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Studying organizations as temporary


  • Lundin, Rolf A.
  • Steinthórsson, Runólfur S.


This article reflects upon the methodological pessimism that sometimes plagues students of organizations. In particular pessimism seems to strike us when we try to get to grips with the incessant transformations of organizations--transformations that seem to occur at such great speed. Our immediate reaction to Heraclitus' statement that: "You cannot step twice into the same river" is that it has considerable methodological relevance. However, we contend that his metaphor in its orthodox version leads to too narrow a view. An elaboration of the metaphor could perhaps reduce the pessimism regarding organizational studies by promoting a focus on contextual aspects. Moreover, changes and transformations in themselves do not necessarily represent a stumbling block for the researcher. Rather studying crucial projects provides a means for studying the mechanisms at work in the host organization. The resulting approach--contextualization in a broad sense--relieves researchers of some of their pessimism, maybe even inspires optimism, by raising new questions: not only "what can be said?" (about the organization), but also "in what contexts?" and "about what manifestations in those contexts?" The article concludes with some remarks on the scarcity of the contextualization approach for studying organizations as temporary phenomena.

Suggested Citation

  • Lundin, Rolf A. & Steinthórsson, Runólfur S., 2003. "Studying organizations as temporary," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 233-250, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:scaman:v:19:y:2003:i:2:p:233-250

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    Cited by:

    1. Johansson, Marjana, 2003. "Performing the 50th anniversary of a Garden City: Staging time, place, and identity," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration 2003:14, Stockholm School of Economics.


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