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Music as a metaphor for organizational change



Purpose To explore a musical metaphor in making organizational change a potentially pleasurable experience to participants. Design/methodology/approach The paper begins by challenging ideological assumptions behind classical change metaphors. To build an alternative, the paper employs musical semiotics to understand the core dimensions in a musical experience. Findings The paper discusses the dynamics of tension and resolution in the different dimensions of musical experience. Originality/value The discussion regarding the dynamics of tension and resolution in musical experience helps the reader to make sense of how an individual organizational member can understand, structure and control the experience of organizational change.
Saku Mantere *, John A.A.Sillince**, Virpi Hämäläinen***
* HANKEN, The Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Department of Man-
agement and Organization, Perhonkatu 6, FIN-00100, Finland. E-mail:
** Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, B4 7ET, UK. Tel. 44 (0)121 359 3611
extension 5028, Fax 44 (0)121 359 5271, Email
*** Helsinki University of Technology, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management,
P.O.Box 5500, FIN-02015 HUT, Finland. E-mail:
The authors wish to express their thanks to Antonio Strati, Arne Carlsen, Kjersti Bjørkeng, Jouni Virtaharju, Wendelin
Küpers, Saara Taalas, Arja Ropo, Henrik Werdfelt and David Raymond Jones for insightful comments that significantly
helped in developing this paper. Saku Mantere and Virpi Hämäläinen wish to acknowledge financial support received
from the Finnish Work Environment Fund.
This is a preprint of an Article accepted for publication in the Journal of Organizational Change
Management. © 2007 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Purpose of this paper
To explore a musical metaphor in making organizational change a potentially pleasurable experi-
ence to participants.
We begin by challenging ideological assumptions behind classical change metaphors. To build an
alternative, we employ musical semiotics to understand the core dimensions in a musical experi-
We discuss the dynamics of tension and resolution in the different dimensions of musical experi-
What is original/value of paper
Our discussion regarding the dynamics of tension and resolution in musical experience help the
reader to make sense of how an individual organizational member can understand, structure and
control the experience of organizational change.
Key Words: Organizational change, music, metaphor, improvisation
Categorization: Conceptual paper
The metaphor of music has many similarities with organizational change. Like music, organiza-
tional change moves through time, building and releasing tension in organizational members. While
several musical metaphors have been utilized in organization studies, for instance strategic disso-
nance (e.g. Burgelman and Grove, 1996), jazz improvisation (Senge, 1994; Hatch, 1999; Hum-
phreys, Brown and Hatch, 2003; Moorman and Miner, 1998a, 1998b; Weick, 1998; Barrett, 2000),
polyphony (Barry and Elmes, 1997; Hazen, 1993), and musical time (Albert and Bell, 2002), the
emancipatory potential of the musical metaphor in reducing the pain caused by change to an indi-
vidual organizational member has not been utilized. We are motivated by the possibility to avoid
making painful change a self-fulfilling prophecy (Weick, 1995).
Yet, often a great deal of pain and discomfort are involved in change, which would seem to fit
poorly with the musical metaphor. In this paper, we will argue that music can also act as a sense-
making device that allows the controlling of the experience of pain through the structuring of the
change experience. We argue that the ability to structure change discomfort, particularly through
structuring time, is a powerful way of controlling it.
The classical assumption in organization theory (e.g. Lewin, 1951; Schein, 1985) has been that in-
dividuals seek stability in their organization, and that change is therefore regarded as painful. The
metaphorical language used in theorizing about organizations guides the way we think about or-
ganizations (Morgan, 1997; Wood, 2002). Metaphor analysis is useful for creating new viewpoints
on phenomena governed by prominent theories. By uncovering the metaphors behind a prominent
theory, we may challenge the assumptions taken for granted in the theory (Lakoff and Johnson,
1980; Palmer and Dunford, 1996). In other words, metaphors are powerful linguistic vehicles of
emancipation because of their capability for creative deconstruction (Boje, 2001; Morgan, 1997).
The pain of organizational change relies on the metaphor used for making sense of change. The
choice of the change metaphor implicitly communicates an ideology that frames our understanding
of change. It may even promote unnecessary suffering in organizations.
Our use of the music metaphor is postmodern in its aims we firmly believe that the role of new
metaphors is not the creation of another dominant metaphor to surpass others, but the enriching of
our viewpoints regarding organizations (Morgan, 1993) and the understanding of transcendent ex-
periences by organization members (Gustavsson, 2001).
From pain to tension
Musical semiotics is an area of research interested in discovering the symbol systems found in mu-
sic (Tarasti, 1994). We will focus our attention in musical semiotics in our search of tools for struc-
turing, understanding and controlling the variety of experiences the building and resolving of ten-
sion creates. Focusing on musicological concepts instead of music in general helps us find a path on
what could otherwise be too wide a field indeed the variety of music is overwhelming.
In musicology, an experience is not discussed in terms of pain and pleasure, but in terms of tension
and resolution. The musicological concepts of tension and resolution are well suited for understand-
ing because they are essentially temporal in nature. The creation of tension is a central element in
creating a musical experience. In his theory of musical semiotics, Tarasti (1994: 23) argues that to
understand tension in music, we need to understand three dimensions. First, there is the unfolding
of music in time, how music moves from state x to state y, conforming or not conforming with the
expectations of the hearer. Second, we also need to understand the relationships between the actual
musical states in a non-temporal, categorical sense, i.e. how x differs from y. Third, we also need to
understand the actoriality of the musical movement, the will’ or ‘purpose’, which moves the music
forward from state to state. Tension may result from each of the three dimensions. It can result from
the music moving against the hearer’s expectations (temporal dimension). It can result from per-
ceived conflicts between different musical states (categorical dimension). It can also result from
perceived puzzlement concerning the purpose of the current movement (actorial dimension). Ten-
sion is the force that creates the energy of the piece, moves it forward. Tension reflects the “primal
energetic nature of music” (Tarasti, 1994: 21).
Tension and resolution have prominent psychological counterparts. Cognitive dissonance theory
(Festinger, 1957) argues that individuals make decisions that resolve tensions caused by holding
contradictory beliefs. The metaphoric use of the musical concept dissonance is illuminating here:
arriving at a situation in which one’s beliefs conflict resembles the emotion aroused by a dissonant
chord in a musical piece.
If we were to rely solely on cognitive dissonance theory, we would end up claiming that tensions
produce exclusively negative emotions: for example, discomfort, anxiety, and frustration. But ten-
sion also causes positive emotions as can be observed in many realms in aesthetics: visual art, mu-
sic and stories. The key component of any story, for instance, is the creation of a conflict, to be re-
solved by key actors in some way. The emotional equivalent of the conflict is the building of ten-
sion in the reader. In organization studies narratives are useful both as phenomena present in or-
ganizations such as providing a way of writing strategy (Barry and Elmes, 1997; Shaw, Brown and
Bromiley, 1998) or of centering of a collective sense of identity (Boyce, 1995) as well as a form for
theorizing about organizations (Czarniawska, 1998).
The jazz improvisation viewpoint on organizational change has already recognized the possibility of
change being non-painful (Senge, 1994; Hatch, 1999; Moorman and Miner, 1998a, 1998b; Weick,
1998; Barrett, 2000). Improvisation has been discussed in relation to such issues as creativity (Bar-
rett, 1998), adaptation (Weick, 1998), learning (Moorman, Bassoff and Miner, 2001), collective in-
dividuality (Mirvis, 1998), and strategy crafting (Crossan, 1998). Organizational improvisation has
been defined as the convergence of planning and execution (Moorman and Miner, 1998a).
Not all music is improvisational, however. The improvisational viewpoint captures only some of the
strength of the musicological metaphor, the power of which has been scarcely explored in organiza-
tion studies. A rare, recent exception is provided by Albert and Bell (2002) who employed a general
musicological framework for studying a temporal question: when and how organizations should act
in crisis situations.
To extend the discussion from improvisation to cover change in more generic terms, we will need
the concept of control. A symphony orchestra and a jazz combo are archetypes for the central and
distributed models for controlling change. The symphony orchestra acts as a metaphor for the cen-
trally controlled model. Here a person or a group of persons “conducts”, following the linear in-
structions provided by the composer. The jazz band picture of organizational improvisation pro-
vides the metaphor for the distributed model. When power in communication is not centrally held,
there will be performers, soloists taking the center stage while others support by comping (Hatch,
1999: 81). Jazz compositions provide a chord structure and melodic ideas, but act more as frame-
works for improvisation than linear guidelines for performance, as is the case in the classical para-
digm of music. The distributed and central models can be regarded as extremes on the same dimen-
sion: change usually contains elements from both models.
The musicological metaphor provides an alternative to the simplistic notion of pain in the form of
tension that change creates in organizational members. We have argued that such tensions can be
experienced as exciting and invigorating as well as shocking or stressful. Yet, the musicological
metaphor can be helpful also in situations that are clearly unpleasant. Musical experience is essen-
tially temporal, and temporal structuring can help us control unpleasant experiences. Musicological
semiotics provides methods of structuring dynamic experience. Tarasti’s temporal, categorical and
actorial dimensions can be employed as key dimensions in this structuring.
A painful encounter with a dentist’s drill can help us understand the power of temporal structuring
as a sensemaking device that allows for the control of unpleasant experiences. When the dentist tells
me: It will only be a minute now, I am soon ready to start filling the cavity, I feel I am in control
of my pain, because I have access of the duration which I still have to endure. Over longer periods
of discomfort, we often come up with structuring schemas to help us divide duration into more tan-
gible portions. For instance, the first author of this paper noticed during his first marathon, that after
passing the half-way mark, he started generating thoughts such as: “I only have 20 kilometers left. I
have run that distance many times before. After passing ¾ of the distance, his thoughts were:
Only ten kilometers (puff) I run ten kilometers three times a week (puff) The physical dis-
tances represent the time left to endure discomfort. Breaking time into tangible portions, and con-
necting them to previous experiences (categorical structuring) helped the first author to control the
painful experience, controlling the dynamics of tension and resolution. All in all, the possibility of
boasting to oneself and to others of running the marathon, a powerful institution used to measure
one’s strength of will, also helped to him endure the ordeal, by giving it a purpose (actorial struc-
Musicological tools for structuring change experience
To understand how exactly music structures experience, it is helpful to look at the essential tools
that composers, improvisers and musical performers have at their disposal. Instead of shaping their
substance with a hammer and chisel, as a sculptor would, composers, improvisers and performers
deal with such things as form, volume, harmony, rhythm, and texture. We have illustrated the tools
they use and their equivalents in organizational life in Table I below. Understanding these dimen-
sions helps us to understand how musical experience structures sensemaking and sense of control in
various areas of organizational change.
--- Take in Table I ---
Musical form is the favorite dimension of traditional musicologists. Form is the macrostructure of a
musical piece, and as such it is the place to start looking for a “storyline”. According to Tarasti
(1994: 23), form, as the “tension from beginning to end” is instrumental in creating the narrative of
a musical piece. A composer creates the experience of a complete musical piece by introducing, de-
veloping and reintroducing themes, creating structures, surprising and satisfying the listener. It is
almost as if there is a plot to the music in terms of its form. In jazz music, an improvising soloist
uses the same methods to create the ‘arc of her or his solo, as is illustrated in master guitarist Jim
Halls description of his favorite guitar solo (“Grand Slam by Charlie Christian):
Christian’s solo is like a terrific short story. It has a great opening phrase which really gets your at-
tention; it leaves plenty of space for the listener to get involved; it surprises you, it develops beauti-
fully, it has direction, it ends perfectly and it’s all played with amazing clarity. What more can you
ask?”(Hall, 2001)
Here are some elements of form then – initial tension-raising part, sparse structure which invites
imaginative augmentation by the listener, surprise, repetition of the tension in different forms, pro-
gression to an ending which ‘completes the piece’ by resolving a tension. The temporal process of
organizational change can be understood through the roles of tension and resolution in different
stages of the process.
The narrative power of a musical piece or performance lies in the wholeness of its arc: the dynamics
of tension are warranted as performing a role in the complete piece – they make sense as complet-
ing the piece. The dynamics arouse emotion at the time that they are experienced but have a mean-
ing only through the completion of the piece. In organizational life the dichotomy between the on-
going flow of experience and the discrete projects that structure it has been widely discussed. This
is what Weick (1995) is speaking about in terms of the ongoing flow of sensemaking being struc-
tured into projects, or Harré and Secord (1972) and Weick (1995) speaking of episodes that struc-
ture individual lives and sensemaking.
Albert and Bell (2002) emphasize the importance of the musical form: both in terms of varying the
tonic and the general structure of the piece. They argue that varying the structure in an unexpected
direction may divert and redirect an “inevitable”, dramatic conclusion. The discussion demonstrates
the power of musical form in explaining the underlying dramatic structure people expect from the
temporal succession of organizational events. Musical form is a hidden network of expectation
against which sensemaking of events takes place. Isabella (1990) discovered that managers’ sense-
making toward change consisted of discrete stages. The stages of anticipation and confirmation can
be regarded as representing the initiation of change, while the stages of culmination and aftermath
represent its completion. What is not discussed in Isabellas model is the gradual buildup of the
change, the stage in which the transformation is ongoing.
The initiation of the change is the beginning of a musical piece in which a musical theme is intro-
duced. One organizational example might be found in the initiation of a project in which the pro-
ject’s main goals are presented. Tension is built in subjects in the form of expectations and curios-
ity, fear and insecurity, capturing attention. That tension must be carefully judged and must not be
too fear-inducing. For example, Armenakis & Harris (2002: 181) found that an acceptance speech
by an incoming change agent “was better articulated as "here is why change will be good" rather
than the traditional "this is why we need to change. The ongoing stage of a project is where the
actual work is done, where mastery over surprising challenges is achieved. In this stage minute de-
tails are experienced as a state of absorption, yet the whole (e.g. major objectives) is rarely experi-
enced, i.e.the forest is not seen for the trees” giving rise to temporary confusion. Tension is thus
built and resolved in a minute form. The significance of the change as a whole should emerge at the
completion stage, in which the pieces are fitted together, and sense is made in retrospect (Beeson &
Davis, 2000). Tension is resolved on a grand scale.
The second dimension in music, which the musician can work with is the intensity of the music it-
self, changing in time. By controlling the volume of the piece the performer or a composer can af-
fect the listeners musical experience in a very tangible manner, stimulating emotions in quite a
non-cognitive way. Volume can be used to awaken the listener or co-performer by a sudden explo-
sion (e.g. the fortissimo intended to wake dozing ladies in Haydn’s 94
symphony) or slowly cap-
ture their attention in a longer development (e.g. the gradual buildup of volume in Ravel’s Bolero).
In organizational life volume can be controlled by methods that affect experiences in a similarly
tangible and forceful way: controlling resource intensity for instance. Perceptions of how plentiful
resources are at different stages directly affect styles of working: thin resources pose a challenge
that has to be overcome, while rich resources can act as a show of trust. The scale of rewards and
compensation made available by the organization indicates the importance of a particular individual
or task. Tension is increased when resource reduction is seen as out of one’s control, and a feeling
of regaining control over resources, when the project starts to make a profit, is a form of resolution.
The intensity of communication about change is another method for affecting the volume of change.
The amount and style of communication affects how often change is present in the thoughts of the
Harmony: Consonance and dissonance
The third dimension at the musician’s disposal is harmony. By harmony, we refer not only to con-
sonance, but also to dissonance, more specifically, to the interplay of the two. By controlling the
interplay of notes she or he creates dissonance, discussed above, and consonance and thus tension
and resolution. In music as in organizations, controlling harmony only makes sense in context, i.e.
the character of chords is ultimately judged in relation to other chords. In harmony the relation of
different notes can be approached in an analytical manner.
In organizations, different arguments are connected in an interplay that creates change, through
consensus and dissent (Ford and Ford, 1995; Sillince, 2000; Dooley and Fryxell, 1999). The focus
of interest is the process in which different arguments interconnect: arguments may connect into a
coherent theory that provides satisfying closure on an issue, or they may be opposed and may leave
matters open and undecided in a most unsatisfying manner. Organization members may intelli-
gently reinterpret and contest meanings: As subordinates deconstructed the dominant language of
change and created new understandings of teamwork among themselves, they were placed in a
stronger position to shape the interpretive frames of their immediate managers” (Francis and Sin-
clair, 2003: 703). The concept of polyphony (Barry and Elmes, 1997: 444; Hazen, 1993) is therefore
a further element by which to extend the musical metaphor. In polyphony there are multiple voices,
some conflicting, some converging.
The fourth dimension for the musician to make use of is rhythm. The tools a composer uses when
working with rhythm are the tempo and meter of the piece, as well as rhythmic patterns. Just as with
volume, rhythm is an element that affects the listener in a very engaging and direct manner. The
listener can be engulfed in the rhythm, becoming absorbed. Indeed, rhythm is the musical dimen-
sion most directly related to body. Whereas form is often a dimension discerned by cerebral analysis
in retrospect, rhythm is physical and felt in the present.
Rhythm has a powerful presence in organizations in the form of temporal patterns and the division
of time. Albert and Bell (2002) argue that a change in temporal signature is a powerful tool for redi-
recting how organizational actions and events unfold. For instance, dispersed teams which commu-
nicate using communication technology need a regular rhythm of face to face meetings and tele-
phone calls in order to work alone the rest of the time, suggesting that rhythm has a reassuring qual-
ity (Maznevski and Chudoba, 2000).
Rhythm in organizations could be described as the temporal, embodied element in the micro proc-
esses of change. The tools associated with rhythm are those that affect the temporal structure of
work: milestones, deadlines, timetables, and cycles the classical tools of project management.
People tend to stick to certain rhythms, while organizational planning is built on recurring cycles. It
has even been argued that people have a biological ‘project’ clock (Gersick, 1988; 1989), giving
them a shared sense of the flow of time in the project episode. This shared sense of the flow of time
culminates in the symbolically important half-way stage, which is at the boundary of prospective
and retrospective time orientations, and which triggers self-questioning and renewed urgency. The
routines people stick to contribute both to stability and the ability to adapt (Feldman and Rafaeli,
2002). Routines act as a supporting structure that allows the organizational members a foothold
when a different footing is called for.
Polyrhythm is a phenomenon found in various forms of ethnic music: from African tribal dances to
Indonesian gamelan music. Polyrhythm is created when multiple rhythms coexist, interlocking and
branching from one another. As with polyphony, polyrhythm finds its counterparts in organizational
life, especially in the project-oriented organizations of today: in multiple projects coinciding to cre-
ate entrainment (Ancona and Chong, 1996; McGrath and Kelly, 1986) and in multiple timetables
and cycles intersecting. Entrainment can involve interlinked processes which are mutually suppor-
tive. One the other hand, processes can be in conflict. In the case of the Waco siege (Albert and
Bell, 2002), the negotiation process was only loosely coupled with a military process. Each had its
own pacing logic and this meant that although sometimes the threat of military force was mutually
supportive because it added to negotiation strength, there were times (when the waiting time got too
long, when promises were broken, when military force would at least seem as if something was be-
ing done) when the authorities considered negotiation to have failed. In this case the two entrained
processes became competing and conflicting.
Texture is the final dimension at the musician’s disposal. This dimension is the most neglected one
in the discussion of organizational change. The typical method of a composer in affecting the tex-
ture of a piece is the choice of instrumentation: will the piece be played by a symphony orchestra, a
solo pianist, or a punk band. Texture can be further affected by giving guidelines to instrumentalists
in how to play the piece. Whereas harmony was discussed in terms of the process of interplay of
arguments and contents, in instrumentation our main interest is the interplay of the texture of the
individual voices themselves, drawing the most out of the uniqueness of the distinctive characteris-
tics of the voices. In some instances the concept of voice can be extended to cover a distinctive per-
former instead of an instrument. This is especially fruitful in improvisational music.
In organizations the distinctive voices of personalities, institutional positions, and interest groups
have to coexist. “Employees spiritually questioning the modus operandi of contemporary produc-
tion organizations may use their dissident spiritualizing practices and ‘charisma’ toward new de-
mand-setting in organizational life” (Casey, 2004: 77). The essential question is how personalities
and styles can interact in creating fruitful change. Central factors such as the homogeneity of culture
(Martin, 1992) or company philosophy (Barney and Stewart, 2000) determine whether stylistic dif-
ferences are accepted as a source of richness or whether cultural unity is the key issue. An example
of organizational control of texture is ‘emotional labour’ (Hochschild, 1983). Service organizations
require their employees to internalize and project a plausible persona that establishes rapport with
the customer.
Who is the musical subject?
Pain induced by change can be controlled through understanding the dynamic between musicologi-
cal micro and macro dimensions. But who is it that controls the pain? Is the musicological metaphor
created to satisfy the ideological control of a managerial mastermind? We claim that our model has
multiple uses. Like most theories in organization studies, it can no doubt be used by managers. Yet,
it also has emancipatory potential. We propose that when many organizational stakeholders are re-
garded as musicians in a change effort, the metaphor enables organizational members to use voice
in the shared musical experience, as well as offers alternative modes of confronting change helpful
for controlling discomfort.
There is a significant dividing line between micro and macro in our five dimensions. Form is a
macro level dimension while the others are more or less on the micro level. A postmodern view
(e.g. Hazen, 1993; Boje, 1995) suggests that organizations consist of multiple voices (or texts) in-
stead of one “grand narrative” (Lyotard, 1985). If our musicological metaphor were to rely solely
on the dimension of form, we would end up with a model reminiscent of many popular management
models, representing a pre-set symphony without any improvisation, without texture, individual ex-
perience, or micro processes. In many popular management models, change is engineered on the
organizational level of analysis using visions, goals, strategies and so on.
Form is necessary, however. Just as the harmonic, volume, rhythmic and textural elements of a mu-
sical performance have to be united into a perceived narrative of some sort, the micro dimensions of
change should have a perceived uniting element, a text that is shared to some extent by the agents.
The tools for operating with form are such elements as strategic intent (Hamel and Prahalad, 1994),
BHAG’s (big, hairy, audacious goals) (Collins and Porras, 1994), Kotter’s (1996) visions, or pur-
pose (Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1994) and narratives (Shaw, Brown and Bromiley, 1998). The common
denominator for these leadership devices is that they present a desired temporal direction, explain-
ing the past and thus laying the path for the future.
Can organizational change be a pleasing experience for organizational members? How can the dis-
comfort of change be controlled through structured sensemaking? We have sought to answer this
question by critically addressing the metaphorical roots of dominant change models, and by devel-
oping a framework of change consisting of five musicological dimensions. There remain a variety
of exciting questions to be explored in relation to our topic, many of them empirical. The empirical
questions are largely associated with ways of experiencing a change process in an organization. Is
the topic of change associated with musical qualities and therefore potentially pleasant instead of
only being regarded as uncomfortable? What kinds of aesthetic qualities are associated with organ-
izational change? How do these qualities correspond to the five musicological dimensions? What
sorts of structuring techniques do practitioners employ when they experience change? Musicians
and other professionals in the musical field would be interesting in terms of their metaphors con-
cerning change. Organizations in which music is produced, for instance orchestras, bands, record
companies or music schools would also be interesting venues of research in their change situations.
Due to their evocative nature, metaphors can challenge dominant realities, but also substitute exist-
ing conceptualizations rather than provide alternatives for thinking (Morgan, 1993). Therefore,
there is a need for reflexivity in the use of metaphors in order to be aware of the assumptions lying
behind their use (Palmer and Dunford, 1996). As any metaphor possesses some weaknesses, our
musicological metaphor also has its limitations. Although we attempt to provide a comprehensive
account of organizational change, our musical framework leaves out those aspects of change that
the metaphor is not able to overlap, such as situations that are highly traumatic to stakeholders. For
instance, in situations where personnel cuts are made, speaking of change using the vocabulary of
the collective musical experience would make a mockery of the situation.
Also, our intent has not been to suggest the musical metaphor as another hegemony to replace other
metaphors. Indeed, claiming that “change is fun” could lead to horrendous results if such an attitude
were taken as an only alternative, leading to implicit attitudes such as “change is fun and if not, you
can leave”. Resisting, whistle-blowing and transforming identity are all ways of introducing
changes of harmony by means of critical arguments. Sabotage, strikes or endangering deadlines are
means of reducing the labour resource and hence volume. Angry exchanges and tacit distrust are
means of changing texture. The musical metaphor is a tool with emancipatory potential, yet as all
tools, it needs to be handled with care.
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Table I. Musicological and organizational elements of change
Musicological tools Organizational tools
How it controls ten-
Form Fulfilling and evading
expectations in terms of
introducing, developing
and reintroducing
themes, building a musi-
cal narrative with its
twists and turns
Large goals (e.g. ‘strategic intents’, visions),
sagas, legends (e.g. ‘How we discovered our
best product), grand symbols (e.g. logos, val-
ues), rituals (e.g. annual strategy seminars),
metaphors (e.g.We are the crew of this ship’)
and myths (e.g. ‘how we got started’)
Tension created by not
knowing the outcome
of the musical piece /
the organizational ac-
tion or project
Volume Forte and pianissimo,
staccato and legato, in-
Resource intensity (e.g. downsizing with or
without golden handshakes), workload (e.g.
defining roles), communication intensity (e.g.
metaphors used), risk taking (e.g. showing cour-
Tension created by the
effort or force going
into the music and the
organizational re-
sources being expended
Harmony Consonance and disso-
Artifacts (e.g. round table vs. opposite sides),
rhetoric (e.g. appeal for unity vs. demonization),
consensus (e.g. unanimity vs. split votes), con-
flict, crises (e.g. cognitive labeling of something
as ‘a crisis’)
Tension created by the
difference between
musical or organiza-
tional voices and ar-
Patterns, tempo, meter
Cycles (e.g. budget period), plans (e.g. dead-
lines, timetables, milestones), projects
Tension created by the
breaking of patterns or
running out of time
Texture Instrumentation, qualita-
tive guidelines to instru-
mentalists and conductor
Personnel choices, distribution of power, roles,
technology, communication styles, personality,
Tension created by
incongruity between
musical instruments or
organizational person-
... Las metáforas han permitido también poner en relación campos como el de la música y el análisis organizacional (Mantere, Sillince, & Hämäläinen, 2007), vinculando elementos que, aunque disímiles en su origen, presentan determinadas semejanzas que resultan ser útiles para comprender ciertos fenómenos organizacionales. Así, por ejemplo, entre estos dos contextos es posible considerar entre otros aspectos, en términos metafóricos, cómo 'la forma de las piezas musicales' se relaciona con la estructura organizativa, 'el volumen' con el control y manejo eficiente de recursos, 'la armonía' con la solución de problemas internos, 'el ritmo' con los tiempos y plazos que deben ser cumplidos para la entrega de algún proyecto y, por último, 'la textura' con el tipo de personalidad, posiciones o grupos de interés inherentes a los objetivos de la empresa. ...
... Lo indicado en esta sección, haciendo uso de un pensamiento metafórico -de amplio espectro en el desarrollo del campo de los estudios organizacionales (Barnett, 1996;Cornelissen, 2005;Cornelissen et al., 2008;Grant & Oswick, 1996;Heracleous & Jacobs, 2011;Hill & Levenhagen, 1995;Inns, 2002;Letiche & van Uden, 1998;Manning, 1979;Morgan, 1980;Örtenblad et al., 2013)-, procura entonces establecer una base para la contribución que se espera realizar, a través de esta investigación, a la serie de trabajos que han abierto el espacio, en particular, a una importante serie de conversaciones que ponen en relación aspectos como la improvisación, la música, la administración, las organizaciones y la estrategia (Arshad, 2011;Barrett, 1998;Duxbury, 2014;Hatch & Weick, 1998;Kamoche et al., 2002Kamoche et al., , 2003Mantere, et al., 2007;Meyer et al., 1998;Patrick, 2008;Weick, 1998). De hecho, existen razones para pensar que la citada metáfora vale la pena y su utilización tiene sentido en trabajos como este (ver tabla 3). ...
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This work is part of one of the great fields of organization studies: strategic management. The classical perspective in this field promoted the idea that projecting the organization to the future involves designing a plan (a series of deliberate actions). Further progress showed that the strategy could be understood in other ways. However, the evolution of the field privileged the classical view, to some extent, by establishing for example multiple models to ‘formulate’ a strategy, but leaving in a second place the way in which it can ‘emerge’. The purpose of this research is then to contribute to the current level of understanding regarding the emerging strategies in organizations. To do so, it was considered an opposite -although complementary- concept to that of ‘planning’ and, in fact, very close in its nature to such kind of strategies: improvisation. Since this one has been nourished by valuable contributions of the music field, we used the knowledge of this domain, resorting to the use of ‘the metaphor’ as a theoretical resource to understand it and to reach the proposed objective. The results show that (i) deliberate and emerging strategies coexist and complement each other, (ii) improvisation is always present in the organizational context, (iii) there is a greater intensity of improvisation in the ‘How’ of strategy than in the ‘What’, and, as opposed to the conventional idea concerning this, (iv) some preparation is required in order to improvise properly.
... The dynamism of creativity as a change agent is particularly emphasized in the literature on improvisation as a tool and technique for organizational management (Kao, 1996;Cunha et al., 1999;Hadida et al., 2015), change (Barrett and Hatch, 2003;Mantere et al., 2007) and renewal (Crossan et al., 1996;Brown and Eisenhardt, 1997). Described as a means of liberating practice, the literature highlights that improvisation reflects processes that are inherently "uncontained". ...
... What is evident in the case reported on in particular is the nature of the dynamic processes of devising and improvisation, reflecting both change (e.g. Mantere et al., 2007) and renewal (e.g. Crossan et al., 1996). ...
Purpose This paper presents the findings from research that explores the business value of a performance arts-based initiative in supporting change management through devising. Devising is a process that encompasses improvisation to generate social interaction within a community of practice. Design/methodology/approach A novel approach is reported on: a case study that includes interviews with key members of partner organizations, representing a business, a performance producer and a commissioning agency, participant observation of a member of the performance production film, and the devising process. Findings Findings presented highlight phases of the devising process and the engagement with the creative practices employed. Findings highlight that benefits emerge through the reflexive nature of activities during the processes of creating the performance, as well as reflection on the final performance piece. Research limitations/implications Case study research is necessarily a qualitative design that is not generalizable to a broader population. Findings do, however, highlight potentially useful practices that may be further developed for future research. Practical implications Performance arts has pushed previously untested boundaries in employee engagement within the business, resulting in deep understanding between managers and employees on how value may be co-created and redeployed across the business. Originality/value The paper extends the application of improvisation by situating it within the creative practice of devising. This enables performance to be critically examined as an arts based initiative within business contexts.
... On the one hand, conducting may be considered as a specific instance of leadership, which allows the application of general leadership theory in the music domain (Apfelstadt, 1997;Armstrong & Armstrong, 1996;Bush, 2011;Davidson, 1995;Dobson & Gaunt, 2015;Goodstein, 1987;Linstead & Höpfl, 2000;Wis, 2002Wis, , 2007. On the other hand, conducting may be seen as an aesthetic practice that contains certain "leaderly features", in which case aesthetics inform leadership, rather than the other way around (Bathurst & Ladkin, 2012;Emiliani & Michael, 2013;Koivunen & Wennes, 2011;Ladkin, 2008;Mintzberg, 1998;Pearce et al., 2016;Saku, John, & Virpi, 2007;Sutherland & Jelinek, 2015). A special case of the latter view is the pervasive use of jazz as a way to understand leading and following (Hatch, 1999;Weick, 1998;Williamson, 2013). ...
Choral conducting is a complex and multi-faceted leader role. Leading music is a particular kind of leadership through the prominence of gestural communication, and it is a ubiquitous phenomenon across a variety of social settings, musical genres, and ensemble types. Despite the variety, colloquial writing as well as academic research implicitly assumes that there is a common underlying competence base. Most research on conducting looks at a particular aspect, such as gestures, error correction, or rehearsing approach. What is largely wanting, is an overall view of how the competence elements come together and their relative importance. This article is an exploratory study of 17 competence elements, viewed by conductors in the context of their own practice. The study is based on a survey of 294 choral conductors across Norway, with a wide spread in terms of formal education, experience and working situation. The study supports previous research by how the role of conducting gesture takes a seemingly contradictory position; emblematic of the role, but still scores low in terms of importance. Our analysis shows that the views on key competence elements, such as gestural skills, vary with contextual factors, whereas other elements, such as error detection and rehearsal organisation, do not. The two contextual factors that explain most variation for several competence elements are the length of the conductor’s experience and the level (amateur/professional) of the conductor’s choirs. Conductors’ views on the importance of each competence element are closely related to their own competence level for the same element. This suggests that the prominence that competence elements are given in conducting practice is highly adaptable, as conductors cope with the situation at hand. Although an academic degree in conducting has an impact on how conductors view the various competence elements, practice and experience seem to rule over education.
... Organisational life as a source of metaphors is less present in musicological studies, when compared to the range and number of metaphors which originated in the natural or technical sciences but which are used in music descriptions and interpretations (Jabłoński & Poprawski, 2003). However, there are also numerous examples of literature from organisational and management studies which borrow music vocabulary, and draw on musical processes and phenomena -first and foremost the cooperation between musical improvisation and music ensembles -in order to interpret or facilitate innovations in general organisational settings (Fairfield & London, 2003;Hunt et al., 2004;Mantere et al. 2007). Leading management scholars enjoy using analogies of symphony orchestras and other music organisations to describe the complex functions of management. ...
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The range, intensity and awareness of the organisational anchoring of music are quite diverse, identified or formalised to a greater or lesser extent, in every single case. However, the organisational dimension of musical practice is unavoidable when considering the broader, contextualised perspective of any music genre or phenomenon, elaborated as particular focus of musicological inquiries. The aim of this paper is to highlight the crossroads between two interrelated academic disciplines: musicology and organisational studies. The author makes a brief academic tour of the literature as an interdisciplinary reconnaissance, to map meeting points. The study of organisations opens up the question of how we are to make sense of organisations, and this is relevant to organisations of music-makers, music ‘distributors’ and music listeners, too. There is a range of recent organisational studies papers and books that is in tune with this cross-disciplinary invitation. Music-making environments are complex, paradoxical workplaces engaging very unusual, diverse and sensitive employees, who are well-educated and highly-qualified; they are places where we see both a personal and a social process. This paper contains selected proposals of paired research issues that are relevant for both musicology and organisational studies, operating under the framework of research fields open to dialogue. Within the five subsequent units the author elaborates on: (a) the overlap of aesthetic approaches to music and organisation; (b) music organisations’ organisational cultures; (c) leadership patterns in music ensembles; (d) musician as organisational actor. The text rounds off with two reflections: the first being based on the broader spectrum of music and organisational studies literature that expands the discussed interdisciplinary pair; while the second deals with the metaphorical dimensions of music practice in organisational studies. KEYWORDS: organisational studies, musicology, organisational aesthetics, leadership patterns, music ensembles, musician profession
... Several scholars argue that music is a particularly potent study object when researching human coordination (D'Ausilio et al., 2012;Kirschner & Tomasello, 2010;Novembre, Ticini, Schütz-Bosbach, & Keller, 2012). Unsurprisingly, ensemble music-making is a much-coveted case for organisation and leadership studies, exploiting specific ensemble types, such as the symphony orchestra (Hunt, Stelluto, & Hooijberg, 2004;Koivunen & Wennes, 2011;Mintzberg, 1998), the choir (Jansson, 2018;Pearce, Launay, & Dunbar, 2015;Sutherland & Jelinek, 2015), the jazz ensemble (Hatch, 1999;Weick, 1998;Williamson, 2013), or with a more conceptual orientation (Bathurst & Ladkin, 2012;Emiliani & Michael, 2013;Saku, John, & Virpi, 2007). ...
Conference Paper
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Organisations evolve and leadership processes unfold in time. However, the role of temporality has traditionally been a wanting aspect of leadership theory. The concept of sensemaking in organisations does take time into account through two of its properties. First, sensemaking is assumed to be ongoing, with no clear beginnings or ends. Second, it is retrospective, by how we make sense in the present moment by selectively attending to cues in the past: we retrofit our narrative to the actions we have already taken. The present moment is the ever-evolving frontier of such retrospection. Music is a special meaning domain, and at the same time, ubiquitous in human life. This paper explores the experiential qualities of the musical moment, within the context of ensemble music-making, in order to shed new light on the temporality of organising. (Full abstract and text available)
Organisational theorists have become increasingly interested in the creative industries, where practices that are commonplace are of particular interest to organisations in other sectors as they look for new ways to enhance performance. Focusing on the music industry, this book sets up a unique dialogue between leading organisational theorists and music professionals. Part I explores links between organisation theory and the creative industries literature, concentrating on practices of organising and knowledge mobilisation, followed by an in-depth discussion of key theoretical concepts by subject experts. Part II provides a diverse range of 'tales from the field', including examples from classical orchestras, folk, indie and punk. The concluding chapter examines the shared dialogue to reveal what practice in the musical field can learn from organisational theory, and vice versa. This innovative book will interest graduate students and researchers in the fields of organisation studies, music management and the creative industries.
Established firms formulate strategies to gain competitive advantage, to maximise their rent or to innovate to solve problems. This study develops a framework for exploring the implications of these strategic intents for creativity and value creation. The sample of the randomised control trial in this study included 32 strategic decision makers from four established companies that generated 128 decisions for analysis by playing a negotiation game. All subjects received 1 day of prior training in negotiation skills. Those in the control group were permitted to follow their default instincts during the trial. We found that actors who were guided by the intent of competitive advantage tended to be non-explorative about other problems. Actors who were guided by the intent of maximising rent tended to be exploitative or negatively creative. Actors who were guided by the intent of problem discovery found the most non-obvious and creative solutions leading to greater value creation than other intents. The results were consistent with the prediction of our framework—that the default strategic decision-making intent would tend to be the one that is closest to maximising rent or securing competitive advantage, leads to the exploitation of other players and neutralises total value creation.
In this theoretical article, the vital role of conflicts in knowledge creation is foregrounded, and the concept of conflict is reimagined using a metaphor of music. Theoretically, knowledge creation is understood as a process in which people, through institutionalisation, synthesise their conflicting institutional arrangements affecting their decisions, actions, and behaviour. Utilising metaphor as a methodological choice, and combining music and organisational conflicts in an analytical framework offer ways to cross and move the boundaries between arts and science of organisational studies. As a result, conflicts are reimagined and reconceptualised as relational, felt meaning and lived experiences of differences in institutional arrangements. This reimagined concept shifts the focus of organisational conflicts from ‘thingification” to human aspects underlying the sense-making of conflict experiences: the evolving story, identity, emotions and power relations. Access to the eprint (full text):
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The field of marketing strategy often makes the important assumption that marketing strategy should occur by first composing a plan on the basis of a careful review of environmental and firm information and then executing that plan. However, there are cases when the composition and execution of an action converge in time so that, in the limit, they occur simultaneously. The authors define such a convergence as improvisation and develop hypotheses to investigate the conditions in which improvisation is likely to occur and be effective. The authors test these hypotheses in a longitudinal study of new product development activities. Results show that organizational improvisation occurs moderately in organizations and that organizational memory level decreases and environmental turbulence level increases the incidence of improvisation. Results support traditional concerns that improvisation can reduce new product effectiveness but also indicate that environmental and organizational factors can reduce negative effects and sometimes create a positive effect for improvisation. These results suggest that, in some contexts, improvisation may be not only what organizations actually practice but also what they should practice to flourish.
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Oddly enough, few of the great semioticians have said anything about music as a sign. Umberto Eco (1968), in his Struttura assente, described music as a system having denotation but not connotation, giving the note 'c' as an example. That is all. He touched on music again only in passing, in his essays on number symbolism in the Middle Ages (Eco, 1986). Not one word about music appeared in the massive output of A. J. Greimas or in that of Yuri Lotman. In contrast, Roland Barthes had much to say about music (1975, 1977). A competent pianist himself, Barthes's essay on the 'grain of the voice' remains a classic in studies of vocal expression. Little less quoted but still inspiring are Barthes's ideas on corporeal meanings - 'somathemes,' the smallest units of bodily expression - as they occur in Robert Schumann's piano music.