The role of analogy and metaphor in the framing and legitimization of strategic change

J.P. Cornelissen, R. Holt, M. Zundel

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Strategic change initiatives disrupt established categories of stakeholder understanding and typically present a problem of justifying and legitimizing the change to stakeholders in order to gain their buy-in and support. While it has been suggested that the analogical or metaphorical framing of strategic changes is crucial in that it fosters understanding and creates legitimacy for the change, we set out to specify the conditions and uses of analogical and metaphorical framing in effecting support for strategic changes. Specifically, we argue that (a) analogies are more effective in the context of additive changes, whereas metaphors are more apt for substitutive changes, and that (b) relational analogies and metaphors are generally more effective in securing support for strategic changes, as opposed to analogies or metaphors that highlight common attributes. We also argue that the overall effectiveness of analogies and metaphors in the framing of a change is furthermore dependent on (c) the degree to which these frames are culturally familiar to stakeholders and (d) the extent to which they connect with the prior motivations of stakeholders. © The Author(s) 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1701-1716
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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