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 RPO12 - Henri Savall's Socioeconomics, Qualimetrics, & Tetranormalizing


Henri Savall's dialectic (1975/2010: 27) is a system-wide approach to organization-environment internvention research. "A socioeconomic perspective reintroduces an ontic economics as part of a new dialectic to question the inevitability of speculative markets" (Boje & Hillon, 2017: 12). Savall's socioeconomic appraoch is to take sociotechnical systems theory and put it into a Hegelian dialectic (Savall, 1975/2010: p. 202) by the sublimaiton to the sociotechnical (intrinsic/extrinisic working conditons) into a higher order socioeconomics (internal & external environment) relationship and process ontology.In simple terms, Savall thought the sociotechnical systems theory of the 1970s was a partial understanding of organizaitonal enviornment systems. Savall, when I interviewed him, said he is definitely not Marxist in his dialectic, however, I do find traces of Hegelian dialectic in his work, which he has, like others we have studied, revised. Savall does not often mention dialectic after this early work written in 1975, then revised in 2010. Another dialectic developed is in Savall and Zardet (2011) Qualimetrics, the dialectic between qualitative and quantitative organizaitonal systems research.

Figure 1 - Savall's depiction of Socioeconomic Dialectics (1975/2010: p. 205).

Savall, Henri. (1975/2010). Work and People: An Economic Evaluation of Job-Enrichment. 1975 book "Enrichir le trvail human dans les enterprises et les organizations". 2010 English version is Translated from Freench by M. A. Woodhall. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Next I combine the chart above (p. 205) with one depicting socio-technical system (p. 129). Chart 129 is a venn diagram with 4 intersecting circles (individual psychology, (inter-)group, organization behavior, & technology management). Below I show how chart 129 can be combined with the figure on p. 205.

combo of chart 129 with chart 205 in Savall 1975 2010

Figure 2: Combining Socio-Technical-System within an Economic System together with individual, group, organizaiton, and management technology systems (Boje's adaptation of Savall (1975/2010: pp. 129, 205) charts, © D. M. Boje, 2017)

At center is socio-technical-systems, where the 4 circles overlap together.  What is important here is that Savall, being an economist, began to to critical of socio-technical systems (STS) ignoring the socioeconomic entanglements, and reducing organizational systems to just individual psychology, group (inter-group) systems, and managed technology systems. The result is socioeconomic systems get reduced to socio-technical systems.

What I think can do is investigate the connection between these 2 charts, so we can initiate a conversational interview with Henri Savall on where this might lead, in terms of the double spiral.  On p. 205, Savall speaks of the explosive spiral that expands (what I call centrifugal force) and the implosive spiral that centers (what I call centripetal force).  The diagram has one set of these two forces that go in same direction and another spiral force set where the two forces are in opposite direction to each other.  This, to me, is the socioeconomic that would entangle and contextualize the p. 129 4 circles of sociotechnical systems.

The socio-economic double spiral is thus the explosive-centrifugual spiral in opposition or alignment with the implosive-centripetal spiral of organization in its economic environment of economic resources, economic products (& services), and situated in spacetime of sociomateriality (see Boje, 2016 Organizational Change & Global Standardization).

Another kind of dialectic is developed in Qualimetrics, the integration of qulitative and metrics.

Savall, H., & Zardet, V. (Eds.). (2011). The Qualimetrics Approach: Observing the complex object. IAP.

Boje, D. M. (2003) Qualimetrics Contributions to Research Methodology: Preface to RECHERCHE EN SCIENCES DE GESTION: OBSERVER L'OBJET COMPLEXE APPROACHE QUALIMETRIQUE by Henri Savall and Ve?Lronique Zardet, Lyon 3 & ISEOR, June 19, 2003; Revised June 26, 2003

Boje, David M., & Hillon, Yue C. (2017). The Fifth Epoch: Socio-Economic Approach to Sustainable Capitalism. Markets, Globalization & Development Review2(1): 1=20. Click here for online pdf.

Boje, D. M. (2016). SEAM’s ‘Storytelling Dialectical Method’and the Failure of Appreciative Inquiry as a Scientific Method of Organizational Development and Change. Click here for pdf of paper. Here is an excerpt from Boje (2016):

"There are three kinds of relations of positive thesis to negative antithesis in Hegel’s (1807/1977) Phenomenology of Spirit. For ease of presentation, I will call them Alpha, Beta, and Gamma in Lyon, France:

ALPHA NEGATIVITY First type is a negative that fails to account for the positive within some negative content. A good example is Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which pursues only positive stories within organization content and its diagnosis and intervention, but fails to see that the negative story has its positive aspects. SEAM, by contrast, puts great stock in negative stories of dysfunctions, proceeding to calculate the dollar amount of their hidden costs, and using that to convince client to recover those hidden costs by designing intervention projects. In its Alpha Negativity, AI fails to see the ‘negative’ in its own process as a shadow side, such as forcing people tell positive stories is itself quite hegemonic, a way to dominate discourse, and those who bring up any negative content are punished or asked to leave (see Boje, 2010; Fitzgerald, Oliver, & Hoxsey, 2010).

BETA NEGATIVITY SEAM, by contrast, is doing the second type of negative, where each negative (each dysfunction) has a movement of positive content (possible ways to produce value-added spaces, times, structures, behaviors, etc.) when considered in the whole process or System of negative (dysfunctions) and positive reclaiming of hidden costs to produce untapped revenue potential from untapped human resource development, technology investments, structural and behavioral changes, value added time management, strategic implementation, and so on. SEAM keeps digging deeper, under the surface of the Income Statement, down into the depth of dysfunctions, to find exactly where positive content can be calculated, and realized.

GAMMA NEGATIVITY This third type of negative, Hegel (1807/1977: p. 36) calls “ratiocinative thinking.” It is defined here as a skilled and methodological process of Reasoning in which there is a back-and-forth rhythm Spirit’s movement of meter and accent between positive and negative. It is this rhythm aspect of Hegel’s dialectic, its working its self-movement out in space, time, and matter (to be more accurate, in spacetimemattering that is inseparability) that we want to focus on here" (Boje, 2016: p. 6-7).

Boje's figure on Hegelian Systemicity Dialectic © 2010

Figure 3- Hegelian Dialectics of Systemicity © 2010 D. M. Boje (p. 10)

Savall is not a traditional economist. He does not support the classic supply and emand economics of labor and technology subsitutions. Nor, is he a fan of speculation economics which he determines is responsible for taking away investment in the productive economy of organizational systems that have positive working conditions in stable economy. His dissertation and subsequent economic theory is rooted in the work of German Bonacer, a contemporary of Joseph Schumpeter and John Maynard Keynes. Savall believes that speculative capitalism is unsustainable, and results in one socioeconomic crisis after another.

Savall, H., & Peron, Michel. (2016). Socially Responsible Capitalism. London: Routledge. (No. hal-01140272).

Boje's Preface to Saval and Peron (2016). “Global Capitalism is Unsustainable". Click here for pdf And click here for the final version of the Preface

The External environment and Inrinsice/Extrinsic 'Working Conditions' are in dialectical realtionships:

"Our classification, which is of necessity an arbitrary one, does not however exclude the reciprocal and dyanmic relationshisp, and hence dialectic relationships, which exist between all these elements The three categories of conditions [external environment, extrinsic working conditions, and intrinsic working conditions] as a whole constitute an evolutive system in which the internal composition and balance depend on the possibility of carrying out the adjustments necessary for its stability" (p. 27).

Savall seeks a form of job design that is dialectically compatible with both technology and humanization of work, and the dialectic between internal working conditions and the external environment

"It is also possible to lay out a sequental development process based on the dialectical relationship between technology and job design" (p. 143).

"... we approach the dialectic between the economic advantages and the extraeconomic psycho-socialogical advantages" (p. 147).

Savall's study of Renault corporation workers:

"In this way our didactic and (of necessity) dichotomous representations of the various forms or sources of propagation must not all one to forget didlectic interrelations, such as, between workers' actions (strikes) and public opinion" (p. 200).

Savall's organization-environment complex and evolutive [dialectic] system:

"But who should undertake to change the structures? Could it be one single decision-maker who, by himself, would be totally free to choose from amongst different possiblities or should it be a complex system of 'gread-off' or dialectical decision" (p. 203).

Savall's objective is to wrap socioeconomics around the traditional "socio-technical approch of the Travistock Institute" that for hom id not bring change to the whole organization-environment dialectic (p. 204).

"If, within the general approach, we admit that, at some point, the search for economic efficiency constitutes the dynamic prioncple underlying the dialectics of progress (after all, unions, enterpreises, and the government all wish to reduce unemployment and to increase production and profits), then we must demonstratie scientifically and not only accorrding to a simple metaphysical scheme vaguely and abstractedly assed that: a change of structure is desirable and possible (here, we mean an improvement of working conditions); when this change occurs, it brings social efficiency and economic effiiciendy, or at least it does nto spoil economic efficiency" (p. 204).

There are other Savallian dialectics such as with aulimetrics, a dialectic of qualitative and quantiative (metrics) which he ironically calls 'seamless.' I ahve been teaching Scoioeconomics for over 14 years, going most very summers to learn mre by teaching a course doing a conference presentation or keynote in Lyon III hosted conferences.


To begin please, see studyguides and images at


Boje, D. M. & G. A. Rosile. (2003) Comparison of Socio-Economic and other transorganizational development methods. Journal of Organizational Change Management. Special issue Socio-Economic Approach to Management, Henri Savall (Guest Editor).  Vol. 16 (1): 10-20. The purpose of this article is to compare and contrast the socio-economic approach to management (SEAM) with 15 large system change methods. All 16 of these methods are part of the transorganizational development (TD) gameboard (see the Web site at Based on this comparison, the paper suggests that SEAM is broader-based, more integrative, and more postmodern (more multi-vocal and power-conscious) than most other TD methodologies.socioeconomic dialectic © D M Boje

Boje, D. M. & G. A. Rosile (2003). Theatrics of SEAM. Journal of Organizational Change Management. Special issue Socio-Economic Approach to Management, Henri Savall (Guest Editor). Vol. 16 (1): 21-32.  Pre-publication PDF of this article; Workshop manual at OF SEAM 27JUNE02.DOC

For more SEAM at more particular understanding, next:

Boje, D. M. (2003) Qualimetrics Contributions to Research Methodology: Preface to RECHERCHE EN SCIENCES DE GESTION: OBSERVER LOBJET COMPLEXE APPROACHE QUALIMETRIQUE by Henri Savall and Ve?Lronique Zardet, Lyon 3 & ISEOR, June 19, 2003; Revised June 26, 2003


Savall, Henri, Zardet, Veronique, & Bonnet, Marc. (2008). Releasing the Untapped Potential of Enterprises Through Socio-Economic Management. ISBN 978-2-917078-12-9 2nd Revised edition, 2008 London: International Labor Organization and Socio Economic Institute of Firms and Organizations.

Worley, C. G., Zardet, V., Bonnet, M., & Savall, A. (2015). Becoming Agile: How the SEAM Approach to Management Builds Adaptability. John Wiley & Sons.

Savall, H., & Zardet, V. (2008). Mastering hidden costs and socio-economic performance. IAP.

Savall, Henri. (1975/2010). Work and People: An Economic Evaluation of Job-Enrichment. Translated from the French by M. A. Woodhall. A volume in Research in Management consulting. Series Editor: Anthony F. Bruno Charlotte, NC: Information Age Press.

For Current work on SEAM:

Savall, H., & Peron, Michel. (2016). Socially Responsible Capitalism. London: Routledge. (No. hal-01140272).

Boje's Preface to Saval and Peron (2016). “Global Capitalism is Unsustainable". Click here for pdf And click here for the final version of the Preface

David M. Boje and Yue Cai Hillon. (2017). "The Fifth Epoch: Socio-Economic Approach to Sustainable Capitalism" (MS #1029) has been published to Markets, Globalization & Development Review, Vol 2 (2), online. Abstract The purpose of this conceptual essay is to challenge the inevitability of living with the destructive beast of speculative market economics in the 4th epoch of global capitalism. We are facing an existential socioecological threat from the short-term excesses of financial capitalism, a socially irresponsible form that consumes without producing value and without bearing entrepreneurial risk, benefitting only the few. The fate of roughly 90% of humanity hangs in the balance. The primary contribution of this paper proposes a 5th epoch of capitalism, inspired by Savall and Zardet’s socio-economic and sustainable approach that restores human potential and value creation to spacetimemattering. Applying their conceptual innovation moves capitalism to a Bernácer-Perroux economic universe, with a different curvature capable of reconfiguring organizational story spacetime and resituating the antenarrative of global capitalism. Keywords Capitalism, socio-economic, sustainable, human potential. Direct link