Understanding Enterprise

Salaman, Graeme and Storey, John (2008). Understanding Enterprise. Organization, 15(3) pp. 315–323.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508408088530


The idea of ‘Enterprise’ has been extensively used in recent years as a way to understand the principles underlying the reinvention of organizations and employees. It tends to be used as a counterfactual to ‘bureaucracy’. However, we argue that while this approach has produced some rich insights, an over-emphasis on the notion of enterprise may exaggerate the reality of change. In this paper we focus on the ways in which top managers mediate the construct. We try to show that enterprises—even those ‘liberated’ from bureaucratic regulation and constraint—need not necessarily be enterprising. This linkage has in the past been asserted but too frequently left unexplored. We suggest that an analysis of enterprising forms of organization requires a more nuanced and a more empirically based understanding of the ways in which enterprise is interpreted and deployed within organizations which are apparently—on the surface at least—seemingly committed to ‘achieving enterprise’.

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