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Patterns of stories of organisational change

Stefanie C. Reissner (Faculty of Business and Law, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 30 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to investigate three patterns of stories employed by organisational actors to make sense of organisational change: stories of “the good old days”; stories of deception, taboo and silence; and stories of influence. Each pattern reflects one way in which organisational actors make sense of change and in which they use their stories for different purposes. This argument is illustrated by short evocative stories from the original data.


This paper derives from qualitative and inductive cross‐national research into organisational change and learning. Three manufacturing firms, one each from the UK, South Africa and Russia, were studied to investigate sensemaking under conditions of change. Data were collected through narrative interviews and interpreted using an inductive approach borrowing elements from grounded theory and analytic induction.


Personal accounts of experiences with organisational change (change stories) have a dual purpose. On the one hand, they are powerful sensemaking devices with which organisational actors make organisational change meaningful. On the other hand, they contest official change stories, reflecting the complex dynamics of organisational change in patterns of stories. The conclusion is that the experiences and agendas of different organisational actors shape the interests and actions of people in organisations, with decisive implications for patterns of organisational change.

Research limitations/implications

Organisational change as a multi‐story process needs to be investigated through further qualitative and contextual research to provide richer insights into the dynamics of storytelling and sensemaking under conditions of organisational change.


Cross‐national study that builds on case and cross‐case analysis of autobiographical stories of experiences with organisational change.



Reissner, S.C. (2011), "Patterns of stories of organisational change", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 593-609.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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