52: Management in Practice – Rosemary Stewart

With Special Guest Maja Korica from the Warwick Business School, UK!

Rosemary Stewart

So what do managers do in practice? How do they spend their time (or put another way, how does their time spend them)? Are there differences in the demands of managers in different positions, or withiin different organizations? These were the questions that famed management theorist Rosemary Stewart set out to uncover in her research back in the 1960s, resulting in the first edition of this episode’s subject–her book Managers and Their Jobs: A Study of the Similarities and Differences in the Ways Managers Spend Their Time.

The methodology is fascinating. Stewart asked 160 top managers in firms large and small to maintain diaries of their work over the course of four weeks. What were they doing and why? Poring over the data provided a rich accounting of their work and professional lives. This allowed her to develop a proposed taxonomy of managerial work that might not have become as renowned as other similar taxonomies but was based on strong empirical support. The five “job profiles” she developed were very convincing.

In this episode, we discuss the work and bring it into present-day focus. In what ways has managerial work changed or remained the same? Is it the nature of management that is changing or merely its character? And where should Rosemary Stewart’s work be placed in the context of management science? To discuss these and many more questions, we welcome Dr. Maja Korica of the Warwick Business School!

You can also down the audio files here: Part 1Part 2. Comparing and Contrasting Managerial Work Then and Now (forthcoming) Part 3. What Should Managers Be Doing? (forthcoming)


Read with us:

Stewart, R. (1988). Managers and their jobs: A study of the similarities and differences in the ways managers spend their time, 2nd ed. London: Macmillan.

To know more:

Korica, M., Nicolini, D., & Johnson, B. (2017). In search of ‘managerial work’: Past, present and future of an analytical category. International journal of management reviews, 19(2), 151-174.

Nicolini, D., Korica, M., & Ruddle, K. (2015). Staying in the Know. MIT Sloan Management Review, 56(4), 57.

Stewart, R. (2003). Woman in a man’s world. Leadership Quarterly, 14(2), 197-197.

Porter, M. E., & Nohria, N. I. T. I. N. (2018). How CEOs manage time. Harvard business review, 96(4), 41-51.

51: The Tyranny of Light — Hari Tsoukas


Haridimos Tsoukas

Haridimos Tsoukas‘ 1997 article “The Tyranny of Light” was a bold article that challenged conventional wisdom about the oncoming information society. The Internet, personal computers, and the dot-com boom were still new and exciting. With information technologies advancing at an incredible pace, the sky (and the capacity of silicon) was the limit. Internet start-ups were sprouting up everywhere as young entrepreneurs strove to become the next Bill Gates. Never mind that the vast majority failed and faded quickly away (see Episode 49 and the example of normative control in a tech company). The possibilities seemed endless.

But so too were the dangers. Hari Tsoukas foresaw the problems that an information dominated society might produce. Could greater access to information have undesirable consequences, such as the loss of understanding or the growth of distrust? Could an information society disrupt socio-political norms? If these became true, what would happen.

Bolstered by hindsight and knowledge of how the information society evolved, we (your intrepid podcasters) take a look back at 1997.  To what extent Tsoukas got the future right, and what else transpired that Tsoukas could not have known or anticipated. What does this suggest for society and its leaders today?



You will also be able to download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2 |  Part 3

Read with us:

Tsoukas, H. (1997). The tyranny of light: The temptations and the paradoxes of the information society. Futures, 29(9), 827-843.

To know more:

Rivera, L. A. (2012). Hiring as cultural matching: The case of elite professional service firms. American sociological review, 77(6), 999-1022.

Rivera, L. A. (2016). Pedigree: How elite students get elite jobs. Princeton University Press.

Turco, C. J. (2016). The conversational firm: Rethinking bureaucracy in the age of social media. Columbia University Press.

50: Celebrating 50 Episodes! What Have We Learned?

Talking about organizations has reached 50 episodes!

To mark this occasion, we gathered all seven of us hosts to discuss what we like (and perhaps not) about the podcast and podcasting, what our favorite or most remembered episodes were, and what we have learned along the way. 

Turns out, one of the key things we learned was how much such a small number of dedicated scholars and practitioners can do with a lot of motivation and energy. As we discuss, there were many in the beginning who scoffed at the idea of podcasting on classic and emerging organization theories and concepts of management science. But with over 12,000 active listeners worldwide, Talking About Organizations has proven to be useful and entertaining all at once.

We hope you enjoy this brief retrospective. Also, click on the below graphic to view all the places where we have podcasted from in our many travels — sometimes having to find unique and interesting places to record to avoid noise and other problems!



Did you know THAT...

  • the podcast grew out of intellectually fertile soil of the Innovation, Knowledge and Organisational Networks Research Centre at the Warwick Business School. Thank you Jacky Swan, Davide Nicolini, Dawn Coton and many others for your early support and feedback!
  • while TAOP is no longer the sole academic podcast of its kind in management and organization studies, it is by far the largest one? Enjoyed by over 12000 regular listeners, Talking About Organizations is a reminder to all of us of the value of conversations to intellectual development and of the interest that our community has in foundational texts.
  • by the 50th episode we have had the pleasure of welcoming 25 guests on the show 27 times? And this is excluding guests and keynote speakers for our special events!
  • Speaking of special events, December 2017 marked the very first time we independently hosted an event – the Symposium on the Continuities and Disruptions of Management in the Gig Economy, featuring a whole bunch of wonderful people! Also big thanks to Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and University of Sussex for providing the resources that made it possible!
  • Katharina Dittrich (E4 and E21) and Mats Alvesson (E28 and E32) are the only two guests to make more than a single appearance on the show? Katharina also holds the honor of being our very first guest!
  • the podcast has been referenced in two peer-reviewed journals? See du Gay and Vikkelso (2018) and Bridgman, Cummings and Ballard (2018) for examples of two articles showing exceptionally good taste in their choice of sources.
  • there is a myth that rare collectable artefacts from the early days of the podcast exist scattered throughout the land… these range from the five original coffee mugs to a unique signed poster from the time of E21. Rest assured – we don’t know where most of these are either.

49: Engineered Culture and Normative Control – Gideon Kunda

Gideon Kunda

Originally published in 1992, Gideon Kunda’s ethnographic study of a high-tech corporation altered the discourse on organizational culture. “Tech,” the firm being studied, was a firm on the rise and saw itself as a leader and ground breaker in the rapidly growing high-tech industries of the 1980s. But as the firm grew from a modest couple hundred to tens of thousands of employees and multiple sites, Tech undertook an effort to indoctrinate its members with its tried-and-true formula for success — hard work, sacrifice, and belief in the company. The degree to which this indoctrination occurred was extensive, from the choreographed leader messages, trained cultural experts and internal publications to the highly competitive and cut-throat nature of project work. Kunda captured it all in gripping detail.

The centerpiece of Kunda’s thesis was Tech’s exercise of normative control. This was ironic in a way given how Tech’s professed culture valued self-determination and autonomy. But, the rewards and sanctions were constructed to enforce a particular form of autonomy, one in which Tech extracted the most out of its people while breaking their lives in the process.
Does this mean ‘normative control’ as a mechanism for mission accomplishment is bad? As we dove into the text and applied its lessons to present-day matters, the question is actually difficult to answer as there are many factors to consider. Listen as we wrestle with this extraordinary and provocative text!

You may also download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Read with us:

Kunda, G. (2006). Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation, Revised Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

To know more:

Rivera, L. A. (2012). Hiring as cultural matching: The case of elite professional service firms. American sociological review, 77(6), 999-1022.

Rivera, L. A. (2016). Pedigree: How elite students get elite jobs. Princeton University Press.

Turco, C. J. (2016). The conversational firm: Rethinking bureaucracy in the age of social media. Columbia University Press.

48: Stratified Systems Theory — Elliott Jaques

Elliott Jaques

Gillian Stamp

As bureaucracies became more prevalent as a feature of organizations post-WWII, questions surfaced as to how they could be improved. Was there an optimal way to design them? What was the best role of individual members within a bureaucracy? Could individuals be developed to handle higher level roles?

Among those asking such questions was Elliott Jaques, co-founder of the Tavistock Institute and later the author of the renowned book Requisite Organization that combined social theories with theories of organization. As a scientific approach to organizational design, the “stratified systems theory” of requisite organization sought to optimize the hierarchical structure based on the time-span of decisions at echelon. Then, using methods for measuring individual capabilities and capacity for decision making, members could be assigned posts within the organization based on best fit. Stratified systems theory (SST) established a common schema for using time-span that could be applied to any organization.

Stratified systems theory found a home in the U.S. Army due to its immediate applicability in the Army’s large, complex hierarchical structures during the Cold War. The seven strata prescribed in the Theory were found to be analogous with various echelons in combat organizations, and the individual capabilities mirrored the duties and requirements of officers at particular ranks from lieutenant (lowest stratum or Stratum I) to general (highest or Stratum VII). For this reason, and because the report is in the public domain, we opted to read Jaques’ Army Research Institute Report Level and Type of Capability in Relation to Executive Organization, co-authored with Brunel University colleague Gillian Stamp in 1991. The report gives both a good summary of the theory and a thorough explication of its potential use in practice.

But as a scientific approach to organization, SST has been heavily criticized and largely shunned. Why, and whether or not this is fair is among the many topics we tackle in this episode.

You may also download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2 |  Part 3

Read With Us:

Jaques, E. & Stamp, G. (1991). Level and Type of Capability in Relation to Executive Organization. Alexandria, Virginia: U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Public domain.

To Learn More:

Kleiner, A. (2001). Elliott Jaques Levels With YouStrategy + Business, 22

Jaques, E. (1997). Requisite Organization: Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century. London: Gower.

Jacobs, T. O., & Jaques, E. (1990). Military executive leadership. In Clark, K. E. & Clark, M.. B. (Eds.) Measures of leadership (pp. 281-295). Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

________ (1991). Executive leadership. In Gal, R. & Mangelsdorff, A. D. (Eds.) The handbook of military psychology (pp. 431-448). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

47: Organizational Identity — Albert & Whetten

Stuart Albert

David Whetten

“Who are we?”

The pursuit of an answer to this tantalizingly simple question began with a book chapter written in 1985 by organization theorists Stuart Albert and David Whetten. “Organizational Identity” established the construct of identity at the organizational level and described it as the sum of three types of claims — claims of an organization’s central character, claims of its distinctiveness from other organizations, and claims of temporal continuity that tie the present organization to its history. The chapter also raised the idea that organizations can have multiple identities, which each being more salient at different times. With seven key research questions and thirty-three hypothesis, the chapter also laid out a far-reaching research agenda.

But as we discuss in this episode, the twenty years that followed saw much of the research yield lots of confusion and consternation. David Whetten would prepare a follow-up commentary in 2006 to clarify and update the construct while addressing the conflicts.

So how useful is it? Listen in as we grapple with answering questions like, “Who are we as the Talking About Organizations Podcast?” using Albert & Whetten’s construct as a starting point. We then follow with examples, case studies, and uses of organizational identity in both scholarship and practice. We hope you enjoy the discussion and find it useful for understanding the deep culture of organizations.

You may also download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Read with us:

Albert, S., & Whetten, D. A. (1985). Organizational identity. Research in organizational behavior, 7, 263-285.

Whetten, D. A. (2006). Albert and Whetten revisited: Strengthening the concept of organizational identity. Journal of management inquiry, 15(3), 219-234.

To Learn More:

Whetten, D. A., Godfrey, P. C., & Godfrey, P. (Eds.). (1998). Identity in organizations: Building theory through conversations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Galvin, T. (forthcoming, about Dec 2018). Two case studies of successful strategic communication campaigns. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute.

46: Classics of Management and Organization Theory – AoM 2018 Workshop LIVE

With Speakers Paul Adler, Silvia Dorado, Siobhan O’Mahony, and Marc Ventresca

A special recording from a workshop on management classics held at the 2018 Academy of Management Conference in Chicago. Hosted by Pedro, this PDW intended to raise interest towards classic authors/ideas in the field of organization and management theory. It offered scholars from all levels the opportunity to reflect on insights of earlier scholarship and their relevance for current research, complementing the strong emphasis (on new ideas and approaches. This is of great importance as the field has thus far been more attentive to disruptions than continuities; pursuing novelty over tradition.

In the workshop, senior scholars presented talks on four classic authors (Karl Marx, Mary Parker Follett, Mary Douglas, and Albert Hirschman) to discuss their contemporary relevance. This was followed by a roundtable discussion limited to fifty participants.

The workshop demonstrated how attentive (re)readings of classic scholarship reaffirm time and time again their enduring importance. The discussion provided valuable insights on central organizational research problematics (e.g., coordination and control), stimulated complex thinking, enabled analytical comparisons between current and past phenomena (e.g., industrialization and digitization), and serve as ‘exemplars’ of academic excellence and of research that is problem-driven and focused on real-world issues.

We are working to include a similar workshop at next year’s conference and hope to make this a routine event at future AOMs!

Available on the website are four flyers prepared by the Talking About Organizations team that introduce each of the classic authors and a set of photographs from the event. We hope you enjoy the discussion!

All of us at Talking About Organizations are to the four terrific speakers – Paul, Silvia, Siobhan, and Marc – for their outstanding contributions!

Flyers of the Four Classic Authors Discussed:

Click on the links below to access the information sheets provided at the workshop.

Albert O. Hirschman | Karl Marx | Mary Douglas | Mary Parker Follett

Photos from the Workshop (click on a thumbnail to enlarge):
To find out more:

Adler, P. S. (2009). A social science which forgets its founders is lost. In The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies Classical Foundations. Oxford University Press.

Barley, S. R. (2015). 60th Anniversary Essay: Ruminations on How We Became a Mystery House and How We Might Get Out. Administrative Science Quarterly, 1–8.

Davis, G. F. (2016). Organization Theory and the Dilemmas of a Post-Corporate Economy. Research in the Sociology of Organizations (Vol. 48, pp. 311–322). Emerald Group
Publishing Limited.

Davis, G. F., & Zald, M. N. (2009). Sociological Classics and the Canon in the Study of Organizations (pp. 1–13). Oxford University Press.

Gay, du, P., & Vikkelsø, S. (2016). For Formal Organization. Oxford University Press.

Hallett, T., and M. J. Ventresca (2006). “Inhabited Institutions: Social Interactions and Organizational Forms in Gouldner’s Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy.” Theory and
Society, 35: 213–236.

Hinings, C. R., Greenwood, R., & Meyer, R. (2016). Dusty Books?: the liability of oldness. Academy of Management Review.

Kilduff, M., & Dougherty, D. (2000). Change and Development in a Pluralistic World: the View From the Classics. Academy of Management Review, 25(4), 777–782.

Lounsbury, M., & Carberry, E. J. (2016). From King to Court Jester? Weber’s Fall from Grace in Organizational Theory. Organization Studies, 26(4), 501–525.

Pugh, D. S., & Hickson, D. J. (2007). Writers on organizations.

Stinchcombe, A. L. (1982). Should sociologists forget their mothers and fathers? The American Sociologist, 17, 2–11.

Thornton, P. H. (2009). The Value of the Classics: 1–19. In The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies Classical Foundations. Oxford University Press.

45: Fate of Whistleblowers – C. Fred Alford

With Special Guest Dr. Marianna Fotaki

C. Fred Alford

The ability to speak up and do what’s right is embedded in our claimed social norms. Like cheering on an underdog in sport, we might be inspired by stories of those who witness illegal or immoral acts and have the courage and persistence to speak up and stand for what is right. In workplace environments, we have a name for such heroic men and women – whistleblowers. Some were famous, like Mark Felt who blew the whistle on Watergate in 1974 that would quickly end an American Presidency, and the trio of women who exposed the lies and fraudulent financial dealings that brought down Enron, Inc. in 2001. Their stories became legendary and they would be hailed as heroes. But historically, these are the exceptions. The experiences of many other whistleblowers are discouraging – being ostracized, ignored, harassed, marginalized, physically attacked, socially isolated and ultimately defeated while the wrongdoers continue with their organizations.

Fred Alford wrote the book Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power in 2001 to understand and make sense of these experiences. Rather than a detailed telling of the whistleblowers’ stories, the book expands upon them to develop an alternative theory of organizations and their use of power. By alternating between the individuals’ and organizations’ perspective, Alford’s book challenged conventional wisdom about the nature and character of power and politics, ethics and morality, and the individual’s motivations for standing up.

Joining us for this episode is Dr. Marianna Fotaki, Professor of Business Ethics at the Warwick Business School. In 2018, Marianna co-authored a paper on the weaponization of the mental health system against whistleblowers, furthering dialogue on a troubling matter that Alford raises in his book.

Listen as the podcasters discuss the stories of whistleblowers presented in the book and the theories that Alford produces from them.

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

Read with us:

Alford, C. F. (2001). Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

To know more:

Kenny, K., Fotaki, M. and Scriver, S. (2018). “Mental health as a weapon : whistleblower retaliation and normative violence“, Journal of Business Ethics

Fotaki, M. (2017). Turning Fear to Purpose, TEDx Talk.

Fotaki, M. and Harding, N. (2015). Gender and the Organization. Women at Work in the 21st Century. London: Routledge.


44: Transaction Costs and Boundaries of the Firm – Williamson and Malone

Oliver E. Williamson

Following on a theme from the previous episode, we explore an important reading that bridges organization theory with economics. This was the explicit aim of Oliver E. Williamson’s famous article, “The Economics of Organization: The Transaction Cost Approach,” published in the American Journal of Sociology in 1981. The article begins with a statement that the assumption of firms operating on a profit motive has not helped organization theorists understand and explain the behaviors of firms, and that economists were also finding themselves similarly limited. He thus set out on a different path and argued that transactions, not the products or services the firm provides, is a better unit of analysis.

In the discussion, we wrestle with Williamson’s central arguments and proposals, such as the construct of the efficient organizational boundary, human asset specificity and the difference types of governance structures related to it, and how markets and hierarchies represent different choices for organizing. We also explored a related article presenting early thoughts about the growing impact of rapid advances in information technology on firm and market structures. Written in 1987, Tom Malone et al.’s “Electronic Markets and Electronic Hierarchies” presages the modern online economic environment and its many virtual interactions between seller and buyers. This fascinating extension of Williamson’s ideas made a number of predictions. How many came true 30 years later?

Tune in as the podcasters discuss the transaction cost approach to organization theory and its lasting impacts on scholarship and practice!

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

Read with us:

Williamson, O. E. (1981). The economics of organization: The transaction cost approach. American Journal of Sociology 87(3), 548-576.

Malone, T. W., Yates, J., & Benjamin, R. I. (1987). Economic markets and economic hierarchies. Communications of the ACM 30(6), 484-497.


43: Centralization/Decentralization Debate – The Federalist Papers

For this episode, we decided to do something very different! A debate about centralization vs. decentralization in organizations using a very important historical document as our lens. The theme for the debate, and the debate questions are kindly provided by Todd Bridgman and Stephen Cummings, authors of The New History of Management

Two teams. Four podcasters. Red versus Blue. Ralph and Pedro vs Dmitrijs and Tom… a prime-time event, epic showdown and battle royale all rolled into one! Centralization or De-centralization? Which is the way to go? Which way will you go?

The Federalist Papers was a series of writings from American history leading up to its current Constitution, completed in 1787. Formed as thirteen separate colonies, this newly independent nation tried to form a central government that granted maximum autonomy to the States to prevent the emergence of an American monarchy.

It quickly failed as the central government was left too weak to perform its basic duties and the nation risked falling apart. Prominent writers like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison developed a series of papers arguing for a new Constitution with a much stronger central government. Two of them – Federalist #9 by Hamilton and Federalist #10 by Madison – present cogent arguments in favor of centralization. Meanwhile, the so-called Anti-Federalists continued to press for States’ rights and individual liberties.

Who will win? Find out as the podcasters debate this issue that is relevant and current, yet as old as government itself.

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Appendix (Text version here)

Read with us:

Hamilton, A. (1787). The union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection. Federalist #9. Albany, NY: The Independent Journal.

Madison, J. (1787). The same subject continued: The union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection. Federalist #10. New York: The New York Packet.

Works referenced during the episode:

Abbott, A. (1989). The system of professions. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press. 

Bridgman, T., Cummings, S. and Ballard, J.A., (2018) Who Built Maslow’s Pyramid? A History of the Creation of Management Studies’ Most Famous Symbol and Its Implications for Management Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education

Cummings, S., (1995). Centralization and decentralization: The neverending story of separation and betrayal. Scandinavian Journal of Management11(2), pp.103-117.

Cummings, S., Bridgman, T., Hassard, J. and Rowlinson, M., (2017). A new history of management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, M. (2000). Exploring paradox: Toward a more comprehensive guide. Academy of Management Review 25(4), 760-776.

Luescher, L. S. & Lewis, M. (2008). Organizational change and managerial sensemaking: Working through paradox. Academy of Management Journal 51(2), 221-240.

Van de Ven, A. H. & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review 20(3), 510-540.