Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Instead of Managerialism: From What Goes on Inside Our Heads to What Our Heads (and Bodies) Go on Inside of - the World between Us

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Instead of Managerialism: From What Goes on Inside Our Heads to What Our Heads (and Bodies) Go on Inside of - the World between Us

Article excerpt

Theodore Taptiklis is a former McKinsey & Company consultant who, over the course of a 40 year career in business and organizations, undertook a wide variety of roles, including board member, senior executive, strategist and change manager, business development manager, and worked also in a variety of line-management positions as both an employee and as a professional advisor. He characterizes his professional life during that time as a progression from, not only a position of arrogant certainty to one of increasing ignorance, but also as one from realizing the all-consuming pervasiveness and insidiousness of traditional management doctrine (managerial ism) to the possibility of more authentic and liberating ways of experiencing organizational life. The starting point for this process of 'unmanaging' ourselves, he suggests, is what we can notice each moment in our experience of the activities occurring between us in our everyday lives - a move from understanding our own practices as outside observers of them to engaged participants within them.

Key words: managerialism, utterances, responsiveness, systems thinking, life events

Review Essay

Theodore Taptiklis: Unmanaging: Opening up the Organization to its own Unspoken Knowledge

Palgrave Macmilan, Basingstoke, UK, and New York, USA, 2008, pp. 237, euro 31.99, Paperback ISBN: 978-0-230-57352-9

"What is happening now has significance - in these surroundings. The surroundings give it its importance" (Wittgenstein, 1953, no. 583).

"Giving grounds, justifying the evidence, comes to an end; - but the end is not in certain propositions striking us immediately as true, i.e., it is not a kind of seeing on our part; it is our acting, which lies at the bottom of the language-game" (Wittgenstein, 1969, no. 204).

This, I think, is a quite marvellous book. It is precisely about what it says it is about in its subtitle: opening up organizations to their own unspoken knowledge. What I think Taptiklis has realized is, that although many of our activities in the world are already partially ordered, it is open to us to further specify them, i.e., to order their structure further, in a timely manner, to fit the particular exigencies of local circumstances. In other words, those who are good at organizing do not, and cannot, simply follow rules or procedures; they do not, and cannot, simply repeat in the present moment what was successful in the past. They must work within the complexities of the present moment for yet "another first time" (Garfinkel, 1967, p. 9) in a way sensitive to the potentialities, the uniquely available local resources, to fashion appropriate lines of action. Thus he explores in this book the kinds of capabilities we require if we are going to organize our activities in this much more responsive-to-local-circumstances fashion, to organize in ways that make much more use of often unspoken and thus unnoticed local knowledges.

The book is in three parts. It is about (1) the whole original background of theoretical and philosophical thought from out of which managerialism as such, i.e., the idea that all organizations can be run and understood in the same way, has arisen; (2) the severe limitations of that background; and (3) what a very different way of thinking about ourselves and our relations both to each other and to the larger surroundings of our lives might look like, sound like, and feel like. But instead of proposing yet another new theory or model, Taptiklis takes instead our mostly unthinking, spontaneously enacted, mostly speech intertwined, everyday activities as the background surrounding from out of which all our activities arise and make sense, and back into which they return to exert their influence.

In other words, Taptiklis focuses on the importance of the fact that, as living, active, embodied human beings, we are continuously moving around and spontaneously responding to the others and othernesses around us. …

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