Invoking “Alphonse”: the Role of the Founder Figure in Organizational Identity Work
Abstract: There has been growing interest in the role of time and history in the evolution of organizational identity. Yet, the role of the founder figure in organizational strategy and identity discourse has not been the specific focus of systematic research despite its potential importance in achieving legitimacy for strategic initiatives, and in orienting and potentially constraining strategy development. The present study investigates these issues for the case of the Desjardins Group, a large financial cooperative. We draw on archival data from an internal magazine between 1935 and 2015 to understand how and with what effects the founder figure is brought to life in organizational identity discourse. We show in particular how invocations of the founder are mobilized to discursively construct continuity in the context of major organizational change.