Here are three new publications from DMan faculty members published this month:
Commons and Lords: a Short Anthropology of Parliament – Emma Crewe
The House of Commons: an Anthropology of MPs at Work – Emma Crewe
Managing in Uncertainty: Complexity and the Paradoxes of Everyday Organisational Life – Chris Mowles
The following is the text of a talk given by Chris Mowles at the University of Hertfordshire on Friday Feb 13th as part of the MBA Masterclass series.
In this talk I try to cover four things:
I address why I think there is a problem with much contemporary management theory and explain why I think it is necessary to argue against what is taken to be common sense in management.
I introduce paradox and explain its roots in philosophy and point to how it manifests itself in the complexity sciences, as an alternative to some of the simplified assumptions and dualisms in much contemporary management theory.
I give some examples of how paradox manifests itself in everyday organisational life.
And finally I suggest some implications for managers for taking paradox seriously for what they might find themselves doing at work.
Why against common sense?
I am using the title of this talk, against common sense, to make a general critique of what we might think of as the majority literature on management, but also to highlight the meaning of the word paradox, from the Greek para doxa, or against what people ordinarily hold to be true. In using the term ‘majority literature’, I am not trying to suggest that all management literature suggests the same thing, or that all business schools teach the subject uncritically (this is certainly not the case at the University of Hertfordshire and on the MBA, for example). There is a flourishing substantial minority critical tradition in management theory.
But overwhelmingly, orthodox management journals and books assume that managers are in control, can predict and design organisational futures and organisational culture, can purpose transformation and innovation. Even when the majority literature identifies contradiction or paradox as a phenomenon, it argues that managers can control this too, often suggesting that paradox can be ‘unleashed’ for the creative good of the organisation, or can be brought into dynamic balance.[i] Continue reading
Conference theme: Exploring our experience of everyday politics in organisations
How do we negotiate degrees of freedom with each other in what we can increasingly experience as regimes of disciplinary power in organisational life? How do grand schemes for whole-organisation transformation play out in every day relationships between people?
This conference will invite participants to discuss and reflect upon the every day politics of getting things done together, noticing the negotiations, compromises and improvisations which are necessary to take the next step.
Between now and then we will be posting further reflections on the topic on this the Complexity and Management blog.
The key note speakers this year are Svend Brinkmann, who is Professor in general psychology and qualitative methods as well as Co-director of the Center for Qualitative Studies, and Professor Patricia Shaw, co-founder of the Doctor of Management programme at UH and currently working at Schumacher College. Here is Svend’s profile page at Aalborg university http://personprofil.aau.dk/117579?lang=en and here is Patricia Shaw’s at Schumacher College: http://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/teachers/patricia-shaw .
The conference will be informal and highly participative, as in previous years. The conference fee includes accommodation and food and will be held at Roffey Park Institute in the UK: http://www.roffeypark.com
The booking page on the university website will be set up in the New Year.
A more detailed agenda will follow, but the conference begins with a drinks reception @7pm on Friday 5th June and ends after lunch Sunday 7th June 2015.
Participants wishing to set up a particular themed discussion in a working group during the conference should contact Chris Mowles: email@example.com
While a number of posts on this blog have been dedicated to calling in to question the claims of contemporary management theory to enable managers to predict the future, there can be no doubt that much of it is dedicated to controlling employees. Or rather, there are always new developments in management theory aimed at increasing organizational efficiency and effectiveness but which have the effect of disorienting employees and keeping them permanently on the hop. Management theory is replete with suggestions for dividing, atomising, reorganising and scrutinising employees whilst denying them time to sit together to make sense of what is going on. In fact, usually they are discouraged from doing so: it is quite common to find people expressing antipathy towards meetings which might turn into ‘talking shops’, or alternatively sense-making opportunities may be described as a ‘luxury’ which the organisation cannot afford. Of course, I am not recommending that people spend more time in meetings simply for the sake of it, but I am always interested when people I am working with tell me that they don’t have the time to think about what’s going on. Continue reading