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Mayr, Katharina and Siri, Jasmin (2010): Management as a Symbolizing Construction? Re-Arranging the Understanding of Management. In: Forum qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: qualitative social research, Vol. 11, No. 3: Art. 21 [PDF, 171kB]


In this article, we outline the concept of management as a symbolizing construction. According to Niklas LUHMANN, organizations process by referring to decisions. But decisions are not simply "given" and in principle invisible. This is the reason why organizations institute formalities like protocols, signatures or other insignia of the official that symbolize the decision—without actually being a decision. These symbols allow for making decisions "process-able." And just like a protocol or a signature, management symbolizes decisions as well. Management provides an organizational practice with symbols of decision making without being the "unity" of the decisions, as decisions perpetually have to be reconstructed, redefined and rearranged in the communication of all organizational units. Therefore management symbolizes on the one hand more than it can achieve. On the other hand the importance of management as a symbolizing construction lies in allowing the reconstruction, redefining and rearrangement of decisions by making them visible and recognizable. Heroic managers, meetings, management tools and procedures are solutions to the paradox of decision making. By symbolizing decidedness they create credibilities that conceal the self-referential construction of organizational communication and the paradox of its decision praxis.

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