Studying <i>Metaphors‐in‐Use</i> in their Social and Institutional Context: Sensemaking and Discourse Theory

Silvia Jordan and Hermann Mitterhofer

in Process, Sensemaking, and Organizing

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199594566
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595721 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives on Process Organization

Studying Metaphors‐in‐Use in their Social and Institutional Context: Sensemaking and Discourse Theory

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This chapter seeks to relate sensemaking and sensegiving processes to their social and institutional context by describing and explaining the effects of diverse metaphors of change used by organizational members during the implementation of lean production and TQM in an internationally operating manufacturing company. We explore how organizational members made sense of these strategic changes in terms of their understanding of the process as an incremental or rather a radical organizational change. We analyze what kind of “conceptual metaphors” are associated with these divergent understandings and explain the relative power of certain conceptual metaphors of change as compared to others by analyzing the social and institutional context of these metaphors‐in‐use. Adopting a “contextualized metaphor” analytical approach which expands Lakoff and Johnson's conceptual metaphor theory with the discourse analysis of linguist Jürgen Link, we analyze the link of dominant metaphors‐in‐use to institutionalized meanings as represented in “collective symbols” apparent in “interdiscursive” charts. Conceptual metaphors were particularly powerful when they referred to institutions that enable identification by virtue of taken‐for‐granted favorable connotations and by means of interpretive flexibility.

Keywords: sensemaking; metaphors‐in‐use; discourse theory; collective symbols; strategic change

Chapter.  12156 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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