Changing Times for Digitalization: The Multiple Roles of Temporal Shifts in Enabling Organizational Change

Jonas Söderlund*, Sofia Pemsel

*Corresponding author for this work

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Shifting an organization’s temporal order can be a key mechanism for accomplishing organizational change, but it is also fundamentally problematic: instead of helping an organization accomplish change, it may simply reinforce an already failing course of action. Our current understanding of the roles that temporal shifts play in enabling organizational change is inconclusive in terms of when and how temporal shifts contribute to the success of organizational change. We exploit an in-depth case study of a new digitalized design approach implemented at Advanced Construction to demonstrate how a temporal shift can increase temporal awareness, among organizational members, of the salient and differing temporalities involved. In this case, the increased temporal awareness facilitated improved temporal coordination, which in turn figured prominently in making actual change possible. Our study identifies three complementary roles of change-inducing temporal shifts—namely, in connection with past experience, current activities, and future directions. Thus, we develop a deeper understanding of the relation between temporal shifts and organizational change while offering a novel account of how the establishment of a temporal zone harbors those three roles of temporal shifts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)871-902
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: March 18, 2021.


  • Organizational change
  • Temporality
  • Temporal shifts
  • Temporary organizations
  • Case study

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