An allegorical exploration of institutional complexity using Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz

Robert Jerome (Department of Economics, James Madison University College of Business, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
David Cavazos (Department of Management, James Madison University College of Business, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
Robert Horn (Department of Economics, James Madison University College of Business, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Publication date: 10 June 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to apply Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz to illustrate the individual identity issues that can arise as a result of institutional complexity in organizations. Using Baum’s text to tell the story of four faculty members seeking the city of Oz, which in our story is a university athletic department, reveals how individuals and organizational units deal with the tensions brought about by institutional complexity. In addition to providing an entertaining, perhaps infuriating account of the typical public university, this essay reveals the importance of understanding individual struggles to deal with organizational pluralism.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use the well-established example of the university using Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz in allegorical form to illustrate the tensions that emerge from organizational units that deal with contradicting external environments as well as the sensemaking and search processes that can emerge for individuals dealing with the identity issues that can result from such tensions.

Findings

Internal tensions can emerge within organizations when there are contradictions among the various pressures such organizations generate. These tensions have implications on individual identity.

Originality/value

Individuals (in this case individuals from academic units) risk having their occupational identities compromised by divergent organizational units as these units attempt to legitimate their existence within the organization. The authors illustrate how individuals deal with such risks by engaging in search processes that seek to construct their identities and develop meaning for their actions.

Keywords

Citation

Robert Jerome, David Cavazos and Robert Horn (2019) "An allegorical exploration of institutional complexity using Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 139-153

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DOI

: https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-03-2017-1509

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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