Organizational Research Methods: Storytelling in Action

David M. Boje

Book being prepared for Routledge, due March 2018

To cite this document: Boje, David M. (2018) "Organizational Resarch Methods: Storytelling In Action", (March 15), URL = <>


Chapter RPO7 - Karen Barad Agential Realism

Barad (1998, 2003, 2007, 2011) sociomateriality of entanglement inseparability of social with materiality, called 'agential realism.



Video live at:


If you think that a system is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, you are missing out on the revolution in dynamic complex adaptive sociomateriality systems that are moving in Barad's (2001, 2011) spacetimemattering. The studyguide is in two parts, living story webwork and TQM both in relation to relational process ontology of Baradian spacetimemattering of the iterative reconfiguring of existence. The amin point is words like relation, process, and ontology are being used quite differently in the living story world, the TQM world, and the Baradian agential-realism intra-activity re-configuring world. People use the same words but their meaning in those worlds is entirely different, and radically incompatible and incommensurate. It takes a good deal of careful translation to move between disiplines, between worlds. The sociomateriality of Living Story, TQM, and agential realism (AR) are quite different in the relational process ontologies.

Easy access to two of Karen Barad's online articles and her book:

  1. Barad, K. (2010). Quantum entanglements and hauntological relations of inheritance: Dis/continuities, spacetime enfoldings, and justice-to-come. Derrida Today3(2), 240-268.
  2. Barad, K. (2011). Nature's queer performativity. Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences19(2), 121-158.
  3. The 2007 book, Meeting the Universe Halfway is downloadalbe for free. (Barad) Barad, Karen (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway ... pdf is the seminal text on sociomaterial systems, the intra-activity of 'social discourse' and 'materiality' agencies in organization systems and their entranglement with the quantum worldSee also this downloadapble option And see Barad, Karen. "Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter." Signs: Journal of women in culture and society 28.3 (Barad (2003, online 801-831. Barad, Karen. "Queer causation and the ethics of mattering." Queering the non/human (2008): 311-338, online

DOCTORAL STUDENT HOMEWORK start here--> Please begin your study by search on term "spacetimemattering" in above articles and in her seminal book (2007, Meeting the Universe Halfway).


Living stories exist in a webwork of entanglements, attachments, and agential cuts that keep changing, and this webwork is never static. My awakening to non-attachment, to my own emotional reaction to webwork changes, and to understanding Heiedgger (1962) attunements of my energy Being-ness-in-the-world is part of the living story webwork. Our living stories exist in spacetimemattering relational processes to other's living stories. We are hopelessly and marvelously entangled. Each moment of our "quantum entanglement" of "spacetimemattering, the intra-actions interwwining our living story responsibility and accountability, and even ethical answerability, involves attachments and agential cuts that "separates by local resoultino" of "agential separability" (Barad, 2012: 32). Each living story is both attachmant and agential cut of de-attachment in the "iterative inra-active becomings of spacetimemattering" that "configures and reconfigures entanglements" of intra-activity (Barad, 2012: 41). own living story life is affected. Living stories do not exist in-space, in-time, in-mattering, rather it is the entanglement and inseparability of spacetimemattering that is the basis of the living story webwork, its relational process ontology, its worlding by attachments and de-attachments.

Since the living story webwork is in constant and continuous change, with bouts of major disruption, my daily materializing entanglements of mine and others' living stories make attachment and non-attachment something to become aware of, to negotiate the "way living stories are "threaded through with anticipation of where it is going" (Barad, 2010: 244). Pst and future are multiple and heterogeneous, enfolding with the present in spacetime mattering. Each living story scene of daily life is iteratively differentating and entanglming our attachments and non-attachments, ascoss the entire webwork of living stories in the "intra-active becoming of spacetimemattering" (Barad, 2010: 248). This enfolding enthreading relational process of living story is something that is changing, reconfigurings of spacetime mattering, and "(re) threaded through the other" (footnote #9, Barad, 2010: 268).

Please write about your own living story webwork, its dayily reconfiguring and what you are doing about it. I notice for example with the detour and blocakage of the NMSU Ph.D. program, my doctoral committees, are one at NMSU, and four at Cabrini University, and one in Scotland, and so on. So my living story web of doctoral work is migrating from local to international reconfiguring. And as I retire from one university, in a few years, I anticipate the doctoral committee work will continue, but on an international scale. As NMSU detaches and downsizes in its budget woes, I am de-attaching and re-attaching, managing by letting it go, or letting it be in order to experience the liberation and freedom of my living story choices in the webwork.


In this studyguide, I want to relate Karen Barad's work on agential realism to Total Quality Management (TQM). Dancing the two theories together can lead to several contributions to organizational systems research methods.

Boje, D.M. & Winsor, R. "The Resurrection of Taylorism: Total Quality Management's Hidden Agenda," Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 6, No. 4 1993: 57-70.

"While TQM masquerades under a costume of worker development, involvement, and empowerment, its hidden character is revealed by the patterns of control which are deliberately woven into the fabric of human existence through its process of rational, "concurrent" engineering. These efforts have served to give a new vitality and respectability to the practice of Taylorism by repackaging it in the reformulated lexicon of a national 'progress through quality' movement" (Boje & Winsor, 1993: 57).

Figure 1: The TFW Virus (image by D.M. Boje).

Boje and Winsor (1993) critique TQM for being a resurrection of Taylorism. We can update that critique with Worley, Zardet, Bonnet, and Savall (2015: 23) critique of the TFW virus (Taylorism-Fayoloism-Weberism).

"In a nutsheell, the 'TFW" (short for Taylor-fayol-Weber) virus hinders the organizational processes required to promote performance, engagement, and adaptability. Indeed, the TFW virus results in the inability to collaborate, thwarts information sharing, sabotages management and decision-making processes, and previnets the termination or imporvement of low value added tasks and processes (Savall & Zardet, 200). It is one of the main drivers of dysfunction and poor performance in modern organizations, and so widespread and embedded in managers' minstests that most people are unaware of its invluence" (Worley, Zardet, Bonnet, & Savall, 2015: 23-24).


In uncovering the hidden agenda of these methods, it is interesting to compare contemporary accounts of total quality management programmes with the original principles of scientific management, which TQM claims to repudiate. According to Frederick Taylor (1911), the four elements of scientific management are:

(1) The proper design of the work tasks such that the absolute maximum amount of work can be extracted from a given labourer (using time and motion studies);

(2) The selection of the proper workers (finding workers what are highly motivated and controllable);

(3) The "inducement" of workers into participating in the system (getting workers to internalize their rationalization for the system); and,

(4) The training and controlling of workers, with the concomitant use of surveillance and subversion to derail the workers' "natural" tendency towards sabotage, conspiracy, and "systematic soldiering" concealing from management the speed at which work can actually be done)" (Boje & Winsor, 1993, online version).

Worley, Christopher G.; Zardet, Veronique; Bonnet' & Savall, Amandine. (2015). Becoming Agile: How the SEAM Approach to Management Builds Adaptability. Foreword by Pascal Pasquier. NY: Jossey-Bass.

Boje, D. M., & Baskin, K. (2011). Our organizations were never disenchanted: Enchantment by design narratives vs enchantment by emergence. Journal of Organizational Change Management24(4), 411-426. click here for pre-press paper.

Christensen, A., & Møller, J. (2014). An essay on the local consequences of global competition in two different welfare professions. Click here for on line working paper.

"Furthermore, if social acceleration lies at the very hearth of the complex interplay between states competing with each other over productivity, growth and innovation to gain competitive advantages. Then the acceleration by global competition can be seen as leading to a comprehensive (re?-)integration of socio-technical performance optimising and time consumption reducing (often tayloristic) standardised disciplining production methods such as LEAN, TQM, electronic time recording systems and just-in-time production. According to Rosa, breaking the natural intrinsic rhythms of humans and events (Eigenzeit and Eigenrhythmen) in order to gain competitive advantages (Rosa 2013a: 165-168) and in our perspective representing certain subject positions to act within with an alienation potential. In addition, furthered acceleration in the mobility of capital, mobility of labour and production and as mentioned, in institutional changes of logic placing competition and efficiency at the core of normative articulation. 

One extreme example is the story about a banker that controlled his intake of fluids systematically in order to reduce the downtime, which a toilet break would cause" (Christensen & Moller, 2014: 11).

If Worley et al. (2015) and Boje and Winsor (1993) are correct then TQM presents a narrative of worker empowerment and organizational progress, but in actuality is a recipe for centralized Tayloristic planning, worker disempowerment, and rigidity rather than agility.


This will take you through a particular ontological article in the information-system world of TQM.

Green, P., & Rosemann, M. (2000). Integrated process modeling: an ontological evaluation. Information systems, 25(2), 73-87.

The Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) representation model to analyze the five views - process, data, function, organization and output - provided in the Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS)

BWW is an IS discipline ontology, a representational model whose theory basis is in information system modelling that prepares modelling grammars and scripts to evaluation in perception of ‘real world’ being models. Grammars are data flow diagram, entity-relationship diagrams, object-oriented schemas, and relational model.

TQM has migrated since Taylorism into this information system and integrated process modelling of underlying business processes that information system professionals implement to effect technology0based change in organizations. Several related improvement processes coalesce: TQM, Time-based Management, Business Process Reengineering (BPR), and Value-based Performance Measurement (VBPM) being aligned in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that rely heavily on reference process models and their software reference models for integrated process modelling that emphasises ‘hard’ facets of who, what, when, and where to the detriment of ‘soft’ factors: norms, beliefs, and motives of social actors.The grammars of good modelling results in implementation/customization processes that modify the actor network by implementers of such software ERP systems of process modelling. ERP ontological construct can be examined, such as Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS), and the modelling grammar and scenarios can be subjected to organisational research.

This means an evaluation of modelling grammars, the ontology (or meta-physics) of the information systems’ modelling of reality in the real world. Things in the real world are represented by users of information systems, but the resultant model is incomplete.

System is defined as “A set of things is a system if, for any bi-partitioning of the set, couplings exist among things in the two subsets” (Green & Rosemann, 2000: Table 1, p. 76). Lawful State Space is defer as “The lawful state space is the set of states of a thing that comply with the state laws of the thing. The lawful state space is usually a proper subset of the conceivable state space" (Green & Rosemann, 2000:p. 76). Tim or history is defined as “The chronologically-ordered states that a thing traverses in time are the history of the thing: (p. 76). System Environment is defined as “Things that are not in the system but interact with things in the system are called the environment of the system” Green & Rosemann, 2000:(p. 76). There are several fundamental and core ontological constructs, such as “Thing” (“A thing is the elementary unit in the BWW ontological model. The real world is made up of things. Two or more things (composite or simple) can be associated into a composite thing”), “Property” (“Things possess properties. A property is modelled via a function that maps the thing into some value… Attributes are the names that we use to represent properties of things”), ‘State” (“the vector of values for all property functions of a thing is the state of the thing”, “Transformation” (“A transformation is a mapping from one state to another state”), and “Stabe State” (“A stable state is a state in which a thing, subsystem, or system will remain unless forced to change by virtue of the action of a thing in the environment an external event)”) (Green & Rosemann, 2000:p. 76).

In this world of TQM, ontology is said to be a “well-established theoretical domain within philosophy dealing with models of reality, that is, the vision or the nature of the real world” (Green & Rosemann, 2000:p. 75).

“After a particular modeling grammar has been analyzed, predictions on the modeling strengths and weaknesses of the grammar can be made according to whether some or any of these situations arise out of the analysis.

1. Ontological Incompleteness (or Construct Deficit) exists unless there is at least one modeling grammatical construct for each ontological construct.

2. Ontological Clarity is determined by the extent to which the grammar does not exhibit one or more of the following deficiencies:

A. Construct Overload exists in a modeling grammar if one grammatical construct represents more than one ontological construct.
B. Construct Redundancy exists if more than one grammatical construct represents the same ontological construct.
C. Construct Excess exists in a modeling grammar when a grammatical construct is present that does not map into any ontological construct.

The main focus of the work in this paper is the situation of ontological incompleteness in integrated process modeling grammars” Green & Rosemann, 2000:(p. 77).

Provess flow in entity-relationship (ER) models the ontological incompleteness, ontological clarity grammars with respect to dynamics.

The organizational research consists of conducting withervews with the users of the software to assess ontological incompleteness that exist in a grammar, and how users would overcome this deficiency of a set of grammars overlapped minimally from a particular ontological standpoint. This integrated process modelling is studied in individual views of data, function, organization, process, and output. In ERP software packs the architecture of integrated information systems has an organizational view, a process view, and a functional view of event-driven process chains.

What is curious from my perspective, is there are no people in theses systems, except the programers and users. Events are decomposed in descriptions of hierarchical structures in lawful tate space, state history, and acts of system coupling in complete ‘thing-ness’ world.

The following is a second esample of TQM ontology integrated into Enterprise software, but this one sepaks more (as compared to above article) about human interfaces to the software.

Ontologies of Business Process Quality

Galatescu, A., & Greceanu, T. (2004). Ontologies for Analysis and Improvement of Business Process Quality in a Virtual Enterprise. In CAiSE Workshops (3) (pp. 117-128).

Galatescu and Greceanu (2004) examine three ontologies in the software used in business process analysis, TQM tools (verbal diagrams, statistical charts, data collection sheets, idea organization tools) and so on (p. 117).

In Galatescu and Greceanu (2004), the upper level linguistic features of software representation ontology are privileged above what Baradians would call agential-realism ontology. Business Process Improvement (BPI) is an other rebirth of Business Process Reengineering (BPR), and put into team-based workslof and process designs for a linguistic (and information) vocabulary of ontology specifications in BPR/BPI software associated with mathematical models for design and control of system processes using computer-aided TQM tools like Pathmaker, Memory Jogger, Solutions-PROSPER, and PRO-QMS, using various flowcharts, verbal diagrams, and idea collections stored in the software configurations to control domains of specific knowledge of both objects and processes. The authors look at a new variation of BPI called BPI assistant, which changes several TQM features in the “ontology-based integration of the TQM conceptual tools” (Galatescu & Greceanu, 2004). This is computer-aided assistance for TQM in BPI.. Member of the teams, their organisation, representation in diagrams and charts, the expression of ideas in a common vocabulary and concept domain of knowledge and the inference on objects and process is controlled simultaneously by the BPI assistant to ontological integrate TQM tools. The abstraction semantics and syntax rules for computerising the TQM in a linguistic ontology is something that I am sure both Latour (ANT) and Barad (agential realism, AR) would problematic. Both Latour and Barad would likely question the reductionism of sociomaterialism to linguistic ontology, and the translation of human actors into conceptual dependencies, grammar, graphs, charts, and process models of TQM improvement.. The role of subjects, their active voice, become only the abstract recipients of the results of computer operational, which does change and alter their existential existence by the very observational apparatus of the BPI software translations. People and things are converted in TQUm linguistic ontology into ontological complex sentence of inter-operation connectors, in “ontological simple senses” made into “compound or complex sentences: in to the “IF-THEN-ELSE” computer logic (Galatescu, & Greceanu, 2004). The BPI communication and linguistic ontology puts computer programming in the upper levels of the hierarchy over the human operations and thing networking in the ‘real’ world being modelled.

People become abstract elements of ontological sentence in BPI ontology.

To reduce error (dysfunctions) inter-operation semantic relationship are represented by ontological simple sentences to”force the members of the team to select the most relevant elements that describe the process and to analyse them” in the system studied in the medication administration industry. The process is broken down into linear chains


It is a rendition of the traditional variance charting of Taylorism, and something that Savall (1975/2010) includes in his critique of sociotechnical systems variance analysis. TQM in contemporary application is represented in grouping of the ideas expressed on inotoligcal sentences, in cause-effect diagrams, in ontological sentence of main and subordinate cause, and integrated with ERP to large costs, complaint frequency, and situations where patient cannot pay.


TQM Affinity Diagram

TQM tools are integrated into the domain ontology of ERP. Operations in the medical system include patient supervision, blood examination, diet presciption, tray filling with meds, and so on. Human team’s decisions during flowchart definition, is from data collected on quality characteristics, and the software seeks solutions in process stability improvements by having human actors echo statistical charts (run sheets), super affinity diagrams and flowcharts in automated visual displays that users access through monitors and Windows 2000 and Microsoft Office.

Kennedy and Fiss JMS

Kennedy, M. T., & Fiss, P. C. (2013). An ontological turn in categories research: From standards of legitimacy to evidence of actuality. Journal of Management Studies, 50(6), 1138-1154.

Kennedy and Fiss (2013) proposed a network basis analysis that raises fundamental ontological questions about organizational research. By now in this study guide on Barad, in this section on TQM, it should be obvious that TQM ontology is not the ontology of philosophy ((and metaphysics). Rather TQM ontology is a turn from the sociomaterial of Follett—Hegel-Marx-Latour-Barad relational process ontologies to one that is rooted into information linguistic programming, and its reductionist and homogenising effects in TQM tools and Enterprise software renditions.

Kennedy and Fiss (2013) indulge comment on the work of Charles Saunders Peirce, co-founder of American Pragmatism philosophy, and the logic of abduction and retroduction. Kennedy and Miss attempt to apply Peirce to Microsoft executive’s beliefs about emergences in the PC industry. They also use discourse analysis to assess the ontological turn in categories research, including the unfolding means of categories. “Categories are both the building blocks of social reality and mirrors of it: (p. 1151).

There is a particular alienating affect in this ontological turn that TQM has made.


A Critique of TQM's Hidden Ontology

A colleague in my docgtoral consortium Dale Fitzgibbons and our mutual colleague David Steingard have done a critique of TQM, when I was editor Journal of Organizational Change Management.

Steingard, D. S., & Fitzgibbons, D. E. (1993). A postmodern deconstruction of total quality management (TQM). Journal of Organizational Change Management6(5), 27-42.


Steingard and Fitzgibbons (1993) offer a decononstrtion analysis of TQM. They problematize TQM for its uncahllenged assumptions about power relations veiled in a management science supposed value-neutrality objectivity. They trace these asusmptions in TQM organization systems, their life-worlds, which dehumanize TQM team workers, into what I call living story alienation, tottalitarian poer relations, authoritarian domination within a superficial rhetoric that fashions sentences like "quality of Job 1" and "qualit or else" or "the one right way." In short TQM is re-presented as hegemonic ideology that degraeds social life and is in need of emancipatory practice.

“Total - suggests a totalling narrative that, by implication, subordinates and silent any ‘Other’ voice…. This privileges the voice of those more powerful (i.e. management) at the expense of those without organizitonal authority (worked) or legitimacy (non=experts” (Steingard & Fitzgibbons, p. .28).

“Quality - is addressed in only a vary narrow way. In the typical TQM effort, quality only refers to improving the acceptability of the product or service to the sutomer or client. In other words, who is not being considered when we talk about quality Is the financial welfare, job security, stress levels, as well as the dignity, autonomy and creativity of employees of concern?” (IBID, p. 28).

“Management - management is a body of knowledge and a privileged discourse that excludes and silences forks and their concerns” (IBID, p. 28).

The software becomes a way of surveillance and control in a modern day Bentham Panopticon of insidious process and relational administration, as the Orwellian ‘thought police’ and TQM ‘Big Brother” digitize workers in the modern variants of software engineering we are discussing in this study guide. The TQM system assumes humans are “interchangeable members” in cros-funtional teams, places and disciplined by the ontological software words and sentences (p. 35).There is a horrific realisation that TQM is the ultimate apparatus of alienation in the name of maagerialist accomplishments of techno-logic, efficiency, and perofmrativity in a one-dimensional approach to the TQM environment (Boje, 1993; Stiengard & Fitzgibbons, 1992: 36).

Boje, D. (1993) “Toyotaism: Deconstructing our 21st Century Organizations”, Paper presented at the fifth International Academy of Business Discipline (IABD) meeting, April, New Orleans, LA. got its start at IABD.

Can we use Barad's agential realism to make TQM ERP ontology more agile?

Notice how the TQM ontology of Green & Rosemann (2000) and Galatescu and Greceanu (2004) are both quite radically different than the agential-realism ontology of Barad (2007, 2010, 2013). Agential realism is the intra-activity of materiality with discourse in a system theorized as the inseparability of spacetimemattering. The discourse of TQM/ERP is about 'things' 'states' 'ontological incompletenss" and so on that is completely situated in information-systems theory standpoint, and not at all situated in quantum physics nor in an Latour actor-actant-network. Humans, outside of software engineers, are completely missing in the software specifications and ontological standpoint of TQM. One has to ask where are the workers, or is this completely a machine world manipulated and controlled by Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.


Barad and TQM, drawing implications from

Christensen, A., & Møller, J. (2014). An essay on the local consequences of global competition in two different welfare professions. Click here for on line working paper that attempts to integrate Barad agential-realism(some Deleuze) with a critique of TQM.

The time structuring of work and everyday life in TQM is a modification of individual time autonomy by the Taylorized economical factor and its discourses about time-efficiency and competitive performance that infringe on worker’s self-understanding and how they want to spend their time. The existential (ontological) considerations of TQM over time use and reflective agentialism, raise ethical concerns, about the acceleration of work, the central planning of work time, and the result of alienation in applications of TQM as an observational apparatus of work time.

Karen Barad argues for an agential realist account of the material world in which matter is agential and is intra-acting with human language, such as the TQM discourse. TQM, in Baradian terms, is reconfiguring the material-discursive apparatuses, determining boundaries, properties and meanings being enacted in ongoing agential intra-actions of the world of work (Barad, 2003: 820f).

We can therefore analyse the TQM understanding of materiality, agency and its causal effects on discursive practices and vice versa. Implementation of TQM discourse in work practices becomes a closed system, a discourse of materialistic quality intra-active with time structure discourses. TQM is a methodology of observational apparatuses that treats the human body as an instrument of capitalist market economic rationality.

To be empowered (see Follett) is to have power-with, to build one’s own power capacity, rather than others, including TQM apparatuses to have power-over the body. TQM ideology if formed by entangling economic, material, and discourse into a closed system understanding.

The goal of self-empowerment is to exercise “the ability to consciously regulate the mind and body to be healthy, haps, and effective” (or as I say, healthy, happy, & terrific) (Nuernberger, 1996/2003: p. 31, Strong and Fearless: The Quest for Personal Power). TQM, by contrast, is ‘total quality’ ‘management’ of the workers’ body and mind by a control system of Taylorized time and motion planning. TQM is a closed system by a control system observational apparatus. The body, by contrast, is an open system interacting with its environment. We, embodied, are an open system and not a total quality machine, with bodily motions and time, managed centrally.

The particular form of socio-economical perspective of TQM has several problematic aspects. TQm is translated as a socioeconomic value of the market economy, in a logic of tighter time and motion control of the body in order to achieve market efficiency, quality increases to maximise competitive advantage.

Hultin, L. (2017). Go With the Flow: Post-humanist accounts of how matter matter in organizational change. Doctoral Dissertation, Sweden.

“This movement has led to increased market orientation, decentralization, managerialism, contracting, a conception of citizens or users as customers or consumers, and adoption of popular management practices such as total quality management (TQM), Lean Management, and Six Sigma (Westphal, Gulati, & Shortell, 1997). The introduction of NPM has often conflicted with strong professional ideals stressing professional authority and the quality of service defined by the physician, teacher, or case administrator” (Hilton, p. 23).

Hultin (2017) applies Barad (2003, 2007), Latour (1999, 2013), and Orlikowski and Scott (2014), Orlikowski (2007), to address agency in the actions and interactions around change. He aim is to go beyond the traditional humanist view of work actors to an ontological position of posthumanism in which agency is not just attributed to human actors about includes enactments of technology, organizational systems, and includes the temporal conditions of enactment (such as in TQM) (pp. 4-5). Her contribution is to decenter the human actor by focusing on material-discursive conditions of possibilities of performatively enacting change in the Swedish Migration Board (p. 6). Her work is grounded in an ontology of becoming that seeks to move beyond dualistic accounts of human-material relationship. I submit that TQM is just such a dualistic account of human-material realtionality, situated in a humancentric, and Taylor-centric discourse that separates human from material condition. TQM is a dualistic enactment of reality work conditions with operational practices subordinating human potential to quality efficiencies of performativity that is centrally administered.

TQM is an approach that is not about human actors and quality. Rather TQM employs vocabulary and method prescriptions to produce storied accounts that centre human and actors and material-quality-enactances in a world of performativity that enacts people as artefacts, thing-entities, in spatial relationality, temporal control of movement of agency between quality-materiality-actants and human actors. Human and quality-material are assumed in TQM to be separate and distinct, whereas for Barad, these are co-constitutive movements of agential intra-activity.

There is a duality to deconstruct, the human-centric understanding and the material-centric understandings about the world in the enactment of organisational systems, called TQM. A new conceptual vocabulary is needed to get at entanglement of social and material worlds, and ontological assumptions about spacetimemattering inseparability can help reform and resituate TQM.

“In this view, agency is not inherent in or belonging to any one actor, nor does it function in the form of a serial chain of consequences set in motion by an initial face (Barad, 2007). Consequently, agency is not something that can be exercised spatially in relationships among distinct actors, individual or collective. Rather, agency becomes like a temporal flow, always inheriting from previous practices (and imparting to subsequent practices), yet also always subject to the contingent possibilities of the present (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987)” (Hutlin, 2017: 15-16).

Thus, for Hulin the ontology of becoming, like Follett is grounded in WHitehead’s (1929, 1978) process ontology, but she is critical of Latour’s ANT, and instead privileges Baradian ontology of becoming, in her approach to organizational change.

TQM is a performativity that constitutes, rather than fully determining the subject, in the human-material relationships of TQM, technologies and practices (Orlikowski & Scott, 2008; Hutlin, 2017).

TQM’s peculiar sociomateriality is a repetition of work tasks, bodies’ time and motions, in material arrangement and discursive practices of TQM. The processes of quality materialisation stabilise over time, and despite rhetoric about continuous improvement involving everyone (Kaizen) become a static, closed system enactment of socio-technical system assemblages. (Boje & Windsor, 1993). The power-capacity of an assemblage of human actors and nonhuman materialities that is relational, emergent, and shifting is not realised (Orlikowski, 2997: 1438; Hutlin, 2017: 19).

If TQm were to treat social and material as inseparable (rather than distinct, independent spheres) of organizational system life, then posthumanist approach would be forthcoming. TQM is boy material and discursive practices (Barad, 2007: 63). TQM mateiralizes discursive and material practices in places and times, of what Barad calls the “notion of constitutive entanglement” the entertaining of intra-action (Barad, 2003: 816; 2007: ix, as cited in Hutlin, 2017: 20).

In a posthumanist storytelling account of TQM, the human actor and nonhuman actant practices in which human actors do, think, and say in a “circulating flow of agency through material-discursive practices” (Hutlin, 2017: 21). The potential is a TQM where organisation systems’ entanglement is aware of its material-discursive practices, and they entanglement of social with material in enacting organizational system change.

In sum, Hutlin (2017) grounds her study in the sociomateriality literature, in particular in Baradian agential realism, intra-action, of non-human and human elements in the constitution of becoming and meaning.


STEP 1: "What is an observational apparatus? How is TQM an observational apparatust that created particular agential cuts? (i.e. dualities between actors, material actants, planning vs. doing, etc.). Is it the set of observational instruments needed to perform an experiment (such as turning around an organizational system for increased socioeconomic performance)?

"Is it a meditating device that allows the object world to give us a sign of its nature? Is it a prosthetic extension of our sensing abilities? Shall we understand an apparatus in terms of Kantian grids of intelligibility? Aristotelian schemata? Heideggerian background practices? AI thusserian apparatuses? In Foucault's sense of discursive practices or dispositlf (apparatus)? In Butler's sense of the performative? As Latour's inscription or translation devices? Or as Haraway's apparatuses of bodily production? Bohr's notion of an apparatus is unique among these theorizations..." (Barad, 2007: 141).

"Apparatuses are not mere instruments serving as a system of lenses that magnifY and focus our attention on the object world, rather they are laborers that help constitute and are an integral part of the phenomena being investigated" (p. 232).

"Matter is discrete but time is continuous . Nature and culture are split by this continuity and objectivity is secured as externality. We know this story well, it's written into our bones, in many ways we inhabit it and it inhabits us. The quantum disrupts this tidy affair. A bit of a hitch, a tiny disjuncture in the underlying continuum, and causality becomes another matter entirely" (p. 233).

Your task: Explore both the TQM and agential realism approaches and sort out what they can do for one another.


STEP 2: What is Barad's standpoint on Hegel/Marx dialectic? On Latour?

In Barad (2003: 816)apparatuses are contrastes with dialectic: "Apparatuses are not inscription devices, scientific instruments set in place before the action happens, or machines that mediate the dialectic of resistance and accommodation. They are neither neutral probes of the natural world nor structures that deterministically impose some particular outcome. In my further elaboration of Bohr’s insights, apparatuses are not mere static arrangements in the world, but rather apparatuses are dynamic (re)configurings of the world, specific agential practices/intra-actions/performances through which specific exclusionary boundaries are enacted. Apparatuses have no inherent “outside” boundary."

"Some science studies researchers are endorsing Bruno Latour's proposal for a new parliamentary governmental structure that invites nonhumans as well as humans, but what, if anything, does this proposal do to address the kinds of concerns that feminist, queer, postcolonial, (post-)­ Marxist, and critical race theorists and activists have brought to the table?" (Barad, 2007: 58).

"In particular, Foucault eschews Marxist treatments of ideology and false consciousness as well as humanist accounts that make reference to the intentionality of a unified subject, giving power an interior location within the consciousness of a subject whose interests are taken to be self-transparent. Indeed, Foucault cuts through the agency-structure dualism held in place by the clash between phenomenology and structuralism" (p. 63).

"If Foucoult, in queering Marx, positions the body as the locus of productive forces , the site where the large-scale organization of power links up with local practices, then it would seem that any robust theory of the materialization of bodies would necessarily take account of how the body's materiality (including, for example, its anatomy and physiology) and other material forces as well (including nonhuman ones) actively matter to the processes of materialization" (pp. 64-65).

STEP 3: What is Agential Realism? (go deeped into this construct)

"Agential realism is an epistemological and ontological framework that cuts across many of the well-worn oppositions that circulate in traditional realism versus constructivism, agency versus structure, idealism versus materialism, and poststructuralism versus Marxism debates" (p. 225).

"At the same time, agential realism's reconceptualization of materiality diverges from traditional Marxist conceptions of materiality as strictly economic, and from some post-Marxist conceptualizations that understand it as purely social. Agential realism advances a new materialist understanding of naturalcultural practices that cuts across these well-worn divides" (p. 226).

How does the quantum figure into agential realism? "Matter is discrete but time is continuous . Nature and culture are split by this continuity and objectivity is secured as externality. We know this story well, it's written into our bones, in many ways we inhabit it and it inhabits us. The quantum disrupts this tidy affair. A bit of a hitch, a tiny disjuncture in the underlying continuum, and causality becomes another matter entirely" (p. 234).

"Crucially, agency is a matter of intra-acting; it is an enactment, not something that someone or something has. Agency is doing/being in its intraactivity. It is the enactment of iterative changes to particular practices-iterative reconfigurings of topological manifolds of spacetimematter relationsthrough the dynamics ofintra-activity. Agency is about changing possibilities of change entailed in reconfiguring material-discursive apparatuses ofbodily production, including the boundary articulations and exclusions that are marked by those practices in the enactment of a causal structure" (p. 235).

STEP 4: Search out and review Leela Fernandes's work in Barad (2007, chapter 6).

Fernandes, Leela. 1997. Producing Workers: The Politics of Gender, Class, and Culture in the Calcutta jute Mills. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Barad diffractively reads Fernandes 's notion of the structural-discursive relations of power and an agential realist understanding of materialdiscursive relations of power through each other. Her ressearch question: "Why did the economic crisis in the Indian jute industry in result in the differential displacement of women from the jute labor force?" (Barad, p. 227).

Contrast Fernandes study with TQM appraoch to same case.


  1. In what sense are structural relations produced and what does this production entail?

  2. What is the nature of the processes that ''shape" these relations?

  3. What is the relationship between the material and discursive dimensions of power relations?

  4. How are we to understand the nature of power dynamics? Of materiality?

"Fernandes argues that "when unions and male workers engage in this reproduction of asymmetrical gender relations, they in fact produce a scattered array of local practices and discourses that maintain the national hegem onic construction of class. In this process, they do not merely use preexisting gendered ideologies but also actively manufacture gender through the creation of particular notions of masculinity and femininity" that wind up reinforcing the powers of management and undermining attempts by the unions to successfully intervene in certain class-based-always already gendered-practices of management (Fernandes 1 997, 74)" (Barad, 2007: 237).

"She [Fernandes] does so not to show the continuing relevance of orthodox Marxist analysis, or simply because this kind of analysis is relevant to what seems to be "old" and not just to what seems to be "new," but because part ofwhat is at stake is the reworking of temporality beyond the usual divisions between the premodern, modern, and postmodern, that is, beyond any developmental sense of temporality.29 On the other hand, Fernandes's study is also limited in important ways. For starters, Fernandes's genealogies are less attentive to important natural cultural forces beyond the "bounds" of the factory than what is needed in rethinking questions of scale and the topological reconfigurings that rework the terms of the local and the global... Fernandes notes that in this situation the "unions produced a form of working-class politics that was constructed through caste politics" (p. 242).

"Fernandes uses the spatial positioning of workers on the shop floor as a material marker of the structural dimensions of class.1" She cleverly focuses on the material constraints that restrict the positioning and constrain the movement of workers throughout the factory rather than attempting to capture a single deterministic trajectory of power" (p. 236).

"Hence, using the framework of agential realism, the jute mill can be understood as an intra-acting multiplicity of material-discursive apparatuses of bodily production that are themselves phenomena materializing through iterative intra-actions among workers, management, machines, and other materials and beings which are enfolded into these apparatuses. Importantly, materiality is rethought as a contingent and contested, constrained but not fully determined, process of iterative intra-activity through which material-discursive practices come to matter, rather than as mere brute positivity or some purified notion of the economic" (p. 237).

"Fernandes does not merely track the position of workers on the grid of the shop floor as a Newtonian physicist tracks the successive positions of an object in space; rather, she traces the dynamic contested production of the spatiality of the shop floor" (footnote 18, p. 450)


5. What is the SPATIALITY, TEMPORALITY, AND FUTURITY in Fernandes jute plant study?

Note how different it is from the TQM world of Green & Rosemann (2000).

"Material conditions matter, not because they "support" or "sustain" or "mediate" particular discourses that are the actual generative factors in the formation of subjects, but because both discourses and matter come to matter through processes of materialization and the iterative enfolding of phenomena into apparatuses of bodily production" (Barad, 2007: p. 244).


"What is needed are genealogies of the material-discursive apparatuses of production that take account of the intra-active topological dynamics that iteratively reconfigure the spacetimematter manifold" (p. 246).

How does this apply to TQM systems theory?

Barad, K. (2011). Nature's queer performativity. Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences19(2), 25-53. Available for free online. There are several important terms to sort out in this quote (p. 32, boldness of key terms, mine).

"Phenomena are entanglements of spacetimemattering, not in the colloquial sense of a connection or intertwining of individual entities, but rather in the technical sense of 'quantum entanglements', which are the (ontological) inseparability of agentially intra-acting “components”. The notion of intra-action (in contrast to the usual 'interaction', which presumes the prior existence of independent entities/relata) marks an important shift, reopening and refiguring foundational notions of classical ontology such as causality, agency, space, time, matter, discourse, responsibility, and accountability. A specific intra-action enacts an agential cut (in contrast to the Cartesian cut – an inherent distinction – between subject and object) effecting a separation between 'subject' and 'object' ” (Barad, 2011: 32, boldness of key terms, mine).

In relational process ontology, organizational systems are in spacetimemattering, in quantum entanglements and an intra-action of discourse with materiality. Our observational apparatus make certain agential cuts. "Iterative intra-activity configures and reconfigures entanglements. Entanglements are not the interconnectedness of things or events separated in space and time" (Barad, 2011: 41).

Barad (2011: 44, boldness of terms, mine) proposes "an agential realist ontology, or what one might call a “quantum ontology”, based on the existence of phenomena rather than of independently existing things (Barad 2007). These performatively materializing entanglements of spacetimemattering are able to account for the causally complex performances we have considered here."

This is a veritable revolution on organizational systems theory thinking, She points the way to research with a quantum ontology entanglements, and a praxis of agential realist approaches to spacetimemattering. Specifically, Barad (46-47, bracket addition, mine) is asking "how different [agential] cuts matter in the reiterative intra-activity of worlding, that is, of the entanglements of spacetimematterings" in organizational systems. Each agential cut we make your observational apparatus as researchers and as practitioners "enacts a 'local' resolution within the phenomenon of the inherent ontological indeterminacy" (Barad, 2011: 32). Agential cuts we make are re-con-figuring organizational systems. Agental cuts are form Žižek, and for me, dialectical, not separating entities entirely, not arriving at some synthesis. Rather, "Agential cuts radically rework relations of joining and disjoining" (Barad, 2007: 46). Orlikowski and Scott (2015 and Linda Putman (2015) are also attempting to unpack the dialectic in Barad's agential realism ontology.

Orlikowski, W. J., & Scott, S. V. (2015). Exploring Material‐Discursive Practices. Journal of management studies52(5), 697-705. Available online for free. Orlikowski and Scott are undialectic.

"Drawing on Barad's (2007) agential realism, we view materiality as constitutively entangled with discourse in practice, not separate from, prior to, or distinct from discourse and practice. The implication of this for management and organizational research is that instead of framing our studies in terms of interaction – how two separate entities shape each other – we focus on (material) enactment and concern ourselves with detailing how specific materializations of discourse make a difference in practice, and with what performative consequences."

Unpacking the Dialectic: Alternative Views on the Discourse–Materiality Relationship (pages 706–716) Linda L. Putnam (2015 Journal of management studies52(5). Putnam takes the counterpoint, favoring dialectic.

"Rather than cast the two as a dualism, this paper focuses on ways that ‘discourse and materiality are constituted in a dialectical relationship to each other’ (Mumby, 2011, p. 1149). The overall goal is to move scholarship beyond either a competing or an undifferentiated complimentary relationship between the two constructs (Phillips and Oswick, 2012)... A dialectical stance urges scholars to focus on the interplay of the two over time and to avoid treating materiality as prior to discourse, folding it into discourse, or positioning it as a semiotic or language-based sign."

In her final Note, Putnam says "This approach differs from Hegelian views of dialectics which focus on thesis and antithesis with synthesis as a new form that emerges to resolve the struggle between the two poles. It also differs from Marxian dialectical theory rooted in material production. Instead, it is grounded in Bakhtin's (1981) notions that all social processes are ‘contradiction-ridden, tension-filled … embattled tendencies between the forces of unity (centripetal) and the forces of difference (centrifugal)’ (Baxter and Montgomery, 1996, p. 25). The ongoing interplay between these forces are both social and material, rooted in time and space, and aimed at embracing the ‘both–and’ of opposite poles."

Please question the idea that Hegel is the simple model of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. He does not use the term synthesis in his 1807 Phenomenology of Spirit book. If anything, my read is that Hegel is arguing against synthesis, and is positing something far more interesting, the ongoing negation of negation, as more contradictions arise in both thesis and antithesis. Hegel (1820, § 65) Philosophy of Right mentions synthesis only once:

"Alienation is the synthesis of Positive and negative; it is negative in that it involves spurning the thing altogether; it is positive because it is only a thing completely mine which I can so spurn."

Barad, Karen. (2003). "Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter." Signs, Vol. 28.3: 801-831. This article has material discursive practices which are developed in Orlikowski and Scott, and others' work.

Barad, K. (2011). Nature's queer performativity. Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences19(2), 25-53. Available for free online. There are several important terms to sort out in this quote (p. 32, boldness of key terms, mine).

For Barad ‘social’ and ‘material’ are in an inseparable entanglement, ‘intra-activity’ rather than an interaction of separate entities.  Barad eschews Hegelian or any dialectic, but Žižek (2014) in his opus work on Hegel, reviews Barad’s agential realism standpoint, and makes some wiggle room for a dialectic of materiality with discourse.

FINAL STEP: look at how Bardian work is being done in contemporary organization systems studies, such as work by Wanda Orlikowski?

Orlikowski and Scott are ones who have applied Baradian most to organizational systems:

Orlikowski, W. J. (2002). “Knowing in Practice: Enacting a Collective Capability in Distributed Organizing,” Organization Science (13:3), pp. 249-273.

Orlikowski, W. J. (2005). “Material Works: Exploring the Situated Entanglement of Technological Performativity and Human Agency,” Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems (17:1),
pp. 183-186.

Orlikowski, W. J. (2006). “Material Knowing: The Scaffolding of Human Knowledgeability,” European Journal of Information Systems (15:5), pp. 460-466.

Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). “Sociomaterial Practices: Exploring Technology at Work,” Organization Studies (28:9), pp. 1435-1448.

Orlikowski, W. J. (2010). “The Sociomateriality of OrganizationalLife: Considering Technology in Management Research,” Cambridge Journal of Economics (34:1), pp. 125-141.

Orlikowski, W. J., and Iacono, C. S. (2001). “Research Commentary: Desperately Seeking the ‘IT’ in IT Research—A Call to Theorizing the IT Artifact,” Information Systems Research (12:2), pp. 121-134.

Orlikowski, W. J., and Scott, S. V. (2008). "Sociomateriality: Challenging the Separation of Technology, Work and Organization,"The Academy of Management Annals (2:1), pp. 433-474.

Orlikowski, W. J., and Scott, S. V. (2013). “Knowledge Eclipse: Producing Sociomaterial Reconfigurations in the Hospitality Sector,” in How Matter Matters: Objects, Artifacts, and Materiality in Organization Studies, P. R. Carlile, D. Nicolini, A. Langley, and H. Tsoukas (eds.), Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 119-141.

Orlikowski, W. J., & Scott, S. V. (2015). Exploring Material‐Discursive Practices. Journal of management studies52(5), 697-705.

Scott, S. V., and Orlikowski W. J. 2012. “Great Expectations: The Materiality of Commensurability in Social Media,” in Materiality and Organizing: Social Interaction in a Technological World, P. M. Leonardi, B. A. Nardi, and J. Kallinikos (eds.), Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 113-133.

Scott, S. V., and Orlikowski, W. J. 2013. “Sociomateriality: Taking the Wrong Turning? A Response to Mutch,” Information and Organization (23), pp. 77-80.

Scott, S. V., and Orlikowski, W. J. 2014. “Entanglements in Practice: Performing Anonymity Through Social Media,” MIS Quarterly (38:3), pp. 863-893.

See recent work by Hultin, L., & Mähring, M. (2017). How practice makes sense in healthcare operations: Studying sensemaking as performative, material-discursive practice. Human Relations, 2017, Vol. 70(5) 566–590.

Hultin, L., & Mähring, M. (2014). Visualizing institutional logics in sociomaterial practices. Information and Organization24(3), 129-155. Click for pdf.


Baradian relational process ontology has been applied in Strand's work on Material Storytelling

Strand, A. M. C. (2012). Enacting the Between. On dis/continuous intra-active becoming of/through an Apparatus of Material Storytelling. Book 2:'How to build an Oasis with a good conscience'-organizational becoming through an Apparatus of Material Storytelling.; BOOK1; BOOK2

Jorgensen, K., Strand, A., & Boje, D. (2013). Towards a Postcolonial-storytelling Theory of Management and Organisation. Philosophy of Management12(1), 43-66.

Sociomateriality is a cutting edge approach to complex systems theory that is taking hold in organization studies. Barad villifies Heisenberg and prefers Neils Bohr's work on quantum mechanics, and labels Heisenberg an epistemologist (a supreme insult if you are an ontologist).

Feminist Theory Workshop Keynote - Karen Barad
Duke Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies
Feminist Theory Workshop Keynote - Karen Barad: Re-membering the Future, Re(con)figuring the Past: Temporality, Materiality, ...

As an intra-action, a system is intra-activity of 'non-human' (including technology, tools, equipment, Nature's animals molecules, plants, atoms, subatomic prticles) and 'human' actors (including human bodies, discourses of politics, administration, economics, systems thinking, news channels, and so on). Systems are made and unmade through 'material' with 'social' intra-action processes and co-constituitive socialmaterial agencies, making and unmaking differences. Matter is produced in these sociomaterial intra-actions. Ontologically intra-activity is in space, in time, and in mattering. However, for Barad these phenomena are inseparable, and therefore the term 'spactimemattering' is used. Organization systems are threfore intra-actions in spacetimemattering of materials, discourses, and resultant subject positions. Agency (responsiblity) is distributed among the distrutive constituents of complex adaptive organizational systems. Organizational systems are sociomateriality in action is about agency, reconfiguring, doing and Being in spacetimemattering. The materiality and the humanity do not exist seperately, as in a representational systems paradigm (such as the so-called' open systems model: Inputs-Throughput-Output-Feedback loops).Rather than a separation modol of humans and materialtiy, the organizational system emerges from the inseparability of their con-constituitive intra-action. This is a radical paradigm shift in systems thinking that means giving up cause-effect models of relationships, giving up individual-only human agency, and giving up the duality between 'subject' and 'object.' In what I call 'systemicity' the organization system is not predetermined. Rather systemicity means the systems are always changing, unfolding, making and unmaking, unfinalized, and in unmergedness. Baradian quantum understanding of systemicity calls into quesiton systems thinking about borders between systems and environment, boundaries, and traditional thinking aobut boundary spanning roles of human actors.It calls into questions spatiality of systems separated from temporalizing (especially preblematizes linear time models of system develoment), and separations from mattering. Rather organizational systemicities are in spacetimemattering. For a three Minute intro to Baradian intra-activity, please see

Barad is opposed to Heisenberg in your YouTubes and writing, and privileges Neils Bohr.

Heisenberg, Werner. (1958). Physics and Philosophy.

(Silfe, Wagner and others) argues that social and material (especially info tech) are independent and seperable in organization systems. See Slife 2004; Wagner et al. 2011, Wagner et al. 2010 as cited in Cecez-Kecmanovic et al., 2014: 809).

Cecez-Kecmanovic, D., Galliers, R. D., Henfridsson, O., Newell, S., & Vidgen, R. (2014). The sociomateriality of information systems: current status, future directions. Mis Quarterly, 38(3), 809-830.

Slife, B. D. 2004. “Taking Practice Seriously: Toward a Relational Ontology,” Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (24:2), pp. 157-178.

Wagner, E. L., Newell, S. M., and Moll, J. 2011. “Accounting Logics, Reconfiguration of ERP Systems & the Emergence of New Accounting Practices: A Sociomaterial Perspective,”Management Accounting Research (22), pp. 181-197.

Wagner, E. L., Newell, S. M., and Piccoli, G. 2010. “Understanding Project Survival in an ES Environment: A Sociomaterial Practice Perspective,” Journal of the Association for Information Systems (11:5), pp. 276-298.

Wanda Orlikowski and Susan Scott applied Baradian ontology to organization systems (Orlikowski 2007, 2010; Orlikowski and Scott 2008). Their work has fostered a counter-ontology approach called ‘Substantialism’  (Slife 2004). In rebutal to Barard there is a Substantialism ontology that argues that social and material (especially information technologies) are independent and separable in organization systems. See Slife 2004; Wagner et al. 2011, Wagner et al. 2010; see special issue edited by Cecez-Kecmanovic et al., 2014: 809). Substantialism is 180 degrees opposite to Baradian ontology, and is unrecognizable in Deleuzian ontology.