Centre for Social & Organisational Studies
How do museum professionals formulate
• Little empirical research into strategy and
decision making (Gray 2010)
• How do policy, museum practices and wider
social Discourses interact to inform strategic
• How do discourses interact to inform legitimacy
• Intersection between Discourse, legitimation and
strategy practices
Strategising in Not-for-Profits
• Underdeveloped area of organisational practice (Bennett, 2005;
Katsioloudes and Tymon, 2003; Stone, Bigelow and Crittenden
• Planning for resource acquisition rather than allocation (Stone
and Brush,1996), commitment and legitimacy critical
• Strategic planning in Alberta museum & heritage sites oppressive
and undermining of professional practices (Oakes et al, 1998)
• No benefit from importation of management concepts (Eikhof &
Haunschild, 2007; Glynn, 2000; Thornton et al, 2005;Townley,
Beech & McKinlay, 2009)
• Little in-depth research undertaken about the micro-processes
of strategising within Museums (Gray, 2010)
• Little attention to the forms and processes of legitimation which
constitute strategising, or what this can tell us about how
Museum professionals make sense of their organisation
Legitimacy: Institutional Theory
• Suchman (1995) “generalised perception or assumption
that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or
appropriate within some socially constructed system of
norms, values, beliefs and definitions.”
• Legitimacy exists in varying degrees being ambiguous
and socially constructed (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978;
Mazza, 1999)
• Organisational outputs commensurate with social
values or norms (Stillman, 1974; Francesconi, 1982;
Epstein and Votaw, 1978; Dowling and Pfeffer, 1975)
• Defined from perspective of actors or society looking in
on an entity (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978; Suchman,
1995). Does not account for legitimacy work which
takes place from within the organisation looking out
• Suchman (1995): Pragmatic, moral, cognitive
• Intraindividual dynamics of legitimacy
judgements neglected: i.e. content, formation
and change of the judgements themselves (Tost,
• Micro-level judgements
interactions among
collective legitimacy & social
• Tost (2011) integrates institutional theory and
social psychology to develop a model of how
legitimacy judgements develop and change over
Three Dimensions of Content underlying Individual-level
Legitimacy Judgements (Tost, 2011).
Dimensions of Definition of how an entity is
Examples of
perceptions or beliefs
that constitute the
content of the
Related to the
An entity is perceived to facilitate
the individual or group’s attempts to effectiveness, efficiency
or utility of an entity.
reach self-defined or internalised
goals or outcomes.
An entity is perceived to affirm the Related to the fairness,
social identity and self-worth of
benevolence, or
individuals or social groups and to communality that
characterises the entity.
ensure that individuals or groups
are treated with dignity and respect
and receive outcomes
commensurate with their
Related to the morality,
Moral Content An entity is perceived to be
consistent with the evaluator’s
ethicality, or integrity of
moral and ethical values.
an entity.
• 3 Stage process:
Judgement formation: evaluative or passive, content
related to group identification
Use stage: cognitive legitimacy
Judgement reassessment: triggered by jolts,
contradictions or reflexivity e.g. Strategy formulation
• Strategic planning forces organisations to reassess
priorities, actions and their plausibility within their
environment, or right to continue to exist: vehicle for
• Maitlis’ and Lawrence (2003) symphony orchestra’s
failure to strategise shows the importance of interpreting
and labelling strategic issues in a way that is legitimate to
key actors and within the existing organisational
• Decision to focus on instrumental (i.e. effectiveness & efficiency), relational
(e.g. group loyalty), or moral (i.e. ethics & integrity) values can have a critical
impact on the effectiveness of persuasion attempts (Tost 2011)
• Successful institutional entrepreneurship involves the establishment of
connections between insurgent logics (i.e. alternatives to existing
institutional arrangements) and broader discourses reflecting overarching
social values (Geary and Jeffrey 2006; Suddaby and Greenwood 2005)
• Although we know a great deal about legitimacy in management and
organisations, the discursive aspects of legitimation remain underexplored
(Phillips et al 2004; Suddaby and Greenwood 2005; Vaara and Tienari 2008)
• In a Museum context the struggle for resource acquisition is frequently linked
with managerialist ideologies around the need for accountability to and cost
effectiveness for, late capitalist consumers (Chong 2000).
• Critical perspectives emphasise that the legitimation of particular
actions also deals with broader social practices and the power relations
of the social actors involved (Vaara and Tienari 2008)
• Senses of legitimacy are created in relation to specific discourses
which provide the frames for sensemaking (Vaara and Tienari, 2008)
• Shift in focus from established senses of legitimacy to ongoing
discursive struggles for legitimation (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985)
• Adopt a meso-discourse approach (Alvesson and Karreman, 2000)
• Use legitimacy judgements as a frame to understand how discursive
struggles are articulated (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985) and momentarily
resolved by organisational actors when they formulate strategy
• Strategy formulation could be conceptualised as contestation over
articulation where museum professionals struggle to fix meaning,
though temporarily, with regard to strategy by substituting their
preferred Discourse for other discursive possibilities (Jian, 2011)
Why do Museums exist? Distinct differences of
interpretation (Gray, 2011)
Institution Purpose of Museums
Enabling people to explore collections for
Association inspiration, learning and enjoyment
For inspiration and creativity, provide
excellence and high quality in delivering
core services, be a site for education and
learning, be concerned with access,
inclusion and economic regeneration and
be involved in modernisation and
Being concerned with children and young
people, communities, economy and
delivery and act as vehicles for positive
social change.
These services need to demonstrate their
success in meeting local, regional and
national objectives in terms of healthier
communities, safer and stronger
communities, economic vitality, learning
and quality of life for local people.
Cultural Democracy
MLA (2001)
Managerialist: Best
social Inclusion Social
• External actors: instrumentalism (Gray 2011):
emphasis on outputs and impacts
• Managerialism (Chong 2000): consumers, arts
• Political mantra “education” (Gray 2011; Chong,
• Policy relevance = organisational focus on
evaluative material
• Underlying practice of politics within the
organisational setting of museums and galleries
sector likely to have direct relevance for
understanding how these institutions function
Gray, 2011)
Understanding the Future: Priorities for England’s Museums DCMS (2006)
DCMS Priorities and
1. Museums will fulfil their
potential as learning
resources (pp7-10)
Content of Priorities
2. Museums will embrace
their role in fostering,
exploring, celebrating and
questioning the identities of
diverse communities
Cultural Democracy:
3. Museums’ collections
will be more dynamic and
better used (pp15-18)
Best practice/value
4. Museums’ workforces
will be dynamic, highly
skilled and representative
Managerialism: HRM
5. Museums will work more
Museums will be embedded into the delivery of education in
every school in the country.
Understanding of the effectiveness of Museum education will be
improved further and best practice built into education
The value of Museum’s collections as a research resource will be
well understood and better links built between the academic
community and Museums.
The sector needs to work with partners in academia and beyond
to create an intellectual framework supporting Museums’ capacity Instrumental
to tackle issues of identity.
The Museum sector must continue to develop improved practical
techniques for engaging communities of all sorts.
Government and the sector will find new ways to encourage
Museums to collect actively and strategically, especially the
record of contemporary society.
The sector will develop new collaborative approaches to sharing
and developing collections and related expertise.
Museums’ governing bodies and workforces will be
representative of the communities they serve
Find more varied ways for a broader range of skills to come into
Improve continuing professional development.
A consistent evidence base of the contribution of all kinds of
1. What is the content of legitimacy judgements
underlying strategy formulation?
2. What is the discursive basis for these legitimacy
3. How do Museum professionals articulate
legitimacy judgements?
3 (a)To what extent is the language of government
and management naturalised in these discourses?
4. What is the relationship between legitimacy
judgements, Discourse and organisational
• Single case study of university owned museum
with collection of national importance: University
National Museum (UNM)
• Interviewed six professionals involved in strategic
• Documents: articles, strategic plan (draft & final)
• Interviews analysed thematically: talk labelled
according to the type of legitimacy judgement
(instrumental, relational, or moral) and within this
the type of discourse underpinning the judgement
(e.g. instrumentalist, managerialist, cultural
democracy, social inclusion, cultural guardianship).
• UNM is also distinctive among Museums as it
comprises three collections: objects, special
collections library and archive.
• Narratives about strategy formulation and the
strategic plan coalesced around two main
1. Professional practices and the strategic
priorities within their professional domains.
2. Concern with UNM’s identity and purpose as a
university museum which emerged in
considering strategic priorities and in the
creation of the strategic plan.
LEARNING MANAGER: professional practices
...for me it’s slightly tricky because the work I do is I guess, essentially the public face of the
University and it’s where the University meets the town...So it’s quite a fine balance really
in terms of the programming and things like that...The University... it’s main thing is that
it wants students in higher education and so... they are very keen obviously for me to work
with secondary age students, sixth formers...
...that’s one of the reasons why we have taken the science route ...the gallery is actually
designed...according to materials and their properties which goes right the way throughout the
whole science curriculum...we’re trying to get people to see museums as useful for
something...other than history...cos that’s how we in the profession look at our objects and
collections. And it’s about teaching people how we do that and giving them the tools,
effectively to look and analyse themselves...
so I guess that’s come from me, but it’s partly as an educator I see family learning as the
fulcrum of lifelong learning in that sense it’s what links the learning that you do in
school with the learning that you do as an adult. And I think as an educational institution
if we’re serious about lifelong learning...then you have to start early and you have to support
that and one of the ways that you can do that is with family learning...
And it’s surprising, the difficulty is, is measurement, and that’s the hardest thing. Because most of
the time measurement is done purely by numbers, bums on seats, and what it doesn’t tell
us is the quality of experience or how deep the learning is and we know that often the
learning is very deep, and if it is done right...you get somebody when they’re young, that
learning is there and it stays with them and they can build on it, change it, develop it...but it is
the hardest thing ever to measure.
UNIVERSITY ARCHIVIST: identity & purpose
...what we need to do, and I think this is the priority for the museum, is to really
ensure that we are delivering what they need; to do research around our
collections...that’s the correct relationship between UNM and the university...
we’re doing what we should be doing as a museum. Caring for the collections
and making them available for research...
I think we’re still trying to mesh the two halves of the collections together. The
(Objects) side and the special collections side. I think one of the key things is how
we market, how we brand it. That’s really important issue for us to discuss at the
forward planning...it’s not even the objects and the archives, it’s the UNM identity
which includes the UNM archives and the UNM library and the special collections,
the old library identity...it’s those two identities, how do those still work? UNM has to
keep its identity, it’s the reason that UNM exists in...certain funding bodies
...UNM has an identity...is it actually three brands or...? I don’t know, we haven’t
really thought this through...as a branding exercise. In terms of a management
exercise, I do both...So, in some ways I have to be a bit of a driver of that kind of
management integration but differentiation of brands, where necessary...
I suppose that’s my key thing I want to get out of forward planning, is I suppose I have
to thank you for helping clarify my thinking ...Is just to be clear about, the fact that if I
say, well we’re doing this managerially and its across the collections, people
can’t then say “well I’m UNM I don’t do”. It’s like “No UNM is a brand that’s it.” We
use it for reporting, we use it for marketing. We don’t, we shouldn’t be using it
for management...otherwise I’m only half managing half the people... it just
becomes some kind of matrix management which just doesn’t work.
DIRECTOR: presentational identity & purpose
the Away-Day
• I think it was to do with really understanding what our functions were.
And clarifying that we were partly here to look after collections, we’re
partly here to make sure these are used and make sure that we’re
reaching all the different users we want to. We are also here because
we’re a University Museum to actually kind of extend knowledge. Our
own knowledge, but also people’s knowledge of what these
collections represent. And we’re also here to do some specific things
that enable our communities to gain from that knowledge or that
content. So those are the services and it might be a service that
involves coming and sitting in the reading room, it might be going on a
tour around the museum, it might be visiting the website. And then there
are things about the way we run ourselves that also need to be
featured in that document.
• ...there are few bits of the strategic plan that highlight specifically
particular types of collection, but by and large I don’t think that’s...
appropriate for a strategy document like that. I mean there were
particular things... for instance... conservation, we felt that we really
needed to spot like the archives...By and large it isn’t about, I try to
avoid... getting too sort of stuck in the drains.
DIRECTOR: presentational identity & purpose
the Away-Day
...the truth of it is these are difficult
times, and you know being very
ambitious about what you are going to
do, I am really concerned, I suppose if I
am really honest what I really think the
challenges are over the next two or
three years are staying afloat and not
being cut back to a point where we
can’t function, where we can’t build
ourselves back, you know. There’s no
question that we are going to have to
make adjustments …
Strategic Plan
Our strategy for 2009-12 will need to
be adaptable to a challenging
financial climate. This includes
uncertainty over future funding levels;
current arrangements for core funding
for University Museums are under
review in 2009 and planning must
assume that all sources of external
funding are likely to reduce and
become increasingly competitive. At
the same time, as part of the University
UNM will also need to operate under
the financial constraints that are
affecting the whole of the HE sector.
However, the Museum’s leading
position as a national centre... mean it
• Conflicting Discourses which are not easily
bracketed may demand contradictory legitimacy
• Multiple complimentary Discourses are likely to
produce coherent legitimacy judgements
providing a consistent “world view”
• For presentational purposes, multiple Discourses
are collapsed or cohabit unproblematically in
talk and text to legitimise an organisation to the
outside, as in the making of a strategic plan
• Meaning making is rendered difficult when a given signifier
suggests contradictory actions which preclude fixing within a
Discourse when making legitimacy judgements: meeting
conflicting priorities (attracting students v public face= cognitive
• Professional belief of evaluator moderates instrumental concerns
to demonstrate they have relational validity (contributing to lifelong learning) but immediate organisational context of PIs
demands instrumental legitimising acts transforming relational
judgements into instrumental ones thereby conflicting with
professional values.
• Supports Tost’s (2011) conception of instrumental and relational
concerns as two separate dimensions: interactive effects in this
example, create ambiguity and cognitive dissonance for the
• An entity can be legitimate on one ground (relational concerns)
and illegitimate on another (instrumental concerns)
• Clarify organisational purpose and solve problems
• Caring for collections and making them available for
research are synonymous activities: instrumental purpose of
UNM unproblematic
• Perceives collections as unintegrated, particularly Special
Collections, suggesting lack of affiliation adopts instrumental
• Problems of organisational identity and work practices are
solved using two related Discourses of marketing and
management: professionally and practically coherent
• SupportsTost’s (2011) contention that a follower’s
commitment to a social group embedded in the institutional
field is a critical moderator of which of the three dimensions
is prioritised in determining generalised legitimacy
judgements in the evaluative mode.
• Articulating process of creating a strategic plan concerns questions of
group consensus and discounts disagreements and uncertainties
• Relational legitimacy (knowledge production) unproblematic in relation to
instrumental judgements: adopt a set of generic outcome measures
• Challenging financial climate may curtail relational legitimacy, addressed by
adopting “hard targets”. In contrast, textual metamorphosis of away-day
promises aspirational set of goals: instrumental, relational and moral
legitimising actions coexist unproblematically
• Texts (strategic plan) able to accommodate different dimensions of
legitimacy without eliciting ambiguity or conflict, so long as audience
expectations are being met using comprehensible signifiers.
• Texts for evaluators produced at a distance from real concerns or
ambiguities and use of accepted Discourse evokes cognitive legitimacy
uncritical of the disparity between fact and fiction

similar documents