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The meaning professionals give to management... and strategy

journal contribution
posted on 2009-06-18, 13:24 authored by John McAuley, Joanne Duberley, Laurie Cohen
The relationship between professionals and the organizations in which they work has been seen over the years as problematic. There is literature which suggests that the type of organization in which they work and are allowed to flourish is the quintessential form of organization for our times. There is also literature which suggests that professionals are reluctant, idiosyncratic members of the organizations in which they work, related to this perspective, there is literature which suggests that they are essentially placed in reactive mode as they are exposed to the cut and thrust of management agendas that are designed to control their activities. In all these strands of literature, there is a strong suggestion that professionals take little interest in the activity known as managing. This paper is primarily concerned to explore the issues that confront one particular group of professionals - research scientists who work in the public sector-as they experience a particular approach to management known as managerialism. We have taken this phenomenon as an extension of the modernist project which has as its heart the transcendence of professional management as a means of achieving control in organizations. This is seen to be a matter of general application in professional organizations. Taking findings from qualitative research in two laboratories we have used the promotion of the managerialist agenda as an opportunity to examine scientists' understandings of the nature of strategy and management, and consider what they understand to be the nature of competent management. It is our finding that these professionals display a lively and sometimes critical understanding of the issues involved in management, and that on occasion they will adapt and absorb `new' approaches to management in order to progress their professional work, they articulate a number of lay discourses that capture, at least to their own satisfaction, the essence of management. It is our belief that this paper will be of interest at two levels. At a specific level, little appears to exist with regard to understanding of the management of research scientists working in the public sector environment. At the more general level, although there has been a great deal of debate regarding the management of professionals, there has been little substantive research into the ways in which professionals locate management into their understanding of the world. This study whilst illuminating the understandings of management of one group of people also illuminates the lives of professionals working in organizations as they are exposed to new approaches to management.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


MCAULEY, J., DUBERLEY, J. and COHEN, L., 1999. The meaning professionals give to management... and strategy. Human Relations, 53 (1), pp. 87-116


© Sage


  • NA (Not Applicable or Unknown)

Publication date



This article is Restricted Access. It was published in the journal, Human Relations [© Sage]. The definitive version is available at: http://hum.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/53/1/87




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