Sub-theme 10: (SWG) Becoming Good: How to Study the Emergence of Ethical Practice in Organizing

Anthony Hussenot
Université Paris-Dauphine, France
Silvia Gherardi
University of Trento, Italy
Caroline Ramsey
University of Liverpool Management School, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Practice-based inquiries are increasingly prevalent in the organization studies domain, as evidenced for instance by growing literatures in strategy-as-practice (Jarzabkowski, 2005), leadership-as-practice (Raelin, 2016), practice as knowing (Nicolini et al., 2003), and entrepreneuring (Steyaert, 2007). Many of these studies draw, either explicitly or implicitly, on assumptions taken from process philosophy, which is the underpinning orientation of the Standing Working Group sponsoring this sub-theme. This year’s EGOS Colloquium offers an opportunity for participants in this sub-theme to focus on the as yet under-developed implications of process thinking for ethical practice in organizations. By asking what it might mean to become good, this sub-theme directs attention towards the ethical practices of goodness, and how goodness might emerge in day-to-day practice. The notion of ‘good organization’ often evokes its opposition, ‘bad organization’, but this dualistic formulation is problematic for process scholars, who seek to transcend dualistic thinking in order to better appreciate the fluidity of organizing as it emerges in the flow of becoming. The challenge then, is to find ways of doing research that can adequately engage with this fluidity.
The lack of methodological sophistication in this area is already well recognized (Langley, Smallman, Tsoukas & Van de Ven, 2013; Sandberg et al., 2015; Hussenot & Missonier, 2016), but as yet, few solutions have been forthcoming. There is, therefore, an urgent need to re-examine the assumptions underpinning empirical inquiries that seek to bring about fresh insight into how to experience / describe / transcribe the becomingness of organizing. We need to explore our understandings of how emergence happens (Garud et al., 2015), how organizing is accomplished (Gherardi, 2012), how “good” management emerges (Gherardi & Murgia, 2014), how conversational travel offers an alternative optic of inquiry (Ramsay, 2016), how to engage with the temporal unfolding of experience (Hernes et al., 2013), and which voices, speaking in which ways, and with which others, create goodness and realness (Gergen, 1994). How can we, as researchers, develop methodological sensibilities that allow us to enter into the living contexts of our inquiries? And how can we become a community of inquiry concerned with doing empirical process research?
This sub-theme invites processual responses to the ethical dimensions of ‘goodness’ in organizations. Whilst we are interested in empirical accounts that draw attention to the unfolding processes of becoming good, we are also interested in the methodological practices that enable us to engage with such processes in moment-by-moment organizing. We invite contributors to embrace the methodological and empirical implications of a process-based approach to studying the emergence of organizational goodness by addressing questions such as, but not limited to:

  • How to explore empirically the emergence of organizational practices that are changing the goodness of work and life?
  • What methodological sensibilities allow us to follow the emergence and evolution of ethical practice?
  • How is the notion of ‘becoming good’ constructed in particular categories of organizational practice, such as strategy, leadership, making, governance, operations, quality management, etc.?
  • Where is power and agency in the creation of ‘goodness’; not only in the sense of certain practices, positions and people exerting power over, but also in the processes by which power with is expressed in certain ways of going on?



  • Garud, R., Simpson, B., Langley, A., & Tsoukas, H. (eds.) (2015): The Emergence of Novelty in Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gergen, K. (1994): Realities and Relationships. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Gherardi, S. (2012): How to Conduct a Practice-based Study: Problems and methods. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Gherardi, S., & Murgia, A. (2014): “What makes a 'good' manager? Positioning gender and management in students’ narratives.” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 33 (8), 690–707.
  • Hernes, T., Simpson, B., & Söderlund, J. (2013): “Introduction: Managing and Temporality.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 29, 1–6.
  • Hussenot, A., & Missonier, S. (2016): “Encompassing Stability and Novelty in Organization Studies: an Events-Based Approach.” Organization Studies, 37 (4), 523–546.
  • Jarzabkowski, P. (2005): Strategy as Practice: An Activity Based Approach. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Langley, A., Smallman, C., Tsoukas, H., & Ven de Ven, A. (2013): ”Process Studies of Change in Organization and Management: Unveiling Temporality, Activity, and Flow.” Academy of Management Journal, 56 (1), 1–13.
  • Nicolini, D., Gherardi, S., & Yanow, D. (2003): Knowing in Organizations. A Practice-Based Approach. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
  • Raelin, J.A. (2016): Leadership-as-Practice. Theory and Application. New York: Routledge.
  • Ramsay, C. (2016): “Conversational travel and the identification of leadership phenomena.” In: J.A. Raelin (ed.): Leadership-as-Practice: Theory and Application. New York: Routledge, 198–219.
  • Sandberg, J., Loacker, B., & Alvesson, M. (2015): ”Conceptions of process in organization and management: The case of identity studies.” In: R. Garud, B. Simpson, A. Langley & H. Tsoukas (eds.): The Emergence of Novelty in Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 318–344.
  • Steyaert, C. (2007): “Entrepreneuring as a conceptual attractor? A review of process theories in 20 years of entrepreneurship studies.” Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 19 (6), pp. 453–477.
Anthony Hussenot is Associate Professor in Organization Studies and Management at the Université Paris-Dauphine, France. Anchored in a process perspective, his research covers the emergence of innovative work practices and new organizational phenomena which participate in the evolution of society. He has conducted qualitative studies in various fields such as secondary schools, private banking and the maker movement. His work has been published in journals such as ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Organizational Change Management’ and ‘International Journal of Organizational Analysis’. He has recently co-edited a book in French about recent trends in organization theories.
Silvia Gherardi is Senior Professor of Sociology of Work and Organization at the University of Trento, Italy. She has been Director of the Research Unit on Communication, Organizational Learning, and Aesthetics ( since 1993. Her most recent book – “How to Conduct a Practice-based Study: Problems and Methods (Edward Elgar, 2012) – is devoted to the discussion of methodologies for the empirical study of learning and knowing in working practices. A companion to this book co-authored with Antonio Strati (“Learning and Knowing in Practice-based Studies”, Edward Elgar, 2012) presents a selection of empirical studies from RUCOLA.
Caroline Ramsey is a Senior Lecturer in Management and Director of the DBA programme at the University of Liverpool Management School, UK. Her published research to date has been focused on practice-based learning; seeking to answer the questions of “what next?” rather than what is the case. More recently, she has turned her attention to the relational processes of leadership, exploring the way in which conversations travel towards some form of direction, alignment and/or commitment.