Barbara Czarniawska: Organizational Change – Fashions, Institutions, and Translations

  • Hervé CorvellecEmail author
  • Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist
Reference work entry


Combining neo-institutionalism, actor network theory, and Gabriel Tarde’s sociology, Czarniawska considers the key driver of organizational change to be imitation but an imitation that rests on translation. Organizations emulate one another by translating fashionable ideas according to their understanding, traditions, needs, and means. As translation in this tradition always entails a transformation of the translated idea or object, unexpected consequences will be expected. She does not consider these consequences to be necessarily negative; however, because if stabilized and institutionalized, unintended change can turn out to be as positive as planned change. A further strength of Czarniawska’s is her ability to provide methodological tools that follow the translation processes for change: organizational ethnographies, narrative methodology, and shadowing.


Institutionalism Imitation Fashion Translation Action net Ethnography Narrative Shadowing 


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Further Reading

  1. Czarniawska told us that she considers Writing management: Organization theory as a literary genre (Oxford University Press,1999) to be her best book. Yet we believe that A theory of organizing (Edward Elgar, 2014, second edition) may be a more comprehensive introduction to her ideas and Narrating the organization: Dramas of institutional identity (University of Chicago Press, 1997) her best example of how to combine narrative and institutional theory to address organizational change. A tale of three cities: Or the glocalization of city management (Oxford University Press, 2002) illustrates the relevance of studying unusual empirical objects. Social science research: From field to desk (SAGE, 2014) summarizes over 20 years of teaching processual methodologies; what is more, it is written in an engaging style that appeals to students and seasoned researchers alike.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Service StudiesLund UniversityHelsingborgSweden
  2. 2.Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Weatherhead Center for International AffairsHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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