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Sensemaking on the Shop Floor: Narratives of Knowledge in Organizations


  • Gerardo Patriotta


This paper explores the role of narratives in organizational inquiry and knowledge work. Following the tenets of the phenomenological method, the paper digs into the 'life world' of organizations in order to capture the taken for granted stream of everyday routines, interaction, and events that constitute both individual and social practices. An empirical case study examines the narrative-based processes of sensemaking and knowledge acquisition in the setting of a traditional pressing plant at Fiat Auto, Italy. The focus of analysis is on how a best performing team engages in the resolution of disruptive occurrences on the shop floor. Through the deconstruction of narratives underlying problem-solving activities, the case identifies a distinctive mode of investigation conceptualized as 'detective stories'. The detective's method highlights the interplay between time and narrative in shaping the interconnected processes of organizational knowledge creation, utilization, and institutionalization. More generally, the findings of the paper stress the importance of conjectural knowledge and common-sensical wisdom in the everyday life of organizations. Copyright 2003 Blackwell Science Asia Pty. Ltd..

Suggested Citation

  • Gerardo Patriotta, 2003. "Sensemaking on the Shop Floor: Narratives of Knowledge in Organizations," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(2), pages 349-375, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:2:p:349-375

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bruce Kogut & Udo Zander, 1992. "Knowledge of the Firm, Combinative Capabilities, and the Replication of Technology," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 3(3), pages 383-397, August.
    2. Pettigrew, Andrew M., 1997. "What is a processual analysis?," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 337-348, December.
    3. Richard J. Boland & Ramkrishnan V. Tenkasi, 1995. "Perspective Making and Perspective Taking in Communities of Knowing," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 6(4), pages 350-372, August.
    4. Giovan Francesco Lanzara, 2001. "Technology and The Courtroom: An Inquiry into Knowledge Making in Organizations," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(7), pages 943-971, November.
    5. John Seely Brown & Paul Duguid, 1991. "Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Toward a Unified View of Working, Learning, and Innovation," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 2(1), pages 40-57, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lutz Preuss & David Dawson, 2009. "On the Quality and Legitimacy of Green Narratives in Business: A Framework for Evaluation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 84(1), pages 135-149, January.
    2. Heather C. Vough & Christine D. Bataille & Sung Chul Noh & Mary Dean Lee, 2015. "Going Off Script: How Managers Make Sense of the Ending of Their Careers," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 414-440, May.
    3. Waring, Justin J., 2009. "Constructing and re-constructing narratives of patient safety," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 1722-1731, December.
    4. Fu-Sheng Tsai & Gayle Baugh & Shih-Chieh Fang & Julia Lin, 2014. "Contingent contingency: Knowledge heterogeneity and new product development performance revisited," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 149-169, March.
    5. repec:spr:grdene:v:21:y:2012:i:6:d:10.1007_s10726-011-9250-x is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:bla:jomstd:v:54:y:2017:i:5:p:711-738 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Górriz-Mifsud, Elena & Secco, Laura & Pisani, Elena, 2016. "Exploring the interlinkages between governance and social capital: A dynamic model for forestry," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 25-36.

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