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Archive for the ‘business schools’ Category

a collection of quasi-religious dicta on the virtue of being good at what you do

The NYTimes is reviving a 2006 article by Matthew Stewart in the Atlantic which contributes to the anti-MBA drumbeat. It has some rhetorical zingers, but there isn’t a whole lot here that Mintzberg didn’t say five or fifteen years ago. In fact, the whole screed is well trodden territory, beginning with an attack on F.W. Taylor and moving on to the dichotomy of Theory X and Theory Y. Yawn. Stewart’s main contribution is the claim that management theory is simply watered down philosophy. Given that his point is that management is as useless as philosophy, I’m not sure which discipline that statement is more insulting to. Perhaps there should be a PDW at the Academy on Wittgenstein?

It does raise a question of where the line between management theory and organization theory lays. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by seansafford

May 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm

orgtheory and econ sociology seminars

I am coordinating the University of Chicago, Organizations and Markets Workshop this quarter.  We have Jerry Davis in today discussing his new book.  The workshop website typically posts papers of our speakers and it is a good way to keep up with work in progress from leading folks in the field.  It struck me that it might be useful to folks to have a ready list of the major org theory and econ soc seminars around the country.  Here is the list that I consult regularly.  I’d be interested the one’s I’ve missed and should be keeping up on.

University of Chicago, Booth, Organizations and Markets Workshop

Harvard-MIT, Economic Sociology Seminar

University of Michigan, Interdisciplinary Committee on Organization Studies Series

Stanford, SCANCOR Seminar

Princeton, Economics and Sociology Workshop (via Gabriel)

Northwestern, Kellogg, Management and Organizations Colloquium (via Brayden)

Written by seansafford

May 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm

ft business education

The Financial Times‘ Business Education section has some interesting content — blogs by MBA students, info about faculty mobility/hiring (though they did miss Brayden’s move to Kellogg), the FT business school rankings of course, the deans blog, video lectures, etc, etc.

Here’s a few, quick things I just noted:

Written by teppo

May 1, 2009 at 4:26 am

ranking scholarship

If you’re unconvinced that academic rankings matter to organizational outcomes, you’ve never been associated with a professional school. I used to joke with Teppo about the size of the poster that hung in the glass doors of the Marriott School building announcing BYU’s ranking in BusinessWeek’s top 10 undergraduate business programs. (I can only imagine what calamity of modesty hangs from the doors now that BusinessWeek ranked BYU 22nd among MBA programs!) Business, law, and medical schools care greatly about where they’re ranked because ranking is tightly connected to revenue streams. The relevance of rankings changes the schools’ administrative practices and policies; they adapt what they do to excel according to the criteria of the ranking systems. This behavioral transformation is one of the main points made by Michael Sauder and Wendy Espeland in their research on rankings and reactivity (see these past posts about their work).

Is there a similar kind of reactivity influencing the kind of scholarship academics do? Do we care so much about which journals are ranked highly that we choose research topics, theories, and methods that would help us get published in those journals? These are questions that came to mind when skimming this interesting exchange in the recent issue of the Academy of Management Learning and Education – the Academy journal that publishes essays about the practices of business education and scholarship. The lead article by Nancy Adler and Anne-Wil Harzing presumes that the current ranking system does not provide incentives to management scholars to do research about “questions that matter most to society.” The leading organizational and management journals (e.g., Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science), they argue, do not promote research that benefits the public good. And because business schools tend to reward scholars for publishing in these journals, our literature lacks the public impact it might otherwise have. They quote the former president of the Academy of Management, Steven Kerr, who said that we have mistakenly embraced the practice of “of rewarding A [publications in a narrow set of top-listed journals] while hoping for B [scholarship that addresses the questions that matter most to society].”  Adler and Harzing (somewhat ironically) use institutional theory to support the idea that the norms of the field pressure schools to become isomorphic in their estimation of journal quality and to reward scholars accordingly.

A number of scholars, including the dean of the Kellogg School, respond to Adler and Harzing and based on a quick skim, the responses are cautionary when engaging with A&H’s idea that we should put an immediate moratorium on all rankings. One of my first responses to A&H’s argument is that, unlike professional school rankings, scholarly output rankings don’t really exist in a formal sense. There may be lists of top journals (e.g., ISI’s Web of Knowledge) but journals are not formally ranked in the same way that schools are. I suspect that schools would actively resist such a ranking. There’s a benefit to having some ambiguity about what is a top journal. It allows local elites (i.e., those who are dominant in any one school) to assert their own definition of status (which itself revolves around the field’s definition of status). Thus, at school X, the status hierarchy of journals will have a more disciplinary feel, while at school Z the hierarchy is more firmly rooted in the management journals. Having a slippery, informal, and local status system allows departments to make tenure decisions based on its particular personality rather than on a strict count of publications (granted, some schools have formalized their review process to the point that counting publications is the most important way of assessing scholarly quality).  The fuzziness of the status hierarchy also gives more weight to outside letter writers, who can provide a quality assessment from the point of view of the scholar’s audience and peers.

There is a more general point of disagreement I have with the claim that current management scholarship matters little to society. This claim, which has been made by many others (see, for example, Teppo’s post about our “theory fetish”), typically privileges one world view over another and is asserted when one theory or one topic of interest is not getting as much attention as the claimant would like. I cringe when I hear management scholars argue that we need to become more relevant because what they often mean is that our scholarship should have a greater impact on the way business is done. While I can’t disagree with the idea that I’d like the business community to read and care about my research, there is a lot of research out there that I’d prefer the business community never heard of at all. Further, my idea of improving the public good is probably somewhat different than views held by other scholars. Rather than getting in a shouting match about which values our top journals should promote, I think the academic community (and the nonacademic community) is better off if we leave it to journals to figure out what is high quality scholarship and then let the market of ideas take over to sort the relevance of those ideas.

Written by brayden king

March 27, 2009 at 7:47 pm

ruef on khurana

One of the books that orgtheory gave a lot of attention in the last year was Rakesh Khurana’s From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession. The book is part history and part theoretical investigation of the educational problems associated with the modern business school. One of Khurana’s main points is that the slanted focus towards economics that is given in MBA training has damaged the professional values and authority of management.  Armed with only the tools of financial/economic analysis, the modern manager is incapable of guiding his organization with any kind of moral authority. Agency theory, in particular, takes quite a few knocks in the book.

In the most recent issue of ASQ, Martin Ruef has written a thoughtful and somewhat critical review of Khurana’s book. Ruef offers an alternative interpretation to Khurana’s thesis, suggesting that the transformation of the business school is a function of resource dependence on a market for ideas and training that managers will find appealling. The dependence of business schools on support from the business community, expressed today in revenue flowing from executive education, shapes how/what the schools teach in in the classroom (and perhaps even what we study). Ruef calls on readers of Khurana’s book to think more about how this market logic prevents business schools from promoting a professionalizing curriculum.

This section of the book leaves the reader with an indelible image of a few neoclassical economists, perhaps aided by an institutional economist or two, standing over the body of the once-mighty general manager. But if words could kill, then other social scientists may well have served as accomplices to the purported crime. After all, anti-managerialism has had a firm foothold in organizational sociology since the 1970s, portraying managers who seem to be shackled by inertia, resource dependencies, or myth and ceremony (Donaldson, 1995). And other disciplines have hardly been immune to similar predispositions, lest we forget that an influential account of organized anarchy (Cohen, March, and Olsen, 1972) was coauthored by two scholars with political science Ph.D.s. It is more likely, of course, that we flatter ourselves by thinking that intellectual perceptions of organizations could matter so much. My alternative history of the “rise” of a market logic in business education takes a different tack—by returning, full circle, to the origins of American business education in the nineteenth century. To quote singer David Byrne, it’s the “same as it ever was.”…

The view on business schools and management science appears more ambivalent in the twenty-first century. Educators try to produce business “leaders” as a vague substitute for business managers; contemporary research on organizations tends to offer contributions to the anti-managerial paradigms that first appeared thirty years ago. If an ethos of professionalism in business schools is the only victim of these developments, then I suspect that many of us will not be attending the funeral. In America, business education was born from a market logic that touted commercial credentials in the nineteenth century and, in many respects, so it remains today. But if the majority of our scholarship on organizations is now conducted in business schools, then another, perhaps more innocent victim may be organizational theory itself. Sidelined by the vocational requirements of teaching MBAs how to find jobs, negotiate salaries, start up companies, form social networks, and be “leaders,” business school faculty may yet lose the ability to conduct critical inquiries into the nature of organizations and the policy implications of organizational activities.

Written by brayden king

March 13, 2009 at 4:24 pm