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Metatriangulation: Building Theory from Multiple Paradigms

Author(s): Marianne W. Lewis and Andrew J. Grimes

Source: The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct., 1999), pp. 672-690
Published by: Academy of Management
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Academy of Management Review
1999, Vol. 24, No. 4, 672-690.

University of Cincinnati

University of Kentucky

Multiparadigm approaches aid exploration of particularly complex and paradoxical

phenomena by helping theorists employ disparate theoretical perspectives. In this
article we provide an extensive guide to multiparadigm exemplars and then link their
varied approaches within a metatriangulation theory-building strategy. Our process
addresses the challenges theorists face as they select a research topic, collect and
analyze data, theorize, and evaluate resulting theory using multiple paradigms. A
concluding discussion of the advantages, limitations, and potential applications of
metatriangulation positions it within the wider realm of organization theory.

Two decades ago Burrell and Morgan (1979) ical tensions or oppositions and use them to
ushered in a wave of attempts to characterize stimulate the development of more encompass-
paradigms employed in organization theory ing theories" (1989: 563). They viewed conflicting
(e.g., Pondy & Boje, 1981; Zey-Ferrell & Aiken, paradigms as paradoxes of organization theory,
1981). Such efforts began sensitizing theorists to underscoring contradictory yet interwoven fac-
the notion of paradigms the assumptions, ets of complex phenomena. Soon after, Gioia
practices, and agreements among a scholarly and Pitre (1990) detailed differences in theory
community-and legitimizing less mainstream building across paradigms and called for meta-
alternatives. Although functionalism-positivism triangulation: a strategy of applying paradig-
remains dominant, theorists increasingly are matic diversity to foster greater insight and cre-
grounding their work within more critical and ativity. In response, in the past decade we have
interpretive paradigms. The result is a vibrant witnessed an influx of multiparadigm exem-
field, replete with diverse theoretical views that plars (e.g., Bradshaw-Camball & Murray, 1991;
may enrich our understandings of organization- Graham-Hill, 1996; Grimes & Rood, 1995; Grint,
al complexity, ambiguity, and paradox. Yet, the 1991; Hassard, 1991; Martin, 1992; Reed, 1997;
now-pervasive "paradigm mentality" simulta- Schultz & Hatch, 1996; Spender, 1998; Weaver &
neously proliferates and polarizes perspectives, Gioia, 1994; Willmott, 1993; Ybema, 1996).
often inhibiting discourse across paradigms, bi- Yet, multiparadigm inquiry remains provoca-
asing theorists against opposing explanations, tive, as debates over the commensurability and
and fostering development of provincial theo- value of multiple paradigms persist and inten-
ries (Bouchikhi, 1998; Reed, 1996). As Pondy and sify (see Organization, 1998). Some functional-
Boje forewarned, organization theory faces a ists lament the "anarchy" of paradigm prolifer-
frontier problem of "how to conduct inquiry ation, advocating a dominant paradigm to
based on several paradigms" (1981: 84). enhance the scholarly and political influence of
Recognizing this challenge, Poole and Van de organization theory (e.g., Donaldson, 1985; Pfef-
Ven proposed that researchers "look for theoret- fer, 1997). Meanwhile, many postmodernists cri-
tique the hegemony of paradigms, calling for
We thank Special Issue Editor David Whetten and three "anything-goes" strategies more in tune with
anonymous reviewers, as well as Blake Ashforth, Greg Big- eclectic organizational discourses (e.g., Deetz,
ley, Mark Davis, Gordon Dehler, David Kang, Mihaela Kele- 1996; Feyerabend, 1979).
man, Ajay Mehra, Deb Rood, and Kristen Taylor for their
In contrast, multiparadigm inquiry contrib-
insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. We
presented an early draft at the 1998 annual meeting of the utes a midpoint between dogmatism and rela-
Academy of Management. tivism (Scherer, 1998), which we believe offers

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 673

tremendous yet unrealized theory-building po- that transcends paradigm distinctions to reveal
tential. Multiparadigm theorists value para- disparity and complementarity.
digms as heuristics that may help scholars ex- Multiparadigm reviews involve recognition of
plore theoretical and organizational complexity divides and bridges in existing theory (e.g.,
and extend the scope, relevance, and creativity characterizing paradigms X and Y), whereas
of organization theory. However, existing mul- multiparadigm research involves using para-
tiparadigm approaches are ambiguous and digm lenses (X and Y) empirically to collect and
fragmented. Empirical studies often give limited analyze data and cultivate their diverse repre-
methodological detail and seldom build theory sentations of organizational phenomena. Lastly,
from their efforts (e.g., Bradshaw-Camball & in metaparadigm theory building, theorists
Murray, 1991; Graham-Hill, 1996), while descrip- strive to juxtapose and link conflicting para-
tions of theorizing contribute abstract tech- digm insights (X and Y) within a novel under-
niques and rarely illustrate their use (e.g., Gioia standing (Z). We now review these approaches,
& Pitre, 1990; Grimes & Rood, 1995). discussing their varied objectives and tech-
Our objective in this article is to help theorists niques, and we detail their uses in the subse-
apply the insights of multiple paradigms by pre- quent section on metatriangulation. Table 1
senting an explicit and exemplified theory- summarizes the approaches and their exem-
building process termed metatriangulation. We plars.
first review the multiparadigm literature, pro-
viding a guide to exemplars and their varied
Multiparadigm Reviews
approaches. We then link extant multiparadigm
approaches within a cohesive theory-building In multiparadigm reviews researchers seek to
strategy for exploring divergent theoretical reveal the impact of theorists' underlying, and
views, challenging taken-for-granted assump- often taken-for-granted, assumptions on their
tions, and portraying organizations in new light. understandings of organizational phenomena.
To provide a useful map of the theory-building Two techniques-paradigm bracketing and
process, we compare each step of metatriangu- bridging often aid reviewers. Paradigm brack-
lation to traditional inductive activities and em- eting entails differentiating among varied sets
ploy a study of advanced manufacturing tech- of assumptions. Hassard (1991) explained that
nology to illustrate the process in use. We theorists "bracket" the assumptions of other par-
conclude with a discussion of theory-building adigms to become familiar with and apply the
implications, positioning metatriangulation traditions, language, and methods of a specific
within the wider realm of organization theory by paradigm. Such brackets enable theorists to ig-
addressing its advantages and limitations and nore certain aspects of complex phenomena and
suggesting future applications. focus on facets and issues of particular interest
(Weaver & Gioia, 1994). In multiparadigm in-
quiry, paradigm bracketing makes differing as-
sumptions explicit, thereby delineating para-
digm distinctions and aiding awareness, use,
and critique of alternative perspectives.
Numerous scholars have dissected the para- Paradigm bracketing originated in early at-
digm debate, noting the rise in multiparadigm tempts to distinguish and legitimate the as-
inquiry (e.g., Deetz, 1996; Reed, 1996; Scherer, sumptions of less conventional paradigms (e.g.,
1998). Yet, thorough examinations of this grow- Pondy & Boje, 1981; Zey-Ferrell & Aiken, 1981).
ing and diverse literature are scarce (see Burrell and Morgan (1979), for instance, defined
Schultz & Hatch, 1996, for a brief and insightful paradigms as tightly coupled ideologies, ontol-
overview). To contribute a useful guide to exem- ogies, epistemologies, and methodologies that
plars, we distinguish among three approaches: guide modes of organizational analysis. Their
(1) multiparadigm reviews, (2) multiparadigm re- typology parses four paradigms by polarizing
search, and (3) metaparadigm theory building. assumptions regarding the nature of social sci-
We use the term multiparadigm to denote dis- ence (objective-subjective) and the nature of so-
parate paradigmatic perspectives and ciety (regulation-radical change). Objectivity
metaparadigm to signify a more holistic view presumes an external reality of deterministic

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674 Academy of Management Review October

Multiparadigm Approaches and Exemplars

Exemplar Technique Phenomenon of Interest Output

Multiparadigm reviews
Alvesson (1987) Bracketing Work Interpretive frames
Astley & Van de Ven (1983) Bracketing Organization theory Debates
Morgan (1983) Bracketing Research methods Modes of engagement
Morgan (1997) Bracketing Organization Metaphors/images
Reed (1996) Bracketing Organization studies Analytical narratives
Smircich (1983) Bracketing Culture Research programs
Gioia & Pitre (1990) Bracketing and Theory building; structure Paradigms; transition
bridging zones-structuration theory
Grint (1991) Bracketing and Technology Debates; transition
bridging zone-actor network theory
Kaghan & Phillips (1998) Bridging Knowledge Constructivist perspective
Weaver & Gioia (1993) Bridging Structure Structuration theory
Willmott (1993) Bridging Labor process Radical labor process theory
Multiparadigm research
Bradshaw-Camball & Murray (1991) Parallel Organizational politics Trifocal view
Graham-Hill (1996) Parallel Small-firm strategy 4 case studies
Hassard (1991) Parallel Work organization 4 empirical studies
Martin (1992) Parallel Culture 3 perspective frameworks
Gioia, Donnellon, & Sims (1989) Sequential Cognitive scripts Objective-subjective study
Gioia & Thomas (1996) Sequential Strategic change Subjective-objective study
Lee (1991) Sequential Organization Sequential strategy
Sutton & Rafaeli (1988) Sequential Emotional display Triangulated study
Metaparadigm theory building
Gioia & Pitre (1990) Metatheorizing Organizational structure Conjecture inversion
Grimes & Rood (1995) Metatheorizing Local epistemology Bridging epistemologies
Morgan (1983) Metatheorizing Research methods Reflective conversation
Poole & Van de Ven (1989) Metatheorizing Structure Paradoxical strategies
Bouchikhi (1998) Interplay Organizational paradoxes Dialectical tensions
Clegg (1990) Interplay Power Metaparadigm theory
Gaventa (1980) Interplay Power Metaparadigm theory
Reed (1997) Interplay Structure-action Stratified ontology
Schultz & Hatch (1996) Interplay Culture Paradigm interplay
Spender (1998) Interplay Knowledge Pluralist epistemology
Ybema (1996) Interplay Culture Metaparadigm theory

and predictable relationships, whereas subjec- 1996). In such reviews researchers critique pro-
tivity presumes contextually bound and fluid vincialism and partiality, encouraging theorists
social constructions. Regulation assumes har- to reflect on the focus and blinders of varied
monious and orderly social relations, whereas paradigm lenses. For example, Smircich (1983)
radical change assumes conflict and power and Grint (1991) bracketed views of culture and
asymmetries. Burrell and Morgan (1979) then technology, respectively, to emphasize equally
categorized existing theories within their typol- viable yet limited understandings. Alvesson
ogy to demonstrate how different assumptions (1987) examined three perspectives on organiza-
underpin opposing views (see Deetz, 1996, and tional life. His review demonstrates how differ-
Gioia & Pitre, 1990, for detailed discussions of ent "interpretive frames of reference" sensitize
the typology). theorists to certain conceptualizations and is-
Although Burrell and Morgan's typology re- sues and foster divergent insights into the qual-
mains the prominent framework for paradigm ity, degradation, and self-regulation of work.
bracketing, some exemplars loosen paradigm The second review technique-paradigm
contours to depict diverse debates and meta- bridging-suggests transition zones: theoretical
phors existing in organization theory (e.g., Ast- views that span paradigms. In exemplars schol-
ley & Van de Ven, 1983; Morgan, 1997; Reed, ars claim that although paradigmatic assump-

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 675

tions may conflict, boundaries between para- guage games-discourses predicated upon
digms are fuzzy and potentially permeable (e.g., distinct cultural rules. Similarly, Graham-Hill
Willmott, 1993). For instance, Gioia and Pitre (1996) analyzed data from archives and stream-
(1990) explain that structuration theory does not of-conscious interviews with a firm's CEO. By
separate structuring processes from formal using case study methods indicative of each
structures. Rather, it posits that actors use gen- paradigm, he wrote four stories that, in conjunc-
erative rules and norms to produce structure; tion, depict the intricacy and contradictions of
this, in turn, influences and constrains structur- small-firm strategy.
ing activities. In sequential studies researchers cultivate di-
Transition zone theories, such as structuration verse representations to purposefully inform
theory, are not metaparadigm per se; they foster each other, for the outputs of one paradigm-
unidimensional representations that integrate specific study provide inputs for a subsequent
paradigmatic insights and emphasize paradigm study. Applying lenses in succession, theorists
similarities, and may privilege one side of a seek to grasp their disparate yet complementary
dualism (i.e., an either/or distinction such as focal points. For instance, Gioia, Donnellon, and
structure or action, objectivity or subjectivity; Sims (1989) employed linguistic techniques to
Reed, 1997; Schultz & Hatch, 1996). According to explore local meanings of a construct (cognitive
de Cock, Rickards, Weaver, and Gioia (1995), scripts) identified in a prior functionalist study.
structuration theory does not permit paradigm Lee (1991) proposed a reversed order: using eth-
differences to coexist at a higher, metaparadigm nography to discover meanings held by actors
level but operates in a gray area between par- experiencing a phenomenon and then positivist
adigms in which actions and structures are mu- methods to operationalize, test, and generalize
tually influencing processes. Discovering tran- suggested constructs. Gioia and Thomas (1996)
sition zones, however, illustrates the possibility followed this route to examine sensemaking
and value of communicating across paradigms during strategic changes in academia. Sutton
and may help theorists comprehend "how the and Rafaeli (1988) conducted a more triangu-
phenomena in question can legitimately be sub- lated study. They found unexpected relation-
ject to various research strategies, while yet re- ships from their deductive analysis and then
maining a related class of phenomena" (Weaver used interpretivist methods to identify varied
& Gioia, 1994: 577). underlying norms influencing emotional dis-
plays of sales clerks in slow versus busy set-
tings, which guided data reanalysis.
Multiparadigm Research
Multiparadigm research scholars move be-
Metaparadigm Theory Building
yond review of existing literature to apply diver-
gent paradigm lenses empirically. Conducting The third multiparadigm approach helps the-
parallel or sequential studies, theorists use mul- orists manage their bounded rationality and,
tiple paradigms (their respective methods and thereby, accommodate opposing views within a
foci) to collect and analyze data and to cultivate metaparadigm perspective. Metaparadigm de-
varied representations of a complex phenome- notes a higher level of abstraction, from which
non. Parallel studies preserve theoretical con- "accommodation" does not imply unification or
flicts by depicting the organizational voices, im- synthesis but, instead, the ability to compre-
ages, and interests magnified by opposing hend paradigmatic differences, similarities, and
lenses. Exemplars represent responses to Mor- interrelationships (Gioia & Pitre, 1990). The goal
gan's (1983) call for multisided case studies sim- is a more rich, holistic, and contextualized pur-
ilar to Allison's (1971) accounts of the Cuban view. Metatheorizing techniques help theorists
Missile Crisis but grounded in more contrasting explore patterns that span conflicting under-
assumptions (e.g., Bradshaw-Camball & Mur- standings. In exemplars researchers assume
ray, 1991; Martin, 1992). Hassard (1991), for in- paradigms offer partial truths, often rooted in
stance, viewed a British Fire Service through differing space and time (e.g., Poole & Van de
Burrell and Morgan's (1979) four "analytic cam- Ven, 1989). Grimes and Rood (1995) have sug-
eras." Following Wittgenstein (1963), he pre- gested treating paradigms as "debating voices,"
sented the resulting accounts as localized lan- arguing their views in search of common

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676 Academy of Management Review October

ground. Modeled by Morgan's (1983) "conversa- and Pitre's (1990) vision of metatriangulation: a
tions" among divergent research methods, such process of building theory from multiple para-
debates may reveal how lenses represent varied digms roughly analogous to traditional (i.e., sin-
researcher interests, positions in the organiza- gle-paradigm) triangulation.
tional hierarchy, or time periods. These tech- Denzin's (1978) depiction of theoretical trian-
niques aid "tests" of metaconjectures: proposi- gulation helps conceptualize the process. The
tions interpretable from multiple paradigms. phases he proposed approximate multipara-
Ideally, juxtaposing paradigmatic explanations digm approaches: initial groundwork to define
may help theorists translate constructs to a the theoretical perspectives to be used (multipa-
metaparadigm level and assemble a theoretical radigm review), data analysis using each lens
reference system that links contrasting repre- in turn (multiparadigm research), and theory
sentations (Gioia & Pitre, 1990). building to contrast and account for differing
Interplay techniques help theorists further interpretations of the data (metaparadigm the-
craft and interpret metaparadigm theory. ory building). Denzin claimed this process chal-
Schultz and Hatch (1996) defined interplay as lenges theorists to purposefully seek out, rather
cognizance of how paradigmatic insights and than avoid or ignore, conflicting interpretations.
biases are most recognizable from opposing Yet, he advocated deductively testing opposing
views. Highlighting contradictions and interde- views (views that differ yet are grounded within
pendence invokes a creative tension that may common paradigmatic assumptions) to deter-
inspire theorists to question paradigm dual- mine which is the "truth." In contrast, metatrian-
isms. In exemplars scholars propose several gulation requires applying-with fidelity-
means of fostering interplay, while existing multiple paradigms to explore their disparity
metaparadigm theories illustrate their use. and interplay and, thereby, arrive at an en-
Reed (1997) suggested that theorists adopt a larged and enlightened understanding of the
stratified ontology to view paradigm represen- phenomena of interest, as well as the para-
tations interacting within nested levels of ab- digms employed. To contribute a useful map of
straction. For example, Gaventa (1980) employed this theory-building process, we compare meta-
Lukes' (1974) three "faces of power" as lenses to triangulation to traditional inductive strategies
build a multidimensional theory of quiescence. and provide an example of its application (see
Spender (1998) advocated using a pluralist epis- Table 2).
temology to appreciate how varied forms of We propose a process similar to traditional
knowledge complement and mediate each induction, but with key variations designed to
other. Similarly, Clegg (1990) examined multina- respect the assumptions of alternative para-
tional organizations from "multiple modes of ra- digms. In detailing the process, we contrast
tionality," fusing power and institutional per- each step with activities of well-known strate-
spectives to probe anomalies neglected by gies-strategies that seek to amplify the poten-
contingency theory. Bouchikhi (1998) recom- tial insights available from three sources: exist-
mended that theorists view paradigmatic con- ing literature, empirical data, and theorists'
flicts as dialectical tensions that expose organ- intuition (i.e., common sense and experience;
izational paradoxes. Ybema (1996), for instance, e.g., Eisenhardt, 1989; Glaser & Strauss, 1967;
used opposing views of culture to theorize the Mintzberg, 1979; Weick, 1989). Table 2 portrays
dynamics of cohesion and division. an orderly, sequential process, but, as in tradi-
tional induction, building theory from multiple
paradigms is messy and far from schematic.
Metatriangulation-in-action is highly iterative,
as theorists necessarily fluctuate between activ-
Although in most multiparadigm exemplars ities. For instance, the process begins as theo-
theorists apply only one of the reviewed ap- rists seek a multiparadigm understanding of the
proaches, we view these approaches as supple- phenomenon of interest. Yet, this base expands
mentary, potentially helping theorists recog- and changes as theorists gain new insights into
nize, cultivate, and then accommodate diverse alternative paradigms and review additional
paradigm insights. In the absence of such a literature to address emerging themes and eval-
strategy, we elaborate and implement Gioia uate resulting theory. Similarly, in the last step

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 677

Theory-Building Processes of Traditional Induction and Metatriangulation


Single Paradigm-Traditional Variation of Purpose in Implications for

Inductive Activity Inductive Activity Metatriangulation AMT Study

Phase I: Groundwork
Specify research question Define phenomenon of Provide focus, yet enable Encompassed diverse AMT
interest interpretative flexibility types and theory
Review relevant literature Focus paradigm Gain multiparadigm Recognized divides and
lenses-bracket paradigms understanding and bridges between existing
and locate transition zones cognizance of home perspectives
Choose data source Collect metatheoretical Aim lenses at common, Selected case studies of
sample (data interpretable empirical referent varied AMT contexts and
from multiple lenses) theoretical views
Phase II: Data analysis
Design analytical process Plan paradigm itinerary Recognize paradigmatic Moved away from home
(ordered use of lenses) influences; emphasize and dominant paradigm
contrast and retain
Systematically code data Conduct multiparadigm Cultivate diverse data Detailed contrasting views
coding interpretations; accent of AMT and its
distinct paradigm insights implementation
Tabulate and/or exhibit Write paradigm accounts Experience paradigm Recognized conflicts and
analyses language-in-use; manage overlaps in images of
accumulating insights AMT tensions
Phase III: Theory building
Develop and test propositions Explore metaconjectures Conduct mental experiments; Examined patterns and
juxtapose paradigm discrepancies across
insights accounts
Build theory Attain a metaparadigm Encompass disparity and Used "space and "time" to
perspective complementarity; motivate accommodate differing
interplay explanations
Evaluate resulting theory Articulate critical self- Assess theory quality and Tracked tensions and
reflection the theory-building process paradoxes experienced
in own work

theorists evaluate the methods and outcomes of Dean, Yoon, & Susman, 1992). The catalysts for
metatriangulation. Critical self-reflection, how- our study were both substantive and episte-
ever, should permeate the process. For while mological. We were driven by a desire to com-
multiparadigm techniques may help extend the- prehend the complexity of AMT, as well as the
orists' peripheral vision dramatically, resulting paradigms of AMT researchers. We sought to
metaparadigm theory will have roots within the explore alternative perspectives and their
theorists' initial assumptions, requiring them to conflicting images of AMT and to build a
constantly question their paradigmatic biases. metaparadigm theory that might contrast,
To aid future uses of metatriangulation, we link, and extend existing understandings.
illustrate each step in the process. In addition Weaving examples from our study throughout
to reviewed exemplars, we offer our study of the following discussion serves two purposes.
advanced manufacturing technology (AMT). First, the study provides a unifying illustra-
Since its advent in the late 1970s, AMT (e.g., tion, since other exemplars only depict por-
computer-integrated manufacturing) has tions of the theory-building process. Second, it
proven highly problematic and controversial, contributes our firsthand experience with the
marking disruptive changes in work, social techniques, challenges, and insights of meta-
relations, and organization and fueling uses of triangulation (see Lewis, 1996, for additional
disparate paradigm lenses (Alvesson, 1987; details).

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678 Academy of Management Review October

Phase I: Groundwork cate and well-researched phenomena as organ-

In order to understand alternative points of view izational power (Clegg, 1990; Gaventa, 1980), cul-
it is important that a theorist be fully aware of the ture (Martin, 1992; Ybema, 1996), politics
assumptions upon which his own perspective is (Bradshaw-Camball & Murray, 1991), and work
based. Such an appreciation involves an intellec- (Alvesson, 1987).
tual journey which takes him outside the realm of
his own familiar domain.... Only then can he Metatriangulation offers an exceptional
look back and appreciate in full measure the means of studying AMT, because this field has
precise nature of his starting point (Burrell& Mor- been increasingly criticized as vast and polar-
gan, 1979:ix). ized, replete with theoretical contradictions that
inhibit research comparisons and more compre-
Laying the groundwork for metatriangulation hensive understanding (Grint, 1991). We defined
requires defining the phenomenon of interest, AMT as operator tasks and computerized ma-
focusing paradigm lenses, and collecting a chinery that control and execute a production
metatheoretical sample (see Table 2). As in tra- process. This broad definition freed us to ex-
ditional induction, this initial phase delineates plore varied social and technical designs of
boundaries that both constrain and enable the- AMT as well as differing views of its implemen-
ory building (Eisenhardt, 1989). Setting bound- tation (e.g., systems, labor process, social con-
aries risks reducing metatriangulation to a "fill- struction, and critical theories).
in-the-blanks" exercise, in which theorists use Focus paradigm lenses. Reviewing relevant
data to support initial paradigmatic views. Yet, literature enhances traditional induction by
such boundaries may help theorists manage po-
helping theorists link emerging theory to extant
tential overload of data and perspectives, make
work and recognize the influence of their own
comparisons to extant works, and clarify and
theoretical inclinations (Weick, 1989). A rich the-
critique their own assumptions as they journey
oretical background may stimulate insightful
through multiple paradigms.
analysis, "sensitizing" theorists to certain fea-
Define phenomenon of interest. Theory build-
tures and subtleties in the data (Glaser &
ing across paradigms begins by selecting a
Strauss, 1967). Metatriangulation alters the role
topic of study (Gioia & Pitre, 1990). Traditional
of theoretical sensitivity dramatically, requiring
induction strategies most often are used to ex-
theorists to focus and then employ divergent
plore phenomena in theoretically sparse fields.
Specifying a clear and tentative research ques- paradigm lenses. A two-part review bracket-
tion provides focus and enables interpretive ing paradigms and then locating transition
flexibility during data analysis (Glaser & zones may help theorists gain a multipara-
Strauss, 1967; Mintzberg, 1979). Metatriangula- digm understanding of the phenomenon of in-
tion, however, is most appropriate for studying terest, as well as a greater awareness of their
multifaceted phenomena characterized by ex- initial or "home" paradigm.
pansive and contested research domains (i.e., Bracketing entails making the assumptions
with numerous, often conflicting theories). Spec- and selective focus of each perspective explicit,
ifying a research question in multiparadigm in- then categorizing extant literature within para-
quiry is problematic, for the legitimacy of a digms to accentuate theoretical discrepancies
question may vary across paradigms. In his in- (Gioia & Pitre, 1990). Essentially, brackets de-
fluential work, Hassard (1991) faced this chal- limit the operative scope of disparate lenses,
lenge by tactfully pairing each lens with a dif- specifying what is and is not of interest-
ferent, paradigm-compatible issue. To enable constraining researchers to a manageable field
more direct and potentially insightful compari- of vision, yet sharpening detail within that pur-
sons, in other exemplars researchers have ad- view (Poole & Van de Ven, 1989). In exemplars
vocated broadly defining a common phenome- scholars either classify literature within an ex-
non of interest. In such studies scholars view the tant paradigm typology (e.g., Gioia & Pitre, 1990;
phenomenon of interest as abstract and rela- Grint, 1991) or create a custom framework (e.g.,
tional constructed as theorists use, interpret, Alvesson, 1987; Reed, 1996), seeking brackets
and experience it through each paradigm lens that match the requisite variety in the literature
(e.g., Graham-Hill, 1996). For instance, in their and that emphasize prominent theoretical con-
exemplars scholars have examined such intri- flicts.

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 679

Recognizing an author's paradigm, however, contributing to ongoing changes in their social

may be an arduous and arguable task. Smircich construction (e.g., Roberts & Grabowski, 1996).
(1983) noted that not only do authors rarely state Similarly, in radical labor process theory (bridg-
their paradigm but, often, make the choice un- ing radical structuralist-radical humanist
consciously. She proposed categorizing works views) scholars posit that actors' ideologies and
according to an author's use of metaphorical rhetoric may prejudice meanings of AMT, while
language for example, organizations are so- reified institutional artifacts (e.g., structure and
cial instruments, adaptive organisms, or pat- authority) reinforce extant ideologies and rheto-
terns of symbolic discourse. Others agree (e.g., ric (e.g., Willmott, 1993). Recognizing such
Cannella & Paetzold, 1994; Willmott, 1993), bridges helped us question our fictitious para-
claiming that a favored paradigm is most recog- digm borders and recognize complementary in-
nizable by the use of terms, such as knowledge, sights during later theory building.
discourse, and praxis, that imply all readers will Collect metatheoretical sample. As in tradi-
hold a shared meaning. tional induction strategies (e.g., Eisenhardt,
Next, discovering transition zones between 1989; Glaser & Strauss, 1967), data serve as em-
paradigms helps theorists critique the bound- pirical referents, pulling the theorist and the
aries of their brackets and recognize the poten- resulting theory closer to the phenomenon of
tial complementarity of paradigm lenses (Gioia interest than is possible with extant literature
& Pitre, 1990). In exemplars scholars most often alone. Yet, choosing a source of data for mul-
explore links between objective- and subjective- tiparadigm inquiry is controversial, since the
oriented paradigms. For instance, structuration question of what constitutes data is paradigm
(e.g., Weaver & Gioia, 1994) and constructivist laden (Gioia & Pitre, 1990). Managing this di-
(e.g., Kaghan & Phillips, 1998) theories enable lemma requires collecting a metatheoretical
study of "objective" institutional artifacts as sample: data interpretable from multiple-
products and mediums of "subjective" social paradigm perspectives. Although in some exem-
construction processes. Locating such perspec- plars researchers collect different data for use
tives reveals how epistemological and method- with each lens (e.g., Gioia & Thomas, 1996; Has-
ological assumptions exist along continua. Par- sard, 1991), using a common data source facili-
adigms may appear incommensurable at the tates comparisons and theory building (Ybema,
extremes, yet interwoven at their borders. Tran- 1996). From a metalevel, theorists may view data
sition zone theories also suggest bridges across as representations of an empirical reality devel-
paradigms that may facilitate metatheorizing oped for a purpose/audience and amenable to
(Grimes & Rood, 1995). interpretation/analysis (Stablein, 1996). For ex-
Like Grint (1991), we bracketed AMT assump- ample, Bradshaw-Camball and Murray (1991),
tions using Burrell and Morgan's (1979) typology, Martin (1992), and Graham-Hill (1996) collected
because its dimensions reflect heated technol- extensive and unstructured interview data,
ogy debates. Resulting brackets, illustrated in which could then be analyzed through divergent
Figure 1, sharpened the focus of each paradigm lenses.
lens by characterizing their varied views of AMT We sought data that would enable us to ex-
and its implementation, key research issues, amine AMT implementation across diverse con-
and prevailing theories. This review clarified texts and apply varied analytical lenses, choos-
how most studies emphasize deterministic con- ing a fairly unique source: existing case studies.
straints on AMT implementation or fluid pro- Case studies have undergone a resurgence
cesses of sensemaking by polarizing assump- across paradigms over the past two decades, so
tions of objectivity and subjectivity, and stress they offer a potentially abundant, insightful,
the deskilling or skill upgrading potential of and rarely tapped source of metadata (Stablein,
AMT by segregating radical change and regu- 1996). In the field of AMT, case studies have
lation assumptions, respectively. become the "predominant mode of inquiry"
We then explored paradigm transition zones. (Dean et al., 1992: 204). While examining extant
For instance, structuration theory (bridging cases had the obvious disadvantage of increas-
functionalist-interpretivist views) suggests that ing our distance from original fieldwork and
actors work through extant work roles and tech- local actors, it offered us the opportunity to ex-
nologies as they.attach meanings to a new AMT, plore disparate interpretations of case authors

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680 Academy of Management Review October

Bracketed Paradigms of Advanced Manufacturing Technologya

Radical Humanist Radical Structuralist

AMT: Vehicle for communicative AMT: Tool for labor domination and
distortion control

t Implementation: Process of negotiating Implementation: Process of social and

U rhetoric, identities, and understandings political determinism, driven by political
V~ related to AMT work interests and class differences
. Key issues: Why do actors often use and Key issues: How does the design of AMT
= reinforce dominant ideologies and existing machinery and tasks further rationalize
prejudices? How can actors negotiate more and deskill operator work and reinforce
democratic understandings of AMT? existing power asymmetries within the
Theories: Critical and antiorganization
theories Theories: Orthodox labor process
(Marxian); radical Weberian theories

Interpretivist Functionalist

AMT: Ongoing construction of inter- AMT: Production system for enhancing

subjective experiences efficiency and adaptability

Implementation: Process of sensemaking Implementation: Process of technological

and learning as actors use and experience determinism, constrained by competitive
AMT and organizational conditions
u Key issues: How do actors develop shared Key issues: How do differing AMT design
z understandings of AMT? How do cultural specifications impact production control
norms, myths, and symbols influence and flexibility? What methods foster
interpretations? effective implementation?

Theories: Social construction and Theories: Contingency, systems, and

symbolic interactionist theories traditional engineering theories

Subjective -------------------------------------------------------------------- O bjective

a Adapted from Burrell and Morgan (1979).

as well as quoted actors across numerous organ- case studies. We then theoretically selected 20
izational settings. cases for detailed analysis. Following Eisen-
We began by seeking a large and eclectic hardt's (1989) suggestions, we chose cases that
pool of relevant cases. Broadly defining a case accented extremes (e.g., highly automated ver-
(i.e., a comprehensive study of AMT implemen- sus labor-intensive AMTs) and remained open to
tation within a specific context) and using di- interpretation (e.g., provided elaborate descrip-
verse case sources suggested by our multipara- tions and extensive quotations from local actors)
digm review (e.g., management, engineering, to foster creative theorizing. However, we also
sociology, and anthropology journals, as well as expanded Eisenhardt's criteria to aid multipara-
teaching cases, research monographs, and un- digm analyses. We sought cases representative
published papers) helped us locate over 100 of each of the four paradigm lenses to contrast

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 681

case authors' differing research interests, meth- seeking first broad and generalizable overviews
ods, and rhetoric (see Lewis, 1996, for a complete and then more detailed and localized meanings
list of collected cases). of the phenomenon of interest (e.g., Gioia et al.,
1989; Graham-Hill, 1996). Others have used a
functionalist lens to highlight formal, manage-
Phase II: Data Analysis rialist understandings, followed by more critical
To translate a theory of worldview into one's own views to expose fragmentation and conflict (e.g.,
language is not to make it one's own. For that one Bradshaw-Camball & Murray, 1991; Martin,
must go native, discover that one is thinking in, 1992).
not merely translating out of, a language that We chose our itinerary functionalist to radi-
was previously foreign (Kuhn, 1970:204).
cal structuralist to interpretivist to radical hu-
Like many theory-building strategies, a sub- manist for two reasons. First, we felt this route
stantial phase of metatriangulation revolves would intensify our own learning experiences,
around data analysis. In multiparadigm inquiry, for it reflected a movement progressively away
however, the "analytic detective work" (Mintz- from the comfort of the primary investigator's
berg, 1979) required for traditional induction "home" perspective and the dominant AMT par-
also requires magnification of paradigm dis- adigm (functionalist) toward its antithesis (rad-
tinctions, while avoiding oversimplified inter- ical humanist). Second, we sought progressively
pretations. Phase II applies techniques that help "deeper" and contrasting images of AMT. Func-
theorists immerse themselves within alternative tionalist analyses addressed the nature of tech-
paradigms, track down patterns in the data, and nical and social systems, while radical structur-
create contrasting accounts of the phenomenon alist analyses critiqued their impact on
of interest (see Table 2). Embracing "foreign" operators' skills and power. In the subjective
paradigms serves two primary purposes. First, it paradigms we viewed descriptions of observ-
may deepen theorists' understanding as they able properties and behaviors as "entry points"
learn experientially the observational focus, an- into more latent social construction processes.
alytical methods, and writing styles of each par- Interpretivist analyses accented cultural norms
adigm. Second, resulting accounts may aid influencing shared meanings, whereas radical
metaparadigm theory building by enabling the- humanist analyses critiqued their legitimacy
orists to juxtapose paradigm interpretations of a and actors' roles in their maintenance. The dis-
common empirical referent (Reed, 1997). As Mar- parity of each lens helped unfreeze and loosen
tin notes, by cultivating conflicting images the- our initial assumptions, fostering more creative
orists may explore "unstated assumptions in or- insights as we continuously elaborated and
der to explain why disagreements among ... questioned previous analyses.
perspectives are so deep, vehement, and pro- Conduct multiparadigm coding. According to
ductive" (1992: 5). Glaser and Strauss (1967), coding entails break-
Plan paradigm itinerary. Eisenhardt (1989) ing down, interpreting, and conceptualizing
claimed that using a systematic series of anal- data. Theoretical sensitivity is vital, for theo-
yses helps theorists manage their limited infor- rists' assumptions foster insights and biases.
mation-processing capabilities. Similarly, fol- Approaching analysis with diverse questions in
lowing an itinerary (i.e., a planned order of mind may help theorists open the data and
paradigm analyses) may enhance the journey "see" with greater analytical depth. Multipara-
through multiple paradigms. Regardless of how digm inquiry modifies and intensifies the role of
"parallel" theorists attempt to keep their induc- theoretical sensitivity. Paradigm lenses suggest
tive efforts, insights from previous paradigmatic opposing research issues and reveal varied in-
analyses will exert some influence on later terpretations of the data. Yet, conflicting as-
analyses. An itinerary may heighten theorists' sumptions preclude use of a common analytical
awareness of such influence and enable them to approach, requiring theorists to apply respec-
better balance contrasting images. Hassard tive paradigm methods (Gioia & Pitre, 1990, and
(1991) suggested that theorists' specific interests Guba & Lincoln, 1998, review varied methods).
should guide their choice of itinerary. For in- Multiparadigm coding is typically a two-part
stance, in some exemplars scholars have trav- process: theorists become intimate with and
eled from objective to subjective paradigms, then impose alternative spins on the data. In the

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682 Academy of Management Review October

initial analysis, taking detailed notes helps the- 1986). Critically reinterpreting cases and our ac-
orists develop their first impressions of nuances cumulated notes, we coded deterministic, mas-
and patterns in the data. Theorists then follow culine, and managerially sympathetic dis-
their paradigm itinerary, "reading" the data courses to expose prejudiced rhetoric used by
through each lens (Morgan, 1983). Their interpre- organizational actors, case authors, and our-
tations become a combination of what they al- selves. Multiparadigm analyses produced four
ready know, what they read, and which lens sets of codings, each addressing distinct yet in-
they bring to the analysis, thereby enabling con- terwoven facets of the cases: conceptualizations
struction of the differing insights enabled by of AMT and problematic implementation pro-
each paradigm. Recoding the data during each cesses.
subsequent analysis concentrates efforts to de- Write paradigm accounts. In tabulating or ex-
tail and contrast understandings of emerging hibiting results of data analyses, researchers
themes. organize evidence to aid traditional induction
Exemplars depict variations of this activity. (Eisenhardt, 1989; Mintzberg, 1979). Metatriangu-
Graham-Hill (1996) analyzed his data using al- lation expands this activity, as theorists use
ternative case-building methods, which ranged codings to write distinct accounts of the phe-
from conventional approaches (e.g., Yin, 1989) to nomenon of interest. Writing serves three pur-
dramatism (e.g., Mangham & Overington, 1983). poses. First, it inscribes paradigmatic under-
Martin (1992) used a different technique, apply- standings into cohesive representations,
ing her three lenses as sensitizing devices to helping theorists manage the diverse insights
expose multiple meanings of an organizational enabled by multiparadigm analyses. Second,
culture. She coded actors' quotes that depicted writing may deepen theorists' understandings
perceptions of a clear, unified culture as "inte- as they experience paradigm language-in-use.
gration;" of varied subcultural views as "differ- Comparing each account to respective para-
entiation;" and of conflicting feelings and ambi- digm literature may help theorists ensure that
guity as "fragmentation." representations proliferate rather than subju-
In our study multiparadigm coding proved a gate or homogenize paradigm differences.
data- and mind-opening experience. Paradigm Third, by writing after completing analyses, the-
brackets suggested key issues to aid and differ- orists may focus accounts on themes that span
entiate analyses (see Figure 1). We also began paradigms to emphasize conflicting images and
each paradigm analysis by coding cases written aid metatheorizing. Martin (1992), for instance,
from the same perspective, using case authors' illustrated how divergent lenses fostered differ-
focus, language, and methods to guide our cod- ent perceptions of an organization's three cul-
ing of remaining cases. Functionalist coding tural themes: egalitarianism, innovation, and
entailed comparative and causal analyses of concern for employees' well-being. Similarly,
surface manifestations (e.g., managerial expla- Bradshaw-Camball and Murray's (1991) ac-
nations and AMT design specifications) to con- counts each depict a coherent yet limited under-
verge on generalizable constructs and relation- standing by addressing varied issues regarding
ships (e.g., Eisenhardt, 1989). In the radical the structure, process, and outcomes of organi-
structuralist paradigm, we used dialectical cy- zational politics.
cles of observation and critique (e.g., Benson, We concentrated our accounts on the theme of
1977) to reveal how labor-control capabilities of tensions. Across case studies, opposing de-
AMT were reinforced by interrelated institu- mands, interests, and perceptions frustrated
tional artifacts (e.g., organizational structure) AMT implementation. Yet, paradigm lenses re-
and wider socioeconomic structures (e.g., social vealed differing conflicts and vicious cycles.
classes). Interpretivist analyses involved coding Comparing findings from our data analyses to
language and symbols to depict actors' sense- extant paradigmatic literature helped us hone
making processes (e.g., Guba & Lincoln, 1989). each account and detail the variations in para-
Hermeneutic techniques helped us identify digm insights. An abbreviated reading of the
meanings shared by subcultural members re- resulting accounts (see the Appendix) shows
garding AMT and work-related roles. Lastly, for each as providing an equally plausible, inter-
radical humanism, we analyzed hegemonic ide- nally consistent, but partial representation,
ologies and meanings (e.g., Steffy & Grimes, highlighting the need for a more comprehensive

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 683

understanding of the complex and disruptive adigmatic insights, discrepant explanations

nature of AMT. may appear to be interrelated yet address var-
ied temporal and spatial facets of the phenom-
enon (Poole & Van de Ven, 1989).
Phase III: Theory Building
We used conjecture inversion to investigate
We stand in a turmoil of contradictions.... Para- why tensions rise during AMT implementation.
dox lives and moves in this realm; it is the art of We asked, "Why do conflicting demands (func-
balancing opposites in such a way that they do
not cancel each other but shoot sparks of light tionalist), political interests (radical structural-
across their points of polarity. It looks at our des- ist), interpretive schemes (interpretivist), and so-
perate either/ors and tells us they are really both/ cial identities (radical humanist) intensify and
ands-that life is larger than any of our concepts inhibit change?" Paradigm lenses revealed how
and can, if we let it, embrace our contradictions the flexibility and ambiguity of computerization
(MaryC. Morrison, in Smith & Berg, 1987:3).
exacerbate existing tensions, yet they sug-
Building theory from data requires theorists to gested that inertial constraints, power asymme-
make "creative leaps"-to break away from the tries, subcultural norms, or communicative dis-
simplified and expected and explain phenom- tortions, respectively, frustrate more innovate
ena in new light (Mintzberg, 1979: 584). Yet, in designs and mutual understandings of AMT.
metatriangulation leaps are to a level above Conversation techniques then helped us ac-
and beyond paradigms, for when "one abstracts count for such discrepancies. Besides using hy-
highly enough, the differences between en- pothetical conversations, we purposefully en-
trenched research practices blur, revealing the gaged in debates among ourselves, since we
contours of the research landscape" (Stablein, were grounded in opposing paradigms, and
1996: 510). Multiparadigm analyses support and with other theorists attuned to paradigms with
elaborate disparate views, adding depth to the- which we were less familiar. We came to view
orists' understandings of the phenomenon and paradigms as embracing different spatial and
the paradigms used. Building theory, however, temporal dimensions.
requires theorists to transcend paradigm dual- Examining AMT from differing "spaces" (a
isms and to think paradoxically: to consider con- metaphor for hierarchy and divergent occupa-
flicting views simultaneously. Metaparadigm tional interests) aided our understanding of the
techniques help theorists explore metaconjec- skill upgrading-deskilling debate. Those with
tures, attain a metaparadigm perspective, and regulation views voiced managerial concerns,
articulate their self-reflection (see Table 2). noting the new routines and greater conceptual
Explore metaconjectures. Exploring metacon- skills needed for operators and designers to
jectures heeds and extends Weick's (1989) call work through computerization, and those with
for theorists to conduct numerous and diverse radical views stressed labor interests, exposing
mental experiments. Metaconjectures denote control mechanisms and dominant ideologies
propositions interpretable from multiple para- that reinforce extant power relations. Varied
digms. Theorists iterate between reviewed liter- temporal perspectives (a metaphor for structure
ature, their multiparadigm analyses, and their and enactment processes) suggested stable, ob-
own intuition to explore divergent views of servable properties and more latent cognitive
themes that span paradigm accounts. Exem- and social dynamics. Objective lenses revealed
plars suggest two techniques that may help the- the constraints of material artifacts and institu-
orists develop and "test" metaconjectures. First, tionalized practices, and subjective views indi-
conjecture inversion entails reframing a broad cated the flux of ongoing sensemaking. Thus,
question within multiple paradigms (Gioia & the four accounts summarized in the Appendix,
Pitre, 1990). Looking for what is unexpected or in conjunction, appeared necessary to compre-
unanswered in paradigm accounts, theorists hend the intricate and disruptive nature of AMT
may examine how aspects of a situation are implementation.
viewed as an anomaly or explained through al- Attain a metaparadigm perspective. Tradi-
ternative lenses. Second, conversation tech- tional inductive theory provides an ordered set
niques help theorists probe paradigm debates of assertions regarding the phenomenon of in-
and discover creative means to justify contradic- terest, both grounded in specific data and suffi-
tions (Grimes & Rood, 1995). By juxtaposing par- ciently abstract to enable generalizability (Gla-

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684 Academy of Management Review October

ser & Strauss, 1967). Multiparadigm inquiry creatively accounted for these contradictions in
broadens conventional definitions of theory to two ways. First, he conceptualized cultural man-
denote a coherent understanding capable of ac- ifestations as mediums through which mixed
commodating diverse representations (Gioia & meanings can be expressed. For instance, sto-
Pitre, 1990). Theorists seek a metaparadigm per- ries of the organization's traditions and achieve-
spective from which they may recognize the in- ments fostered a common sense of pride and
terplay of conflicting yet interdependent para- solidarity. Yet, "old timers" used the stories to
digm insights. In exemplars scholars advise romanticize the past and their roles in company
applying an inclusive theoretical stance, frame- history, bolstering their social identities and
work, or concept that may serve as a "point of distinctions from the "new professionals" invad-
contact" across paradigms. For instance, Schultz ing management. Second, using a dramaturgi-
and Hatch (1996) suggested employing a post- cal metaphor, Ybema viewed lenses as lighting
modern view to recognize the disparity and sim- differing stages on which social interactions are
ilarity of essentially modern paradigms. Reed played. By banishing overt signs of conflict, cul-
(1997) advocated building a multidimensional tural norms encouraged openness and amica-
framework, and Bouchikhi (1998) proposed using bility "on stage" (e.g., in meetings and hallways)
dialectics and paradox to contribute a rich, thick and pushed animosities "off-stage" (e.g., to con-
understanding of the phenomenon of interest. versations behind closed doors). Paradoxically,
Existing metaparadigm theories illustrate the such separate shows became inversions of each
use and value of such techniques. For example, other. Public displays upheld norms of agree-
Gaventa (1980) sought to explain why coal min- ment and cohesion, and private gossiping rein-
ers in an Appalachian town remained silent, forced feelings of within-group intimacy and
rather than resisted unsafe and demoralizing between-group discord.
work conditions. Applying Lukes' (1974) three To accommodate divergent views of AMT ten-
lenses, he detailed varied dimensions of power sions, we applied the notion of paradox. Para-
and their mechanisms of control: behavioral doxes denote social constructions, formed as
(e.g., attempts at interpersonal influence and actors polarize interrelated phenomena to com-
current supervisory practices), structural (e.g., prehend uncertainty and complexity. Yet, polar-
labor contracts and institutionalized divisions of ities may become reified over time, inhibiting
labor), and ideological (e.g., dominant dis- actors from recognizing and managing their in-
courses and assumptions). Gaventa, however, terplay (Bouchikhi, 1998). During AMT imple-
transcended Luke's distinctions, linking these mentation, dramatic changes in computeriza-
control mechanisms to explain how the subtle tion revealed the inadequacies of existing
interactions of dimensions preserve quiescence. polarities, such as artificial distinctions be-
While managers mobilize resources to ensure tween demands for control and flexibility or be-
that infrequent uses of miners' power are inef- tween the expertise of AMT designers and oper-
fective, formalized contracts and practices ators. Such revelations appeared capable of
maintain power asymmetries, and ongoing uses fostering innovation and enlightenment, as well
of the hegemonic rhetoric of consensus influ- as rigidity and domination. Some cases demon-
ence miners' preferences and reduce their polit- strated the value of rethinking assumptions re-
ical consciousness. The result is an elaborate garding technology and work, negotiating more
and contextualized vision of power as observ- democratic roles in production, and experiment-
able, embedded, and continuously reproduced. ing with creative AMT designs and organization-
Ybema (1996) used Martin's (1992) divergent al structures. More often, though, actors clung to
integration and differentiation lenses to move past polarities, fueling vicious cycles. Uses of
beyond discrepant paradigm accounts toward a extant ideologies, practices, and institutional
metaparadigm theory of organizational cohe- artifacts sparked negative consequences that
sion and division. Examining a small, Dutch further intensified actors' desires for order and
amusement park with the integration lens, simplicity. For example, designers typically
Ybema revealed a strong organizational culture viewed AMT as an opportunity to bolster their
marked by shared myths and collegiality; the control over production and labor. Yet, limiting
differentiation lens exposed group distinctions operator involvement in the implementation
and practices of malicious gossiping. Ybema process, stressing the "power" of computers, and

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 685

formalizing operator tasks resulted in highly terests on the inductive process (Willmott, 1993).
centralized systems that separated program- In some multiparadigm exemplars, theorists ap-
ming from execution and proved unwieldy in ply postmodern notions to critique their use of
use. Meanwhile, operators sought to retain con- existing paradigms (e.g., Hassard, 1991; Martin,
trol over their craft. However, emphasizing the 1992). Others keep "field notes" to continuously
masculinity of their manual skills and their reflect on the impact of their paradigmatic bi-
wariness of computerization and management ases and to present tentative findings to their
intentions inhibited operators from developing research subjects to reach congruence on mean-
greater conceptual skills and arguing for more ing (e.g., Graham-Hill, 1996).
influential roles in implementation. In the AMT study, tracking our emerging per-
Weaving together paradigm accounts, we the- ceptions helped us to remain acutely aware
orized the interplay of objectivity (e.g., formal
of paradoxes occurring in our own work. For
AMT designs and engrained divisions of labor)
example, one author realized that her theoreti-
and subjectivity (e.g., fluid processes of sense-
cal predilections, emanating from a primarily
making and identity construction). While regu-
lation stances focus on common routines and functionalist background, were enhancing and
enact cohesive occupational subcultures, radi- frustrating her insights. As she ventured further
cal stances critique subtle mechanisms of con- from her home paradigm, she increasingly no-
trol and expose continuing distortions of exper- ticed ideological conflicts between paradigms
tise that may subvert attempts at more open and social tensions apparent in colleagues' con-
communications across levels of the organiza- cerns about her "radical" and "risky" research,
tional hierarchy. threatening to guide her back to the functional-
Articulate critical self-reflection. Metatriangu- ist mainstream. Managing this paradox became
lation concludes with a critique of the resulting an ongoing, self-reflective effort, as she would
theory and the theory-building process. When scrutinize her notes, the alternative paradigm
assessing the quality of a theory, theorists find accounts, and the metaparadigm theory for
that traditional criteria validity and internal managerially biased rhetoric. In retrospect,
consistency (Eisenhardt, 1989) are incongruous such experiences became interwoven within the
with alternative paradigms, since they focus on theory-building process, deepening our appreci-
reducing ambiguity and diversity (Morgan, ation of the value and challenges of multipara-
1983). To respect varied paradigm objectives, digm inquiry.
metatriangulation involves expanded criteria:
creativity, relevance, and comprehensiveness. A
creative theory contributes thought-provoking
means of considering divergent perspectives, THEORY-BUILDING
while relevance depends upon its potential to Metatriangulation is not a substitute for sin-
encourage interparadigm discourse and to en- gle-paradigm theory building but, rather, an al-
hance correspondence between theory and mul-
ternative for exploring complex phenomena
tifaceted organizational reality (Poole & Van de
from disparate theoretical and epistemological
Ven, 1989). With metatriangulation scholars
perspectives. Indeed, we view this process as an
strive not to find the truth but to discover com-
extension of traditional strategies aimed at en-
prehensiveness stemming from diverse and par-
tial worldviews (Gioia & Pitre, 1990). Ideally, hancing the potential insights available from
metaparadigm theory both accommodates and existing literature, data, and theorists' intuition.
challenges opposing paradigm insights, and it Metatriangulation follows many of Weick's
reflects the ambiguity, complexity, and conflicts (1989) prescriptions for building theory using
experienced by organizational actors. "disciplined imagination," deliberately and dra-
Nevertheless, such results present a particu- matically increasing the quantity and diversity
lar albeit a more expansive and inclusive- of literature reviewed, of analytical methods
view. Critical self-reflection may help theorists used, and of conjectures examined. To further
avoid promoting closure within the confines of array metatriarngulation among extant strate-
paradigm brackets or a metaparadigm theory gies, we conclude by discussing its advantages,
and appraise the influence of their personal in- limitations, and future applications.

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686 Academy of Management Review October

Advantages technological, social, and political intricacies.

In exploring divergent views, theory and schol-
We propose that metatriangulation may guide
arly debate may become more complex and pro-
theorists in epistemological and substantive di-
ductive, muting objectivity-subjectivity dual-
rections. Epistemologically, this theory-building
isms and contributing insights for diverse
strategy may direct attention to the impact of
organizational actors rather than prescriptions
(1) theorists' interests on their choice of research
for their control by elites. Substantive knowl-
paradigms, methods, and topics (Habermas,
edge produced from such efforts may be contex-
1971); (2) epistemology on substantive theory
tualized by local meanings and the paradigms
building, since the latter is a derivative of the
explored, yet researchers' reflections on the
former; and (3) power on the creation of knowl-
bounds of their methods and understandings
edge (Foucault, 1980). Exploring "foreign" para-
may become more abundant, candid, and legit-
digms offers theorists a potentially frame-
breaking experience. By making assumptions
and the learning process explicit, metatriangu-
lation may help theorists gain an appreciation
of possible knowledge and reduce their commit- Limitations
ment to a favored and provincial point of view. While theory building is always a process of
Theorists may recognize that theory building is sensemaking, influenced by theorists' underly-
not solely a methodical, rule-bound process but ing assumptions (Weick, 1989), the inherently
also an ideological, political, and moral en- provocative nature of multiparadigm inquiry re-
gagement through which they make and remake volves around the question "Can you ever es-
themselves (Morgan, 1983). cape your current or home paradigm?" Although
Substantively, metatriangulation facilitates a this issue may continue to be contested, meta-
shift from provincial toward more rich, contex- triangulation pulls together existing multipara-
tualized, and multidimensional theory. Grap- digm approaches to help theorists recognize
pling with theoretical contradictions may en- and address this challenge at every phase of the
able theorists to build theory more attuned to theory-building process.
the intricacy and paradoxes of organizational The initial groundwork phase requires theo-
life (Poole & Van de Ven, 1989; Teunissen, 1996). rists to make their paradigmatic assumptions
Multiparadigm approaches help theorists match explicit. Yet, critics warn that paradigm brack-
the requisite variety of organization theory and eting may reproduce the very dualisms its seeks
investigate the diversity experienced (or con- to transcend (e.g., Deetz, 1996). To avoid reifying
structed) by organizational actors (Schultz & paradigm boundaries in metatriangulation, the-
Hatch, 1996). Bouchikhi (1998) has claimed that orists must critique the biases of each lens and
by deploying multiple paradigms, theorists may locate transition zone perspectives. Brackets
help organizational actors comprehend and should be viewed as valuable, albeit fictitious,
manage demands that appear logical in isola- heuristics for distinguishing disparate views,
tion, yet contradictory and absurd in connec- permitting a greater breadth of understanding
tion for example, the need for control and flex- than possible within the bounds of a single par-
ibility, collective coordination and individual adigm. The goal, as Morgan explains, is to
expression, secure internal systems and open move beyond reproduction of the differences that
external systems, continuity and change, and divide us to an appreciation of why we are di-
deliberate decision making and emergent ser- vided. In doing so, we arrive at the only powerful
endipity. means of assessing the nature and limitations of
The resulting metaparadigm theory may if research practice-by acquiring a capacity for
knowing what we are doing, why we are doing it,
subsequent research, theorizing, and scholarly and how we might do it differently if we so
discourse support its plausibility offer a tem- choose" (1983:382).
plate for extended theory/research. Future mul-
tiparadigm inquiry may retain concerns for or- Nevertheless, theorists must constantly question
ganizational efficacy, yet critique institutional the limits of their chosen lenses and whether
artifacts and reflect local meanings, "thicken- their efforts foster paradigm proliferation or te-
ing" descriptions to more fully represent subtle nacity (Feyerabend, 1979).

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1999 Lewis and Grimes 687

The data analysis phase requires theorists to and Hatch (1996) suggested examining issues of
immerse themselves within each paradigm. organizational identity, learning, and cognition.
Critics, however, challenge the very possibility During our study, we recognized heated debates
of embracing other perspectives, noting the po- in domains of other organizational technologies,
tential for ethnocentric bias-contamination of such as self-managed work teams, total quality
paradigm accounts from the theorists' home cul- management, and just-in-time inventory prac-
ture (e.g., Deetz, 1996). Parker and McHugh (1991) tices, indicative of possible research phenom-
suggested that a more realistic approach is be- ena. Our paradigm lenses also provided highly
having "as if" you are a member of a paradigm varied images of broader issues of trust, author-
community. Conducting separate paradigm ity, and control. As Teunissen (1996) claims,
analyses helps respect the interests and as- drastic changes in technology, workforce diver-
sumptions of alternative research communities sity, competition, and globalization are spark-
(Hassard, 1991). Resulting accounts may then ing the use of alternative lenses and increasing
serve as representations-images of an empiri- the need for understandings that accommodate,
cal reality sharpened by divergent lenses-to
rather than oversimplify or overrationalize, or-
help theorists comprehend the varied insights
ganizational tensions.
and interpretations across paradigms, for, as
Calls for a return to an intellectual ortho-
with anthropological methods, theorists may be-
doxy-a common, coherent, and hegemonic par-
come steeped in less familiar or even foreign
adigm (e.g., Donaldson, 1985; Pfeffer, 1997)-or
paradigm cultures, but they seldom ever be-
continued paradigm proliferation and polariza-
come part of them.
The theory-building phase requires attaining tion-a postmodern approach to unbridled rela-
a metaparadigm perspective; however, this goal tivism (e.g., Feyerabend, 1975; Jackson & Carter,
is equally provocative. Critics (e.g., Parker & 1993)-are increasing in organization theory's
McHugh, 1991; Scherer, 1998) ask, "Where does a "contested terrain" (Reed, 1996). Yet, contribut-
theorist 'stand' when viewing paradigm repre- ing more insightful, innovative, and comprehen-
sentations simultaneously?" In some exemplars sive theory for the new millennium may require
researchers see this phase as an exercise in deeper awareness of alternative modes of in-
paradoxical thinking, pushing theorists to rec- quiry and their intricate connections.
ognize the complementarity and disparity of Multiparadigm inquiry holds considerable,
paradigm lenses (e.g., Gioia & Pitre, 1990; Poole and largely unmet, potential for extending ex-
& Van de Ven, 1989; Ybema, 1996). From this isting understandings of complex and paradox-
alternative realm of abstraction, each paradigm ical organizational phenomena. This article pro-
is seen as contributing a layer of meaning. Par- vides an extensive guide to multiparadigm
adigm lenses provide varied "puzzle-solving de- exemplars and an explicit map for building the-
vices that bridge the gap between the image of ory from multiple paradigms. By imposing a sys-
the phenomena and the phenomena itself" (Mor- tematic framework on the inherently messy pro-
gan, 1983: 21). Critical self-reflection aids recog- cess of theory building, metatriangulation may
nition of both the theorist and theorized as part help theorists recognize the focus and blinders
of a whole, as metatriangulation explores and enabled by divergent paradigm lenses, culti-
critiques the process of knowledge creation, vate their contrasting representations, and ac-
while promising a greater explanatory poten- commodate their disparate insights. The result-
tial. ing experience may correspond to Popper's
provocative yet optimistic note:
Future Applications
I do admit that at any moment we are prisoners
As we mentioned earlier, metatriangulation is caught in the framework of our theories; our ex-
particularly appropriate for investigating vi- pectations; our past experiences; our language.
brant and vast domains of organization theory, But we are prisoners in a Pickwickian sense; if we
marked by continuing debates and/or contradic- try we can break out of our frameworks at any
time. Admittedly, we shall find ourselves again
tory findings. For instance, Gioia and Pitre (1990) in a framework,but it will be a better and roomier
proposed applying metatriangulation to explore one; and we can at any moment break out of it
communication and socialization, and Schultz again (Popper, 1970:86).

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688 Academy of Management Review October

haviors in ways that reaffirmed their occupa-

tional norms and beliefs about their respective
ADVANCEDMANUFACTURING competencies, furthering misunderstandings
between subcultures.
Our functionalist account represented AMT
Our radical humanist account represented the
designs as systemic interactions between task
programs (degree of work formalization) and flexibility of computerization and more homog-
enized conceptual work of actors as exposing
machinery programs (degree of computeriza-
the illegitimacy of mutually exclusive social
tion) that may enhance process flexibility and
identities (i.e., "operator" and "designer"). Some
control. Yet, organizations struggled to meet
actors engaged in enlightening debates, nego-
contradictory demands for innovation and effi-
tiating more democratic meanings of AMT and
ciency. While some experimented with creative
their roles in its programming. Yet, more often,
designs (e.g., autonomous operator teams re-
turf wars erupted as actors mystified their spe-
sponsible for computer programming), most
cialized expertise. Designers often emphasized
were constrained by existing routines and log-
their technical acumen and the "power" of com-
ics. Vicious, inertial cycles appeared as actors
puters, whereas operators stressed the value of
reacted to new AMT problems (e.g., bottlenecks
physical labor and the virility of their manual
and unreliable machinery) by following past
skills. Cycles of communicative distortion spi-
patterns (e.g., engineers further augmented task
raled as actors tried to reproduce notions of su-
and machinery programs to improve process
periority and masculinity, reverting to past class
control, which exacerbated system sensitivity).
and gender prejudices.
Our radical structuralist account represented
AMT as a technocratic mechanism enabling de-
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Marianne W. Lewis received her Ph.D. in management from the University of Ken-
tucky. She is currently an assistant professor of management at the University of
Cincinnati. In her research she explores tensions, conflicts, and paradoxes that
impede and enable innovation, particularly in the areas of advanced manufacturing
technology, product development, and organization theory.

Andrew J. Grimes received his Ph.D. in management from the University of Minnesota.
He is currently a professor of management and a member of the Committee for Social
Theory at the University of Kentucky. His research interests include alternative or-
ganizations, power, epistemology, critical perspectives on management, and radical
organization theory.

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