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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The intersection of power, knowledge, shared perspectives, and participatory processes in organizational direction-setting: a study of a church Wollf, Randy


The abuse of power, dominance of certain shared perspectives, and reduction of personal values into so-called organizational core values are problems that plague traditional organizational direction setting. The purpose of this study was to explore how power intersects with the knowledge formation process, shared perspectives, and participatory processes within organizational direction setting. The study used an ethnographic case study approach to focus on a church that went through a yearlong direction setting process. The church had lost its senior pastor and wanted to determine its direction before hiring a new pastor. The researcher was a participant in that process. His field notes and other documentation provided one source of data. The researcher also interviewed 20 people who participated in the process. In terms of the intersection of power and knowledge formation, the study revealed that the discursive practices of the facilitator along with the voices of those in privileged groups, the outspoken, and those who had engendered trust in others carried considerable weight during the process. At the intersection of power with shared perspectives, there were two major perspectives representing subgroup cultures: a traditional perspective that resisted change and a progressive perspective that wanted change. The progressives dominated the church’s privileged groups and exerted extensive influence on the direction setting process. The organizational symbols of church staff and worship music style served to galvanize some people in the battle over which perspective would prevail. Transparency functioned as a bridge that brought some on either side of the conflict closer together. The research revealed two major types of power related to the intersection of power with participatory processes: the power of pain and intimidation. Both minimized the participation of some women, youth, and traditionalists. All three intersections featured deployments of power that influenced the construction of directional knowledge. This knowledge helped to inform the rules of “appropriate” conduct within the organization’s emerging truth regime. The study revealed that, in this case, robust directional knowledge would have accommodated personal, subgroup, and widely shared values in a state of dynamic equilibrium. The researcher concluded with a discussion of implications for organizational leaders.

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