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Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 1 July 2006



Louart, P., Durant, R., Downs, A. and Besson, D. (2006), "Introduction", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 19 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


About the Guest Editors Alexis Downs is an Associate Professor of Accounting at Emporia State University in Kansas, USA. She is interested in public policy analysis, taxation, and international accounting. She is a member of SCMOI, and she has published in JOCM, Tamara, Human Systems Management, Organizational Research Methods, Journal of Corporate Citizenship, and Emergence.

Dominique Besson, is Assistant Professor in Management and Business Administration at Lille University, France. He is interested in skill and competencies, work organization and organizational change, manager successions in SMZ firms, methodological issues (meaning of concepts). He has published in revues in French (Revue franc¸aise de gestion, Management International) and English (Journal of Organizational Change Management, Journal of European Industrial Training), and participates in many meetings (Congrès annuel de l'Association Francophone de Gestion des Ressources Humaines, Standing Conference for Management and Organizations Inquiry, Academy of Management...)

Pierre Louart is Professor of Management and Business at University of Lille 1, France. He is director of the Business School (Institut d'Administration des enterprises, IAE), president of the Association francophone de gestion des ressources humaines, vice-président of the Institut International d'Audit social, and delegate for Research in the IAE network. He is interested in HRM, particularly in employees' behaviour, motivation, organizational communication, and changes in human resources departments. He has theorized patterns of tension in HRM and needs of mediation required by management of employees under economic, technologic and institutional pressures. He is consultant for firms and organizations of various sizes and have been director of human resources in a real estate firm. He has published several books and many articles, in the main French journals (Revue franc¸aise de gestion, Revue de Gestion des Ressources Humaines...) and meetings of HRM and Business studies. He has conducted about 30 dissertations for PhD and more than 300 master essays in France.

Rita Durant, whose full name is Rita Anne Genevieve O'Laughlin Durant, is daughter of Genevieve Eileen Connor, from whom she learned her love of books and knowledge. Interested in synchronicity, she entered the University of Alabama PhD program in Management and Marketing to study relationships and complexity under Jim Cashman. Her 2002 dissertation was entitled “You mean the world to me: story telling and leader listening in organizational learning.” She is a member of SCMOI, and she has published in JOCM, Organization Studies, Human Systems Management, Organizational Analysis, and Emergence.


A paradox is an apparently true statement that seems to lead to a contradiction or counter-intuitive insight. Like Newcomb's Paradox, which is examined by Besson et al. (this issue), any resolution of a paradox is usually contentious. In the context of organizational change management, paradoxes – with their underlying ambiguities and unstated assumptions – are vehicles for advancing our understanding of change processes.

This issue includes a diversity of papers that offer varying theories to understanding and managing paradox. Papers by Andrea Whittle and by Tore Hundsnes and Christine Meyer describe paradoxes within large telecommunications companies. In her paper, Andrea Whittle suggests that the popularity of the term paradox in organizational literature is a testimony to the “post-modern turn.” For her, paradox is less a problem to be resolved than a resource through which change agents can understand and account for organizational change. In Whittle's ethnographic study of a UK-based telecommunication company, consultants draw upon competing interpretive repertoires, such as advocate and advisor; scientist and storyteller; ally and enemy. Her interpretive repertoire approach emphasizes performative aspects of discourse, and the ability of consultants to switch between repertoires is a key component of change. Tore Hundsnes and Christine Meyer rely upon complexity theory and investigate the notion of patching – optimisation of each individual patch, rather than the whole system – in the context of a Norwegian telecommunications company, Telenor. Their analysis suggests that simultaneous and paradoxical presence of centralization and decentralization at Telenor permits novel patterns of evolution. The presence of competing views drives novel patterns due to paradoxical interdependencies.

Papers by Slimane Haddadj and by Amy Taylor-Bianco and John Schermerhorn, Jr, look to complexities of performance under challenging situations. Using stories of a CEO succession, Haddadj examines complex interdependencies in an organizational setting. According to Haddadj, organizations must be complex in order to maintain the relationships with the environment and with employees. Taylor-Bianco and Schermerhorn begin their paper with reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet: “Revenge my foul and most unnatural murder ... [and] taint not thy mind.” In short, Hamlet faces the difficult and paradoxical demand to commit murder without qualms. Taylor-Bianco and Schermerhorn observe that Hamlet's dilemma is played out in today's organizations with the same result: poor performance under challenging situations. They rely upon concept of self-regulation and two dispositional strategies of self-regulation: promotion and prevention. They suggest that leaders develop awareness of their self-regulatory tendencies in order to deal with the paradox of change/stability and organizational complexity.

In his paper, Frans Prenkert also relies upon a paradoxical literary reference. Prenkert refers to Fitzgerald's 1945: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Prenkert suggests the managers and researchers require tools to help them deal with paradoxical organizational practices in systematic ways. In his study of paradoxical practices at PalletCo, he uses Bateson's notion of double bind and an activity systems model as developed by Engestrom as tools to identify consequences of paradox in organizations. A double bind occurs when two or more actors with an emotional relationship construct a paralyzing cycle. Lotte Luscher, Marianne Lewis, and Amy Ingram turn to Bateson, as well, and examine the social construction of paradox in their action research study of Lego Company. They analyze paradoxes of performing, belonging, and organizing and offer the suggestion that researchers might lower their expectations of movement in paradoxical situations. Echoing other papers, Luscher et al. suggest that paradoxes are not problems to be solved as opportunities to reflect upon possibilities.

Moving to a macro-level of analysis, Maria de la Luz Fernandez-Alles and Ramon Valle-Cabrera examine the deterministic role of institutional pressures and the consequent passive attitude ascribed to organizations. The institutional result is that organizations, as if trapped within iron cages, and their managers are denied any discretion in managing the institutional context, specifically when confronted with normative pressures, such as those deriving from governmental and professional regulations. In order to examine the way firms manage institutional contexts, the authors explore five interesting paradoxes: conformity vs differentiation; isomorphism vs heterogeneity; legitimacy vs efficiency; change vs inertia; and institutions vs organizations. With these paradoxes, they shed light on the integration efforts that seek to combine institutional theory with transaction cost theory, the resource-based view of the firm, and the resource dependence theory.

Like Fernandez-Alles and Valle-Cabrera, Mark Neal and Dominique Besson, Alexis Downs, Rita Durant, and Marco Roman examine multi-cultural and macro-economic issues. Neal suggests several paradoxes, among them is this paradox: More cultural diversity means, fewer cultural problems. Besson et al. examine proposals for a Tobin Tax in terms of Newcomb's Paradox and Michel Serres' Le Parasite. They look at government policies in global currency markets and at attempts to curb currency speculation. Relying upon Serres, they argue that using taxation as a method of macroeconomic control would have no effect. Managing volatility, they suggest, is really about managing relationships that can buffer governments against risk. Managing volatility is not about drawing lines in the sand or putting sand in the wheels of international finance. The resolution of a paradox is embracing the paradox.

Pierre Louart, Rita Durant, Alexis Downs Dominique BessonGuest Editors