For a Narrative Criticism of Organizational Performance
Grand narratives have fallen, or at least come off badly from, successive waves of structuralist, Marxist, post-modern, feminist, and post-colonialist criticisms (to name but a few). It is surprising that hardly anyone has set out to question the notion of organizational performance, one of the most inflated narratives of the day. The business community has set up the story of its performance as a life or death criterion for its activities. Managers, consultants and academics spend huge efforts to measure it in the most believable way. Organizational performance is a narrative, both at the micro level of local stories recounting the success of a given organization in terms of its return on assets, market share growth or benefits to its community, and at the macro level of global discourse on economy, politics, and progress. Performance is an account of how agents individuals, groups, departments, organizations, nations, continents or whatever under certain circumstances, manage to get from state A to state B, the latter being in some way better than the former. Performance is a narrative about achievements, and as such it is closely related to the modernists' grand narratives of competition, progress, hierarchy, or justice. Yet the notion of organizational performance has so far been spared systematic questioning as to its origin, content, and implications. It is time to start filling in this gap in criticism.
Göteborg University. School of Business, Economics and Law