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Metaphorical mediation of organizational change across space and time

Jeff Waistell (Open University Business School, Milton Keynes, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 1 September 2006




This paper aims to examine how metaphors mediate organizational change across space and time.


The data consist of 113 speeches by vice‐chancellors of a distance learning university, recorded in texts. Texts are apposite for this research as they transmit meaning across time and space. Hermeneutics is an appropriate methodology because it enables interpretation across temporal and spatial distance.


The paper finds that textual metaphors mediate organizational change across space and time in five ways: transferring from familiarity to strangeness, providing coherence, “breaking distance” changing reality through changing language, and recontextualising.

Research limitations/implications

The study focuses on formal organizational texts and excludes informal texts and conversation. Change outcomes are not studied; there should be further research on how metaphors affect change over time and space.

Practical implications

Metaphors enable managers to communicate change across time and space. Textual metaphors are continuously available and interactive, enabling dialogue between managers and staff across space and time.


The paper furthers our knowledge of how metaphors mediate change across both space and time. Metaphors translate the organization across distance, fusing spatial and temporal horizons, effecting organizational change by changing language. The organization becomes a metaphor of itself, recontextualising across time and space.



Waistell, J. (2006), "Metaphorical mediation of organizational change across space and time", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 640-654.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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