Friday, March 27, 2009

Weick's Sentences (1)

We can't let what has turned out to be "Sentence Month" here at RSL pass without looking at a sentence or two by Karl Weick. Let's begin with this little gem from his contribution to Great Minds in Management (OUP, 2005), "The Experience of Theorizing" (PDF available here):

Aim for good sentences. (409)

It is hard to criticize because it is so short, but it therefore also emphasizes that a short sentence isn't always a good one. What's wrong with it?

We might invoke Yoda: "Try not. Do or do not! There is no try." Write good sentences. But my point is grammatical and, while Yoda's prowess with the light saber is legendary, he is not known for his mastery of grammar. Are good sentences really something we "aim for"? If we want to take the Force out of the sentence, then we can at least pick an object that suits the verb: "Aim to write good sentences."

Here are two sentences I want to look at on Monday:

When people theorize about any facet of organizing, including sensemaking, they focus on conceptual properties that are thought to be crucial. While their conclusions could be called "findings," that label fits only in the sense that when investigators look for something like the deployment of retrospect, or the reconciliation of competing frames, or the responses to ambiguity, they are more or less surprised by what they "find" given what they were looking for. (410)

Weick is a good object of practical criticism, not only because he is a "great mind" in management, but also because it is often his style that is singled out for praise.

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