chapter  4
32 Pages

Pettigrew and contextualism: organizational change and strategic choice

Andrew Pettigrew’s pioneering scholarly work over the past three decades has often been seen as offering a distinctively ‘contextualist’ approach to the study of organizational change and strategic choice (1985, 1997, 2003a). Against a background in which the orthodoxy of functionalist theories of organizations had collapsed, contingency models were in empirical disarray, and strategic change theory was increasingly synonymous with normative or recipes-driven prescriptions of managerial voluntarism, Pettigrew offered an apparently new and richly textured form of intensive case-based inquiry focused on the ‘process, content and context of change’ (Pettigrew 2002). From his highly influential case study of ICI, The Awaking Giant (1985) to his many wide-ranging reflections on the ‘processual’ nature of organizational change, Pettigrew has consistently championed the scholarly virtues of a contextualist perspective founded on rigour and relevance (2001). As organizational change theories and models of the strategy process have proliferated and become even more confusing and fragmented, contextualism would appear to offer a justification for intellectual pluralism while keeping alive the prospect that both theory and practice can be ‘bridged’, and that engaged academic scholarship can make a difference (Pettigrew 2001: 66, 2002: 25).