Julia Balogun & Gerry
Johnson talk with ScienceWatch.com and answer a
few questions about this month's Fast Moving Front in the
field of Economics & Business.
Article: Organizational restructuring and middle
Journal: ACAD MANAGE J, 47 (4): 523-549 AUG 2004
Addresses: City Univ London, Case Business Sch, London,
City Univ London, Case Business Sch, London, England.
Univ Strathclyde, Grad Sch Business, Glasgow, Lanark,
Why do you think your paper is highly
Our paper is highly cited as it fits within several different research
conversations. First it is a paper about sensemaking and is, therefore,
relevant to other research in this area. However, it is also a paper about
middle managers and strategic change and is therefore also cited by the
growing body of work which explores the strategic role of middle managers.
In addition, it is relevant to research in the recent field of Strategy as
Practice. This body of work explores strategy as something an organization
does as opposed to something an organization has and, as such, puts the
research focus on what it is strategic actors in organizations actually do
to deliver strategy (See Johnson G, et al., special issue of
Journal of Management Studies 40, 2003, and Balogun J, et
al., "Editors of Special Issue: Strategy as Practice," Human
Relations 60, 2007, and the book: Strategy as
Practice: Research Directions and Resources, by Gerry Johnson, Ann
Langley, Leif Melin, and Richard Whittington, Cambridge University Press,
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
"...it is also a
paper about middle managers
It doesn't describe a new discovery, but it does use novel methods in the
form of research participants' maintained diaries and also focus groups. It
is one of the few recent studies that track the implementation of strategic
change on a real-time, longitudinal basis.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
The significance of the paper lies in that it shows:
1) The important and active role middle managers play in how strategic
change actually develops on the ground.
2) Whereas senior managers are usually credited with the meaning making
around change, in fact they become ghosts in the sensemaking of others;
rather than being active directors of change, they act more as agents of
indirect infection influencing organizational meanings through the presence
of their actions and words in stories, rumors, and gossip shared by others.
3) Therefore, it is the actions, behaviors, gestures, and language of
peers, and their shared personal experiences, that have a more direct
impact on middle-manager interpretations and change outcomes.
4) The focus to date on vertical interactions between senior managers and
others has obscured the importance of horizontal interactions within
How did you become involved in this research and
were there any particular problems encountered along the way?
This was based on the Ph.D. of the first author which was explicitly
designed to explore the gap that existed on the role middle managers play
in strategic change.
Where do you see your research leading in the
Both authors remain actively involved in research that explores strategic
change, and other strategic practices such as workshops and strategic
planning, from the strategy as practice perspective: in other words,
research that focuses on how strategists, be they senior or middle
managers, accomplish their strategic work.
Do you foresee any social or political implications
for your research?
No. However, in terms of managerial practice, there are implications for
senior managers to do with the way they conceive of change recipients (as
passive as opposed to active), the way they think about how they
communicate change, and the way they intervene. For more on this, see:
Balogun J, "Managing Change: Steering a Course between Intended Strategies
and Unanticipated Outcomes," Long Range Planning 39, 29-49,
Professor Julia Balogun
The Professor Sir Roland Smith Chair in Strategic Management
Lancaster University Management School
Professor Gerry Johnson
Professor of Strategic Management
Lancaster University Management School
Keywords: strategy as practice, sensemaking, middle
managers, strategic change, strategic actors in organizations,
implementation of strategic change, middle-manager interpretations, agents
of indirect infection influencing organizational meanings.