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Title: Understanding discourses of organisation, change and leadership : an English local government case study
Author: MacKillop, Eleanor
ISNI:       0000 0004 5362 2399
Awarding Body: De Montfort University
Current Institution: De Montfort University
Date of Award: 2014
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Change is a timely issue across organisations, particularly since the start of the economic crisis, and especially within English local government. Yet, this question remains dominated by macro and micro explanatory models which tend to exclude conflict, mess and power in favour of enumerating universalistic steps or leadership factors for successful change. This thesis problematises this literature, drawing on Laclau and Mouffe’s (1985) political discourse theory and its mobilisation by critical management studies of organisational change. Three avenues are identified to further this literature. First, the organisation is analysed as an ongoing and fragile hegemonic project in which spaces are defined and consent must be constantly renewed. Second, the organisation is recast as a discursively constituted ‘site’ within a flat ontology, where change is not the result of some ‘bigger’ phenomena such as neo-liberalism or austerity, but instead is the product of situated articulations, disparate demands being mobilised as threats or opportunities requiring change. Finally, a third proposition articulates leadership in organisations as a set of multiple and changing practices, pragmatically deployed by organisational players. In exploring those avenues, a five-step ‘logics of critical explanation’ approach is deployed, characterising organisational change practices according to social (rules and norms), political (inclusions and exclusions), and fantasmatic (fears and hopes) logics (Glynos and Howarth, 2007). A nine month case study of an English County Council and its local strategic partnership’s organisational change project, Integrated Commissioning 2012 (IC 2012), is analysed to problematise the emergence, transformation and failure of practices of change in organisations. Rather than a set of factors or top-down causes and effects, this research demonstrates how change, organisations and leadership are best explained as discursive constructions, where a set of conditions drawn from a given site must be problematised. This research contributes to critical explanations of organisational change politics in three ways. First, by developing the concept of hegemony and hegemonic spaces, this thesis evidences how organisations and change are the result of ongoing struggles, consent being notably gathered by the constant refuelling of the fantasmatic appeal of change. Second, framing the organisation as a site generates a more complex, situated and dynamic understanding of the mobilisation of disparate demands within change discourses. Third, by considering leadership as a set of changing discursive practices and developing four situated dimensions of leadership in the case study, this research adds to critical leadership studies and discursive discussions of the role of individuals in organisational politics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: organisational change ; critical management studies ; discourse theory ; leadership ; local government ; logics of critical explanation