Narrating the Organization
Dramas of Institutional Identity
involved in real-world managing are not always willing to reveal the intricacies of their
everyday muddles. Barbara Czarniawska argues that in order to understand these uncharted
territories, we need to gather local and concrete stories about organizational life and subject
them to abstract and metaphorical interpretation.
Using a narrative approach unique to organizational studies, Czarniawska employs literary
devices to uncover the hidden workings of organizations. She applies cultural metaphors to
public administration in Sweden to demonstrate, for example, how the dynamics of a
screenplay can illuminate the budget disputes of an organization. She shows how the
interpretive description of organizational worlds works as a distinct genre of social analysis,
and her investigations ultimately disclose the paradoxical nature of organizational life: we follow
routines in order to change, and decentralize in order to control. By confronting such
paradoxes, we bring crisis to existing institutions and enable them to change.