Architectures of buildings influence work relationships and organizational practices. The case of building architecture can be extended to other complex instrumental systems which constrain and enable, not only the activity of local teams, but entire organizational processes, across functions. This paper explores the potential contribution of “sociomateriality” research to analyze such “architectural instruments” (e.g. integrated management information systems – ERP). It is suggested that sociomateriality analyses lack a theory of collective activity. Pragmatist authors allow conceptualizing activity as the collective production of meaning through dialogical interactions mediated by triadic signs. Beyond multiple classes of tooling, the basic mediation of activity is provided by the cultural repertory of habits, which makes situated acts recognizable, debatable, and connects them to culture. Habits are the key to adaptive repetition, but, when disrupted by unexpected situations, they trigger inquiries to reengineer them. The iteration between habit and inquiry, the two building blocks of collective activity, shapes the polyphonic narrative of what actors do together, framed by tacit narrative frames, “architextures”, such as temporal-spatial frames and generic characters. Architectural instruments are “architectural” because they are “architextual”, i.e. because they instantiate implicit narrative frames in day-to-day activity. Two cases illustrate these ideas: the implementation of an ERP system in an electricity company and an informal procedure to manage engineering changes in an aerospace company.
LORINO, P. (2012). Management Systems as Organizational “Architextures”: The Tacit Narrative Frames of Collective Activity. ESSEC Business School.