Living Reference Work Entry

The Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers

pp 1-17

Date: View Latest Version

Barbara Czarniawska

Organizational Change: Fashions, Institutions, and Translations
  • Hervé CorvellecAffiliated withDepartment of Service Studies, Lund UniversityGothenburg Research Institute (GRI), University of Gothenburg Email author 
  • , Ulla Eriksson-ZetterquistAffiliated withGothenburg Research Institute (GRI), University of GothenburgWeatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University


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