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Category predication work, discursive leadership and strategic sensemaking

Whittle, A.; Housley, W.; Gilchrist, A.; Mueller, F.; Lenney, P.

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Authors

A. Whittle

W. Housley

A. Gilchrist

P. Lenney



Abstract

Categorization is known to play an important role in organizations because categories ‘frame’ situations in particular ways, informing managerial sensemaking and enabling managerial intervention. In this article, we advance existing work by examining the role of categorization practices in discursive leadership during periods of strategic change. Drawing on data from an ethnographic action research study of a strategic change initiative in a multi-national corporation, we use membership categorization analysis to develop a framework for studying ‘category predicates’ − defined as the stock of organizational knowledge and associated reasoning procedures concerning the kinds of activities, attributes, rights, responsibilities, expectations, and so on, that are ‘tied’ or ‘bound’ to organizational categories. Our analysis shows that discursive leadership enabled a radical shift in sensemaking about organizational structure categories through a process of ‘frame-breaking’ and ‘re-framing’. In so doing, the leader co-constructed a ‘definition of the situation’ that built a compelling vision and concrete plan for strategic change. We go on to trace the organizational consequences and material outcomes of this shift in sensemaking for the company in question. We conclude by arguing that ‘category predication work’ comprises a key leadership competence and plays an important role in organizational and strategic change processes.

Citation

Whittle, A., Housley, W., Gilchrist, A., Mueller, F., & Lenney, P. (2015). Category predication work, discursive leadership and strategic sensemaking. Human Relations, 68(3), 377-407. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726714528253

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Aug 5, 2014
Publication Date 2015
Deposit Date Jun 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 23, 2020
Journal Human Relations
Print ISSN 0018-7267
Electronic ISSN 0018-7267
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 68
Issue 3
Pages 377-407
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726714528253
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/1262202

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Copyright Statement
Whittle, A. Housley, W., Gilchrist, A., Mueller, F. & Lenney, P. (2015). Category predication work, discursive leadership and strategic sensemaking. Human Relations 68(3): 377-407. Copyright © 2015 The Author(s) DOI: 10.1177/0018726714528253




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