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jerry davis on the importance of management research

Harvard Business Review has run a version of Jerry Davis’ essay on the merits of modern management research. A few clips:

Is management research a folly? If not, whose interests does it serve? And whose interests should it serve?

The questions of good for what and good for whom are worth revisiting. There is reason to worry that the reward system in our field, particularly in the publication process, is misaligned with the goals of good science.

There can be little doubt that a lot of activity goes into management research: according to the Web of Knowledge, over 8,000 articles are published every year in the 170+ journals in the field of “Management,” adding more and more new rooms. But how do we evaluate this research? How do we know what a contribution is or how individual articles add up? In some sciences, progress can be measured by finding answers to questions, not merely reporting significant effects. In many social sciences, however, including organization studies, progress is harder to judge, and the kinds of questions we ask may not yield firm answers (e.g., do nice guys finish last?). Instead we seek to measure the contribution of research by its impact.

And:

Management of humans by other humans may be increasingly anachronistic. If managers are not our primary constituency, then who is? Perhaps it is each other. But this might lead us back into the Winchester Mystery House, where novelty rules. Alternatively, if our ultimate constituency is the broader public that is meant to benefit from the activities of business, then this suggests a different set of standards for evaluation.

Businesses and governments are making decisions now that will shape the life chances of workers, consumers, and citizens for decades to come. If we want to shape those decisions for public benefit, on the basis of rigorous research, we need to make sure we know the constituency that research is serving.

Required reading.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 2, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in ethics, fabio, guest bloggers, management, research

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can powerful, elite-led organizations lessen inequality?

Hi all, I’m Ellen Berrey. I’ll be guest blogging over the next few weeks about inequality, culture, race, organizations, law, and multi-case ethnography. Thanks for the invite, Katherine, and the warm welcomes! Here’s what I’m all about: I’m an assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo-SUNY and an affiliated scholar of the American Bar Foundation. I received my PhD from Northwestern in 2008. This fall, I jet off from the Midwest to join the faculty of the University of Denver (well, I’m actually going to drive the fading 2003 Toyota I inherited from my mom).  

As a critical cultural sociologist, I study organizational, political, and legal efforts to address inequality. My new book, The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice (University of Chicago Press)is officially out next Monday (yay!). I’ll dive into that in future posts, for sure. I’m writing up another book on employment discrimination litigation with Robert Nelson and Laura Beth Nielsen, Rights on Trial: Employment Civil Rights in Work and in Court.  These and my articles and other projects explore organizational symbolic politics, affirmative action in college admissions (also here and here), affirmative action activism (and here), corporate diversity management, fairness in discrimination litigation, discrimination law and inequality (and here), gentrification politics, and benefit corporations.

I’ll kick off today with some thoughts about a theme that I’ve been exploring for many years:

How can powerful, elite-led organizations advance broad progressive causes like social justice or environmental protection? I’m not just referring to self-identified activists but also corporations, universities, community agencies, foundations, churches, and the like. Various arms of the state, too, are supposed to forward social causes by, say, ending discrimination at work or alleviating poverty. To what extent can organizational decision-makers create positive social change through discrete initiatives and policies—or do they mostly just create the appearance of effective action? Time and again, perhaps inevitably, top-down efforts to address social problems end up creating new problems for those they supposedly serve.

To the point: Have you come across great research that examines how organizations can bring about greater equality and engages organizational theory?

I think this topic is especially important for those of us who study organizations and inequality. We typically focus on the harms that organizations cause. We know, for example, that employers perpetuate racial, class, and gender hierarchies within their own ranks through their hiring and promotion strategies. I believe we could move the field forward if we also could point to effective, even inspiring ways in which organizations mitigate inequities. I have in mind here research that goes beyond applied evaluations and that resists the Polly Anna-ish temptation to sing the praises of corporations. Critical research sometimes asks these questions, but it often seems to primarily look for (and find) wrongdoing. Simplistically, I think of this imperative in terms of looking, at once, at the good and bad of what organizations are achieving. Alexandra Kalev, Frank Dobbin, and Erin Kelly’s much-cited American Sociological Review article on diversity management programs is one exemplar. There is room for other approaches, as well, including those that foreground power and meaning making. Together with the relational turn in the study of organizational inequality, this is a promising frontier to explore.

More soon. Looking forward to the conversation.

 

Written by ellenberrey

May 13, 2015 at 2:08 pm

does remembering racial violence matter? – a guest post by raj ghoshal and claire whitlinger

Raj Ghoshal (www.rajghoshal.com) is an assistant professor of sociology at Goucher College. Claire Whitlinger (www.clairewhitlinger.com) is a graduate student in sociology at Michigan, starting as an assistant professor at Furman University in August. This guest post discusses racial violence and the sociology of collective memory.

In a new special issue of Race & Justice (http://raj.sagepub.com/content/current) on the legacies of past racial violence, we each consider how commemorative projects can impact present-day views and events. As we discuss broad cultural processes, our articles may be of interest to cultural sociologists generally.

In “What Does Remembering Racial Violence Do?” (http://raj.sagepub.com/content/5/2/168.abstract), I (Raj) consider the Greensboro, North Carolina’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a private group which in the early 2000s revisited the 1979 killings of five communist demonstrators by the Ku Klux Klan. I draw on a survey of 716 North Carolinians and find that the Commission’s efforts had some, albeit modest, impact on stated support for state redress of past racial injustice toward African Americans. But despite this overall effect, two factors shaped the Commission’s effectiveness in surprising ways.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

May 12, 2015 at 12:01 am

q&a with hahrie han: part deux

We continue our Q&A with Hahrie Han on her new Oxford University Press book, How Organizations Develop Activists.

Question 3. A crucial distinction in your book is mobilizing vs. organizing? What does that mean?

 The highest engagement organizations in my study combined what I call “transformational organizing” with “transactional mobilizing.” The difference between mobilizing and organizing really comes down to the extent to which organizations invest in developing people’s skills, motivations, and such as they do the work. Mobilizers are focused more on breadth–getting more people to do more stuff–so they care only about the “transactional” outcomes: how many people wrote the letter? Organizers believe that they achieve breadth by building depth–how many people became more motivated or more skilled (“transformed”) as activists by being part of the letter writing campaign? So they design work that may be harder at first, but builds more depth over the long-term.

It might be easiest to describe the difference between “transformational organizing” and “transactional mobilizing” through some examples.

Let’s say an organization wants to generate a letter writing campaign to get letters to the editor published around a particular issue. Mobilizers would create letter templates and tools people could use to click a few buttons and send off a letter to their local paper. Organizers might ask people to compose their own letter, using trainings they provide. Or, organizers might match potential letter writers with a partner to compose a joint letter.

Mobilizers would have a few staff people organizing the entire campaign–those staff would create the templates, craft the messages asking people to write the letters, and coordinate any needed follow up. People themselves would not have to do anything more than click the buttons to indicate their willingness to write the letter. Organizers would set up the campaign so that staff people might design the trainings and the goals, but a distributed network of volunteers would be charged with generating letters in their local communities. Then, they would train and support those volunteers in getting those letters.

The organizations that had the highest levels of activism did both–they did organizing AND mobilizing to get both breadth and depth. It’s not that one is better than the other; it’s that organizations need both.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

November 20, 2014 at 12:01 am

q&a with hahrie han: part 1

hanbook

This week, we are having a Q&A with our recent guest blogger, Hahrie Han. She is a political scientist at Wellesley College and has a new book out on the topic of how organizations sustain the participation of their members called How Organizations Develop Activists. If you want, put any questions you may have in the comments.

How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century

By Hahrie Han (@hahriehan)

Question 1. Can you summarize, for the readers of this blog, your new book’s main argument? How do you prove that?

 The book begins by asking why some organizations are better than others at getting (and keeping) people involved in activism than others. All over the world, there are myriad organizations, campaigns, and movements trying to get people to do everything from signing petitions to showing up for meetings to participating in protest. Some are better than others. Why?

To answer this question, I wanted to look particularly at what the organization does. There are so many factors that affect an organization’s ability to engage activists that the organization itself cannot control. What about the things it can control? Do they matter? So I set up a study of two national organizations working in health and environmental politics that also had state and local chapters operating relatively autonomously. I created matched pairs of these local chapters that were working in the same kinds of communities, and attracted the same kinds of people to the organization. But, they differed in their ability to cultivate activism. By examining differences among organizations in each pair, I could see what the high-engagement organizations did differently. I also ran some field experiments to test the ideas that emerged.

I found that the core factor distinguishing the high-engagement organizations was the way they engaged people in activities that transformed their sense of individual and collective agency. Just like any other organization, these organizations wanted to get more people to do more stuff, but they did it in a way that cultivated their motivations, developed their skills, and built their capacity for further activism. Doing so meant that high-engagement organizations used distinct strategies for recruiting, engaging, and supporting volunteers, which I detail in the book. By combining this kind of transformational organizing with a hard-nosed focus on numbers, they were able to build the breadth and depth of activism they wanted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

November 18, 2014 at 12:01 am

ed walker discusses astroturfing on c-span

Recently, former guest blogger Ed Walker appeared on C-Span to discuss his new book, Grassroots for Hire. The interview is very nice in that Ed discusses the main points of his book and there is an interactive feature of the website that allows you to directly click on specific segments of the interview. For previous posts from Ed, click here.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 

Written by fabiorojas

September 15, 2014 at 2:19 am

learning the secrets behind orgtheory

Hi, everyone, this is Beth. I’ve been reading orgtheory since somewhere near the beginning but have never been much of a commenter. But I’m really looking forward to guest blogging. Thanks to Katherine for extending the invitation and to all the orgtheory folks for producing so much stimulating content over the years.

It feels a bit strange being behind the scenes. I now know that the most popular post of all time is, tragically, about ferrets (critical realism doesn’t even make the top 20!) and that people got here today by searching “why is sociology considered poor” and “famous-sociologist-I-won’t-name sex.” (That’s me not naming him, not what they actually Googled.)

At any rate, I’m going to save the real content for the weekdays, when people aren’t off enjoying the sunshine. But I did want to get a quick intro up.

I’m a recently tenured associate professor in sociology at SUNY Albany, and received my PhD from Berkeley in 2007. I took one of my comp exams in organizations, and I teach it at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.  Most of my work has been been about why university science became more entrepreneurial and market-focused over the last few decades.

The answer — that policymakers started to think that they could use technological innovation to drive the economy, in the process transforming universities’ regulatory and resource environment — got me interested in how the discipline of economics affects the policy process. I’m currently writing a second book, tentatively titled Thinking Like an Economist, about how economics — particularly the center-left, technocratic kind — helped to restructure U.S. public policy in important ways from the 1960s to the 1980s.

More about that later, but for now, a couple of teasers for some of the things I might write about in the weeks to come. I actually bit the bullet on guest posting because of Brayden’s post a couple of weeks about about whether org theory is out of touch with sociology, which kept stewing in the back of my mind, and I’m planning to post some thoughts on that soon.

But I’m also hoping to write a bit about the current challenges — crisis really isn’t too strong — of higher ed in the U.S. and elsewhere, and how org theory can help us to understand (solve?) it. I’m going to share some interesting bits from my book in progress. And I’ve been dying to revisit the most useful orgtheory post I’ve ever read, about what movie clips are good for teaching organizations to undergraduates.

So get out and enjoy spring, if you’ve got it, and I’m looking forward to interacting more soon.

Written by epopp

May 17, 2014 at 6:28 pm

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