Using critical approaches in managing people and organizations
Chapter 3: Using Critical Management Approaches in Managing People and Organizations Peter Stokes Objectives • Providing an outline and understanding of the approaches to organization and management which have emerged and been developed during the last century and presenting a number of ongoing theoretical developments; • Providing introductions to philosophical stances such as postmodernism, post-structuralism, critical realism and related approaches such as discourse analysis and social constructionism; • Providing a counterpoint and alternative perspective on managing and organizing to the predominant modernistic casting and view of these areas; • Offering ideas and techniques to facilitate better understanding of issues such as organizational relationships, interpersonal and team dynamics, identity and power and their impact on work and practice. Introduction Chapter 2 outlined modernistic and positivistic outlooks which have represented the dominant manner of approaching and understanding organizational and managerial situations in many contexts during the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. The discussion also indicated the limitations that may exist with such approaches and, in particular, how they might not always reflect or respond to the complexities of the human conditions and situations in which human beings often create and find themselves in work and other contexts. Critical management studies and critical perspectives are approaches which have developed over recent decades and, in many ways, have challenged and provided a response to modernistic constructions and representations of the workplace. Knowledge of critical perspectives provides people in work situations, with alternative and deeper insights and understandings of the complex dynamics and operation of work settings. It may even be postulated that such knowledge assists in enabling people to become more rounded managers. Thinking about Positivistic and Modernistic Views of Management as Mainstream We can think of the term ‘mainstream’ as the dominant or the principal way things are done or, alternatively, the recurrent way in which a topic is discussed or viewed (Stokes, 2011). For example, every domain has a mainstream view or approach. For example, in the medical field, there will be a view on typically how to approach particular illnesses and conditions. Clearly, there may also exist alternative, even radical approaches in most fields: treatment of the given illness or condition and these are likely to run counter to a greater of lesser extent with mainstream medical approaches. Homeopathy may be a case in point. Homeopathy draws on herbal and organic/plant materials in order to propose medical cures. However, a number of practitioners in mainstream medicine question the efficacy of these approaches. One of the reasons commonly cited is that such applications and treatments have not necessarily been subjected to extended scientific testing (Masoodi, 2015). The tensions between mainstream and alternative approaches are an important dynamic and critique and, drawing on the discussion in chapter 2, it links back to the very core of modernism. As you will recall, modernistic and positivistic approaches are based on the scientific paradigm and philosophy. In other words, they use scientific methods and paradigms to build, test and prove the knowledge that underpins their approach. Referring back to the example above, mainstream medicine is very much a scientifically, positivistically and modernistically informed and underpinned domain whereas homeopathy does not have such an established tradition in this regard (Schmacke, Müller, and Stamer, 2014). This is not to say that homeopathy has any less worth in its own right but it does mean that many medical practitioners will not be convinced by its claims because they are not necessarily scientifically founded and proven. It will be valuable to look at how a similar situation has arisen in relation to mainstream and critical management approaches. Critical Management Studies Critical Management Studies (CMS) evolved in the 1990s however the ideas from which it derives the paradigm it espouses can be identified in a range of philosophies. A key early influence was Critical Theory (see definition and discussion below). In particular Alvesson and Willmott (1992, 1996) wrote two initial texts which applied Critical Theory ideas to different functional areas and bodies of writing. Around this time, other writers were also seeing the potential of applying varying ideas and systems of thought, other than positivism and modernism, to organization and management issues. This led writers to move on to apply philosophical approaches such as, inter alia, existentialism, postmodernism, post-structuralism, critical realism, deconstructionism (Appignanesi, Garrett, Sardar and Curry, 2004; Lips-Wiersma and Mills, 2014; Liyan and Yuguo, 2014) Writers engaged with CMS were typically dissatisfied with the manner in which modernism and positivism had portrayed many aspects of organization and management. In broad terms, CMS generally believes that research and commentaries underpinned by positivism and modernism tend to talk about management and organization in a simplistic manner. It is seen as simple because, for example, events and interactions are often talked about in a simple cause-and-effect manner; and, complex issues and situations are represented in over-simplified manners and married with equally simplistic responses (Stokes, 2011; Fournier and Smith, 2012; Wickert and Schaefer, 2015) As noted in Chapter 2, modernistic management leads on to create the world in particular ways producing managerialism, McDonaldization and so forth. CMS introduces issues overlooked by positivistic and modernistic approaches. Such issues include (among many others): a concern for how, for example, identity, voice, resistance, power and oppression might operate. Above all, CMS and the philosophies it employs in order to develop its ideas, introduces the idea of different and varying perspectives and the role that they may have on people and work within organizations.
Citation : Stokes, P. (2016) Using critical approaches in managing people and organizations. In: Stokes, P., Moore, N., Smith, S., Rowland, C. and Scott, P (2016) Organizational Management. London. Kogan Page, pp. 51-66
ISBN : 9780749468361
Research Institute : Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI)
Peer Reviewed : Yes