Research group: Time and Temporality in and around Organizations

This project focuses on issues around time and temporality in organizational settings following a processual-phenomenological theoretical framework. Time has an important role as a tool for societies to organize and coordinate their activities (Adam, 1990; Clark, 1985; McGrath and Rotchford, 1983). Although there is a wide body of research covering time in organization and management research, there are few studies on temporality. When time is reflected in research then according to Lee and Liebenau (1999, p. 1035-1051), these studies represent “time-related research” and missing “research on time.”   


In this research project, the aim is to make a distinction between time and temporality viewing time as active and dynamic, embedded in events, and temporality as an on-going purposeful effort to create one’s time and keep up one’s sensed continuity in time. Further, viewing social actors and their actions as immersed in the flow of time presupposes that for sustaining continuity in organizations the connections across the past, present and future are maintained tactfully. It is important to emphasize that the process of linking the past and future in the present is an on-going process (Schultz & Hernes, 2013).


The view of event-based time accounts for an active view of time and gives it agency (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998; Hernes, 2014) by stressing that time as events is enacted. Based on that view, actors are not observing time in events (Adam, 1990; Clark, 1985) and neither do they arrange events sequentially (e.g., Jay, 2013; Langley et al., 2013; van Oorschot et al., 2013). Instead, they are in events, and in events, they take part in the on-going construction of events, including the one they are in (Hussenot & Missonier, 2016). Being in events means that actors are in the on-going present (Schultz & Hernes, 2013), where the simultaneous enactment of the past and expected events is allowing transcendence of events (Griesbach & Grand, 2013; Hussenot & Missonier, 2016).


The working assumption is in the flow of time; continuity is sustained in organizations through the continuous interaction of different temporalities. The different temporalities of human actors, actions, identities, and meaning structures form together the organized social context, which in turn shapes the possible trajectories of the different temporalities (Hernes, 2014). Sustaining actual and sensed continuity requires skillful management of different temporalities to avoid unnecessary conflicts between competing temporal perspectives (Gurvitch, 1964/1990; Reinecke & Ansari, 2015). The skillful management of different temporalities demands that, first, these different temporalities are recognized, and second, that their interdependencies are understood.


A process view of organizing suggests that coordinated actions are made possible by collective experiences that evolve continuously through the creative re-construal of shared histories, and the simultaneous generation of alternative futures. Prerequisite to the creative re-construal of shared histories are memories of the past histories. Memories can be semantic or episodic. Semantic memory refers to the memory of general knowledge, meanings, and words without involving a memory of the specific event, while the episodic memory includes reference to oneself as a participant in the episode or event (Abram et al., 2014). Bakken et al. (2013, p.18) argue that “any mention of an event includes a reference to time and vice versa…” Via episodic memory humans can enact events not only from their recent past but also from the more distant past, while the longer reach to the past is associated with the longer reach to the future (Abram et al., 2014; Bakken et al., 2013). The importance of episodic memory is based on its contribution to “the ability to remember events experienced in the past and to imagine (or plan) events that could (or will) happen in the future (which) is essential in our daily lives” (Abram et al., 2014, p. 76). Thus, episodic memory presupposes events, and it enables humans to re- and pre-experience specific events without forcing chronological constraints.


Paying attention to time and temporality in their different manifestations is bound to alter our comprehension of organizations and organizing. The role of time and temporality in organizational settings is much more important than often thought, offering new interesting and rewarding avenues for research. A temporal focus applies to several areas of research, teaching, and organizing, including organization studies, entrepreneurship, innovation studies, individual and organizational decision making, business history, strategy, management, and leadership.



Potential topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Events, transcendence of events and time in events
  • Agency of time (in events)
  • The dynamics of temporal agency
  • Continuity as an on-going balancing between stability and change
  • Narratives and temporal experience
  • The nature of temporal experience in organizations
  • The nature of temporality of organizing
  • Leadership as imagining different pasts and futures
  • Strategic change as the enactment of different past and future events

This view of time as active and enacted in events invites a fresh approach to study organizational life allowing to ask, but not limited to, questions such as:

  • How transcendence of events may suddenly change possible event trajectories and create surprises?
  • How the agentic nature of time and transcendence of events may impact temporality of organization or organizing through their impact on strategizing, leadership, decision-making, learning, narrating, sensemaking, and innovating?
  • How do actors use both their immanent and distant past for projecting different futures?
  • How do actors bring distant past horizons and long future horizons into decision-making processes?
  • How do actors create, maintain and change their temporal trajectories?
  • How do differences in time horizons, pacing, speed and acceleration between actors influence their interaction and mutual impact?
  • How does a view of actors embedded in time enable other constructs (such as organizational identity, culture, strategy, change, and leadership) to be understood differently?
  • How, in the flow of time, is continuity sustained in organizations?

Time and temporality in organization studies is relatively recent but quickly spreading topic attracting wide scholarly interest. Numerous sessions and symposiums at Academy of Management (AoM) annual conferences and a standing working group at European Group of Organization Studies (EGOS) annual colloquium is the evidence of that growing interest.




  • Abram, M., Picard, L., Navarro, B., & Piolino, P. (2014): “Mechanisms of remembering the past and imagining the future – New data from autobiographical memory tasks in a lifespan approach.” Consciousness and Cognition, 29, 76–89.
  • Adam, B. (1990): Time and Social Theory. Oxford, UK: Polity Press.
  • Bakken, T., Holt, R., & Zundel, M. (2013): “Time and play in management practice: An investigation through the philosophies of McTaggart and Heidegger.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 29, 13–22.
  • Clark, P. (1985): “A review of the theories of time and structure for organizational sociology.” In: S.B. Bacharach & S.M. Mitchel (eds.): Research in the sociology of organizations, Vol. 4. Bingley: Emerald, 35–79.
  • Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998): “What is agency?” American Journal of Sociology, 103 (4), 962–1023.
  • Griesbach, D., & Grand, S. (2013): “Managing as transcending: An ethnography.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 29, 63–77.
  • Gurvitch, G. (1964/1990) The Problem of Time. In Hassard, J. (Ed) (1990) The sociology of time. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 35-44.
  • Hernes, T. (2014): A Process Theory of Organization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hussenot, A., & Missonier, S. (2016): “Encompassing Stability and Novelty in Organization Studies: An Event-based Approach.” Organization Studies, 37 (4), 523–246.
  • Jay, J. (2013): “Navigating Paradox as a Mechanism of Change and Innovation in Hybrid Organizations.” Academy of Management Journal, 56 (1), 137–159.
  • Langley, A., Smallman, C., Tsoukas, H., & van de Ven, A.H. (2013): “Process Studies of Change in Organization and Management: Unveiling Temporality, Activity, and Flow.” Academy of Management Journal, 56 (1), 1–13.
  • Lee, H. and Liebenau, J. (1999) Time in Organizational Studies: Towards a New Research Direction. Organization Studies. Vol. 20, No. 6, 1035-1058.
  • McGrath, J. E. and Rotchford, N. L. (1983) Time and behavior in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior. Vol. 5, 57-101.
  • Reinecke, J. and Ansari, S. (2015) When Times Collide: Temporal Brokerage at the Intersection of Markets and Developments. Academy of Management Journal. Vol. 58, No. 2, 618-648.
  • Schultz, M., & Hernes, T. (2013): “A temporal perspective on organizational identity.” Organization Science, 24 (1), 1–21.
  • van Oorschot, K.E., Akkermans, H., Sengupta, K., & van Wassenhove, L.N. (2013): “Anatomy of a Decision Trap in Complex New Product Development Projects.” Academy of Management Journal, 56 (1), 285–307.