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Internationalization in a business school: Co-existing and entwined professional and organizational narratives

Jarzabkowski, P. and Sillince, J.A.A. and Shaw, D. (2008) Internationalization in a business school: Co-existing and entwined professional and organizational narratives. In: ANZAM Conference, 1900-01-01.

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This empirical paper adopts a narrative approach to explain how a strategic goal of internationalization within a UK business school developed over a three year period and in particular how two conflicting institutional logics - a market logic and a professional logic - were given meaning and played out within a specific organizational context. The paper is in four parts. First, the theoretical framework explains the business school as characteristic of a professional organization, with a professional academic workforce, ambiguous strategic goals and multiple competing but legitimate demands. We then frame our methodological approach of narrative as a means of understanding how professional actors are co-opted into enabling organizational goals, even where these are perceived as antithetical to professional interests. We do this by showing how actors within organizations that exist with multiple, potentially competing institutional logics draw upon those logics and embed them in narratives to give meaning to their actions. Second, the research design, which followed the pursuit of an internationalization goal within a UK business school over three years, based on a dataset of three rounds of interviews, documentary analysis and meeting observations is explained, showing how we used a narrative approach for analysis. Third the results are presented as a series of co-existing and entwined narratives: organizational/managerial narratives, professional narratives of resistance, and professional narratives of engagement. Finally our findings show that narrative is a useful theoretical lens for explaining how multiple, ambiguous and conflicting strategic goals within professional organizations may coexist, enabling the organization to act both as a collective unit and also to fulfil the sometimes contradictory professional interests of its constituents. These findings contribute to understanding about strategy in professional organizations and also to narrative theory by showing how organizations may comprise multiple, entwined narratives, in which actors change roles according to their varying interests in the 'central' narrative.