Publication Details

This article was originally published as Garrety, K, Reflexivity and Normative Change, International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, 5(6), 2005, 68-75. Original article available here.


Normative change programs - that is, programs that attempt to effect organisational change through altering employees’ beliefs, values, emotions and self-perceptions - have been heralded by some as the royal road to corporate ‘excellence’. Academic literature on the phenomenon, however, is pervaded by a sense of unease. Critics claim that these programs invade employees’ subjectivity, and erode their autonomy and capacity for critical thought. In this paper, I employ concepts from the work of George Herbert Mead and Rom Harré to explore the reflexive processes of managers subjected to a normative change program that was carried out in an Australian steel plant during the 1990s. Taking two supporters of change as my prime examples, I show how reflexive processes are manifested in the way managers talk about themselves - their private ‘real’ selves, their public personae and the relationship between these aspects of self. I conclude by examining how reflexivity is linked to autonomy and critical thinking, and argue that our academic unease about normative change may be explained by our own evaluations of the degree to which employees engage in the sorts of reflexive processes that we, as academics, value.