Organizational change is sometimes assumed to be a linear and predictive process, but the majority of change initiatives end in failure (cf. Beer, 2003). The results of the change initiative often differ from the initial ambitions, indicating that theories of translation may be useful in analyses of change processes.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate and analyze the early stages of implementing a lean-type production system in a large Swedish manufacturing company. Representatives from all organizational levels within the studied company have been interviewed. The interviews have been analyzed from an Actor-network perspective, using translation as a key component.
The company has not achieved the results that were expected, and in certain areas, the focus of the initial ideas has shifted in unforeseen directions. The analysis shows that this is a result of the translation of the core ideas of the new production concept (lean production).
A key finding is that the implementation process has allowed too much room for translation, thereby increasing the risk of change failure. The paper shows that people in managerial positions can benefit from taking the processes of translation into account in their work. Considerable efforts should be directed towards understanding the actors’ frames of reference and design information that suits the actors’ needs.
The paper uses Michel Callon’s framework for sociology of translation in the context of organizational change and on various levels of abstraction. The paper shows how the a translation perspective can be useful in researching processes of organizational change.
Actor-network theory, sociology of translation, lean production, implementation, organizational change