Sensemaking on the shop floor: Narratives of knowledge in organizations

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-375
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of management studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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