Ritz)

I already have master students in my class on Organizational Communication at the Copenhagen Business School read the introduction. Be sure to check out the entire volume while it’s fresh.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it.


Organization as Communication: Perspectives in Dialogue

We’re proud to see our latest collaboration between European and North American scholars take the final form of a book. It’s available for pre-order at Amazon or your favorite local retailer. Thanks to all the contributors!

Organization as Communication - Perspectives in Dialogue

Organization as Communication – Perspectives in Dialogue


Pre-Conference Workshop on CSR and Communication at EGOS

The annual colloquium of the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) took place in early July in Naples, Italy. Next to the program of standing working group (SWG) on the communicative constitution of organization, a pre-conference workshop on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and communication brought together work in progress with feedback from established scholars. The workshop opened with a panel discussion on corporate social responsibility and communication. Guido Palazzo (University of Lausanne), Tim Kuhn (University of Colorado at Boulder), Jana Costas (Viadrina University Frankfurt/Oder), and Jean-Pascal Gond (CASS Business School) each voiced their opinion on the matter and later answered questions from the audience under the moderation of Mette Morsing (Copenhagen Business School). Check out the panel in all of its 57-minutes glory.


SWG on OaC at EGOS 2016

Let me unpack the somewhat cryptical headline for you: Standing Working Group (SWG) on Organization as Communication at the 2016 Annual Colloquium of the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS). In true EGOS fashion, we’re spending three days together in altogether seven sessions works related to this year’s theme of (Dis)organizing through Texts, Artifacts, and Other Materialities. We’ll be posting pictures and videos from plenary sessions and panel discussions, maybe even more goodies and background noise, so stay tuned. You can follow us on Twitter #CCO #EGOS2016. And if you are at EGOS, then don’t be a stranger, come say ‘Hi.’


Off-EGOS Workshop on Space, Creativity, and Organizing

I’ve been meaning to link to the Off-EGOS Workshop on Space, Creativity, and Organizing for weeks without getting around to do it. No more excuses to Nicolas about not linking or participating in the workshop. I’ll be attending to casually analyze some data (or so I have been told) with the aid of wine (which certainly helps in terms of creativity) and crackers (which may or may not help with creativity, but they go well with the wine, that’s for sure). Be sure to sign up!


From Membership to Contributorship

There is no organization without individuals. There is no communication without individuals. Still, organization studies necessarily emphasize the organization or organizing and happily neglect the individual. Individuals only enter the picture through the backdoor of membership. Thus, it is not the individuals who make up the organization but the negotiated roles they take on to participate in communication.

McPhee & Zaug (2000) point to membership negotiation. Luhmann (2000) recalls March & Simon (1958) in a similar vain when he points out that individuals are part of the organizational environment. And now the Montreal School as one of the three pillars of CCO thinking (Schoeneborn et al., 2014) moves on the idea of membership with a conception of contributorship. You’ll find the article of Bencherki and Snack on Contributorship and Partial Inclusion: A Communicative Perspective behind the paywall of the online-first section over at the Management Communication Quarterly.

  • Luhmann, N. (2000). Organisation und Entscheidung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
  • March, J. G., & Simon, H. A. (1958). Organizations. New York, NY: Wiley.
  • McPhee, R. D., & Zaug, P. (2000). The Communicative Constitution of Organizations: A Framework for Explanation. Electronic Journal of Communication, 10(1/2).
  • Schoeneborn, D., Blaschke, S., Cooren, F., McPhee, R. D., Seidl, D., & Taylor, J. R. (2014). The Three Schools of CCO Thinking: Interactive Dialogue and Systematic Comparison. Management Communication Quarterly, 28(2), 285–316.

Change is the Only Constant

In organizational studies, we frequently say that change is the only constant. I don’t really know who said this to begin with, and it really doesn’t matter, but change really is the only constant, not least because any communication event or episode is new another next first time (Garfinkel, 2002). How, then, do we go about change? From a CCO-friendly perspective, there is conversations of change (Ford & Ford, 1995), organizational becoming (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002), etc. And now there is even a virus to bring about change. Forthcoming in the International Journal of Technology Management (which, to be honest, I never read before) is an article by Steffen Roth on Growth and Function: A Viral Research Program for Next Organizations. It relies heavily on Luhmann, so be careful to put on your thinking cap before immersing yourself in the constructivist thought of viral change.

  • Ford, J. D., & Ford, L. W. (1995). The Role of Conversations in Producing Intentional Change in Organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 541–570.
  • Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s Program: Working out Durkheim’s Aphorism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002). On Organizational Becoming: Rethinking Organizational Change. Organization Science, 13(5), 567–582.