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Rethinking the Future in Organizational Change

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Intellectual Contribution by Ronald Purser

Contribution Title

Rethinking the Future in Organizational Change


Time in Management





Continuous and emergent change presents a challenge for organizations given the limitations of planned change methods that are informed by a limited conceptualization of the future. Episodic attempts to control time from a detached and supposedly timeless position (the planner or change agent) have proven to be unable to keep pace with the continuous flow of time. The challenge of emergent and continuous change calls for new ways of knowing time, particularly with regards to knowing the future on its own terms as a creative, unconditioned dynamic. This paper begins by tracing the historic roots of Western conceptions of time, noting the inherent tensions between the phenomenon of constant change and a desire to secure a permanent position of stability. Next, classic organizational change theory is reviewed in terms of its underlying assumptions regarding the flow of time, particularly its epistemological stance towards effecting change in time. Differences between the nature of episodic versus continuous and emergent change are also explored, raising a challenge to the idea that change can be managed from a detached position external to the flow of time, through a series of linear stages.

Complete Citation

In G. Morello (Ed.) Time in Management, Palermo, Italy: University of Palermo Press.


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