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Contradiction as a medium and outcome of organizational change: a Foucauldian reading

Aurelie Leclercq‐Vandelannoitte (School of Management, IESEG School of Management, Lille, France)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 17 May 2013



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the dynamics that underlie contradictions and paradoxes in organizational change over time. Little research has explored the role of contradictions and paradoxes in the continuous cycle of organizing, which are simultaneously embedded in the process and outcomes of organizational change. An encompassing framework, based on the thinking of Michel Foucault, more fully captures both the paradoxical roots and the effects of organizational change.


An in‐depth qualitative case study of an IT‐based organizational change in a company offers a clear longitudinal analysis, based on 31 semi‐structured interviews and direct field observation.


The Foucauldian framework deepens understanding of organizational change and its underlying dynamics by highlighting contradictions and paradoxes as both the medium and the outcome of the organizing process over time. The organizing process evolves through power‐knowledge relations, which are forces that provide the energy to make change possible.

Research limitations/implications

The findings indicate the need for further research to develop insight into Foucauldian concepts, such as by replicating the proposed methodology in other companies or with other types of organizational change.

Practical implications

This paper is of managerial interest for various corporate players (management, human resources, information management) who must understand what underlies employees' acceptance of organizational change.


The proposed conceptual model can help interpret the role of contradictions and paradoxes in the organizing process. The strength of this “political model of organizational change” is that it can be combined with other perspectives, such as change management, to explore how organizations drive change and how managers can integrate contradictions and paradoxes in change management to help the organization further evolve.



Leclercq‐Vandelannoitte, A. (2013), "Contradiction as a medium and outcome of organizational change: a Foucauldian reading", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 556-572.



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