Discursive opening and closing in organizational self-study: Culture as trap and tool in wildland firefighting safety

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This article describes the practice of organizational self-study and examines its potential to create "discursive openings" in systematically distorted communication, particularly when members engage new discourses to investigate subjective and objective features of their own organizational lives. It investigates a recent self-study undertaken by the US Forest Service to diagnose and solve safety issues in wildland firefighting. The analysis reveals how engaging a new discourse allowed firefighters to imagine a new culture where they would be encouraged to think rather than just obey rules. But certain discursive closure moves reinforced the constitutive steering medium of bureaucratically managed safety rules, and potentially thwarted cultural change hoped for by organizational members and demanded by legitimating third parties.