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Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change


The Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change (ODSC) Group comprises a cluster of researchers at the University of Sydney Business School. The Group is associated with the International Centre for Research in Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change (ICRODSC).

ICRODSC links international researchers who share an interest in developing and applying discourse methods to the study of organizations. It brings together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, provides a critical mass in research expertise, facilitates cross-disciplinary research, provides a banner for new research initiatives, provides contacts and support for doctoral students, and provides resources for workshops, studies, and other activities.

ICRODSC was launched in 2001 by four institutions - the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, King's College at the University of London, and McGill University. Since then, it has grown to include 15 institutional partners.

The group of researchers at the University of Sydney Business School share an interest with colleagues located at these other institutions in developing and applying discourse methods to the study of organizations.

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Recent Research Projects

The Silent Killer: Advancing Knowledge on Silence and its Impact on Errors and Safety (2016-2019)

ODSC Investigators: Dr Helena Nguyen; Dr Anya Johnson

This project will investigate how silence emerges in teams, what sustains it, and how it affects error and safety outcomes. Employees often choose to remain silent about important issues at work, which can have devastating consequences. Although silence is a complex individual phenomenon, there is little knowledge of silence as a collective phenomenon, or how it spreads and becomes the norm in teams and organisations. This project will investigate silence using multilevel, longitudinal designs and by testing novel interventions. This research is expected to affect how teams work and communicate effectively to reduce dangerous forms of silence and improve safety.

Compassion at the heart of well-being: An inter- disciplinary study of well-being in a healthcare setting (2016-2018)

ODSC Investigators: Dr Anya Johnson; Dr Helena Nguyen

This project uses multiple disciplinary perspectives to explore: a) the nature of compassion and well-being, and the ways they are related; b) the acceptability and effectiveness of interventions to enhance compassion and well-being; and c) the effects of these interventions on both the individual and those around them. The core of the project is a randomised control trial with nurses, for whom compassion and well-being are vital to the provision of quality care, but who often work in settings which produce high stress, emotional overload, overwork, and ‘compassion fatigue’. The RCT compares two compassion-based interventions and a control condition using a research design which incorporates qualitative and quantitative outcome measures in participants as well as staff and patients with whom they interact. The study employs a number of objective measures such as psychophysiological markers of stress and resilience, social network analysis, and ethnographic observations. Our project aims to contribute to the best-practice design of interventions to enhance compassion and well-being.

Australia's role in Global Financial and Production Networks (2016-2018)

ODSC Investigators: Dr Eric Knight

The project intends to address a major deficit of knowledge about the ways financial centres develop and compete among a network of international centres. Australia’s long-term economic future is closely tied to providing financial services throughout Asia. Yet very little attention has been given to analysing the structures and networks that enable internationalisation, in particular the performance of Sydney and Melbourne as competitive financial centres within a network of financial centres in East and South-East Asia. Using specialist industry databases and intensive case study methods, this project plans to examine the processes underpinning the growth of this network, map scenarios for the next two decades, and advise on policy implications arising from the 2013–14 Financial System Inquiry.


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Recent Events and Workshops

Between community and corporate: How the top management team in a refugee advocacy organization experience and respond to paradoxical demands in strategizing

25 May 2017

Gaia Grant

Top Management Teams (TMTs) increasingly experience contradictions and competing demands in strategising. These demands can emerge as tensions that become salient when the senior team is going through a period of rapid change. Where each TMT member has independent individual perspectives on key organisation objectives, as can be the case with not-for-profit organisations, tensions can lead to strategic dissent. Through ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews conducted with the TMT members of a not-for-profit refugee advocacy and support organisation, it has been possible to observe how tensions influence how TMT leaders interact with each other and with other parts of the organisation. Exploring how individuals in the TMT identify with the team and with the organisation through times of change, and how paradoxical challenges in identity can be embraced as the organisation goes through transition, provides greater clarity around how TMTs can successfully negotiate times of change. The findings extend the paradox literature by showing how TMT leaders navigate paradoxical tensions.

The Practice of Broking in Competitive Markets: Reinsurance Brokers as Self-interested Organizations

8 March 2017

Professor Paula Jarzabkowski

Professor Paula Jarzabkowski, Professor in Strategic Management, CASS Business School City University of London, presented the studies examining the practices of brokerage work in competitive markets. Drawing on an ethnographic study of the two largest brokerage organizations in the global reinsurance industry, Paula showed the practices through which brokers enact the complex and contradictory work of both bringing parties with conflicting interests together to enable market exchange and setting them apart in order to maintain the brokerage role of intermediating the market.

The study found that fluid iterations of four brokers’ practices - rationalizing, humanizing, expertizing and intervening - are performed interchangeably, enabling the duality of two contradictory brokerage approaches – ‘tertius iungens’ of bringing together and ‘tertius gaudens’ of setting apart.

This duality is critical to brokerage in a competitive market, enabling brokers maintain their role as self-interested organizations who must counteract competitive threats by:

  1. retaining indirect relationships;
  2. eroding direct relationships; and
  3. competing with other brokers.

Bringing these elements of the findings together into a conceptual framework has extended the organizational literature on brokers to account for the duality of practices in brokerage work and the dynamic relationship of the brokerage approaches of tertius iungens and tertius gaudens. Through this understanding, we illuminate brokers as self-interested organizations in competitive markets, an element which existing organizational studies on brokers have not yet examined.


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