Developing Managerial Work. A system and work-flow approach
Doctoral thesis, 2004
Companies focus change and development in order to improve their competitiveness. In manufacturing companies a shift in focus from production to product development has been recognized. During the last decade, many companies in automotive industry have utilized mergers and acquisitions, as a means to create competitive advantages by enabling synergies. In the auto industry, as well as in the telecom industry, some companies have just grown. This has lead to an increased organizational complexity. Organizational change, together with complexity, make the managerial task challenging and critical, and thus also an issue for development.
In research, management activity has been approached within the concept of managerial work, and also within the concept of leadership. Managerial work studies have been focused on organizing discrete activities into categories, made up from basic managerial functions (e.g. planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, controlling), which goes all the way back to Fayol (1916), and on characterizing different types of managerial jobs. Managerial work is generally characterized as hectic, varied, fragmented, reactive and disorderly, and closely related to context and hierarchy, and individual aspects dominate the choice and proportion of activities. This characteristic of managerial work has been found to be relatively stable over the decades.
However, management and managerial work have proven to be difficult to define and understand both in theory and in practice. Due to a lack of a firm theoretical base, advice on good management and managerial work is mostly of a tentative kind. Consequently, there is an ongoing debate about the relevance gap in management science, from a practical perspective.
Based on the research on the managerial work situation in product development, it is argued here that change and development of managerial work as such need to be focused, when organizational change and complexity are taken into account. But due to the lack of integrative perspectives and approaches it is difficult to define what to develop, and also how to develop managerial work.
In order to deal with development of managerial work in product development, this thesis argues that approaches with work-flow and system orientation are relevant to consider, especially within a context characterized by change and complexity. A work-flow and system-based approach represents a more integrative perspective of managerial work, and thus represents an alternative to the dominant fragmented and individually related approaches. Together with frameworks for collective learning and design, a work-flow and system approach has the potential to facilitate development. It is also proposed that collaborative research approaches can contribute to both scientific and practical relevance in managerial work development.