chapter  4
17 Pages

Ethnography and Change

The purpose of this chapter is to provide some detail of the ethnographic approach to organisations. We will do so by reference to the analytic purchase that the method brings to the understanding of work. We have already used a number of phrases to hint at the kind of analytic view we have in mind, ranging from a concern with the world as ‘encountered phenomenon’, through to ‘local interactional properties’ and ‘the lived experience’. All of these can be encapsulated in the phrase ‘real time, real world work’. As we have seen in Chapter 2, our emphasis on this-leaving aside what it means for the momentstands in rather stark contrast to many accounts of organisational life. These all too often have very little to say about the actual work which goes on within the setting under study-about what makes this work ‘bank-work’ say, or ‘insurance-work’—and both the worker and the fashion in which work is accomplished tend to disappear into theoretical abstraction. A desire to be attentive to the work is one of the motivations for the use of our approach to research. In contrast to a common attitude which views specific social settings as sites of generic, abstract ‘social processes’, the approach we use, by contrast, is particularly focused upon the distinctiveness, the specificity, of the settings under study. It is our view that this can be a particularly useful aid in the management of change, as it can bring into view materials that the other approaches to change, such as those just reviewed, ignore. Of course, just how the approach we are about to outline does this is one thing, just how it might fit into a broader programme of organisational change is another. Our goal then is not only to outline our approach but to point toward-and this is all we can do in this chapter-what role this approach may play in supplementing and complementing the management of change approaches.