Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Academics as Agents of Change?

Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Academics as Agents of Change?

Article excerpt


Over the last twenty years management courses offered in Australia have undergone considerable change. Most notable is the number of different programmes available and the varied content of these. However, in an environment which is changing rapidly, management education and its provision are under continuous review. Data gathered recently to examine the perceptions of academics in relation to management education, has drawn attention to an issue that warrants consideration. Should management academics be agents of change or should they simply make changes in response to new demands? The answer to this question has significant implications for the future development of management education. This paper seeks to examine the role that the management academic has in a situation of continuous change.

The author wishes to acknowledge the contribution of research funding support from the group for Research into Professional Practice Learning and Education, Charles Sturt University.


Demands for more effective management skills and greatly improved management education have been numerous (Karpin 1995; Lamond 1996; Edwards, O'Reilly & Schuwalow 1997) and the response of management education providers is quite evident. The increased availability of management courses, content variation, modes of delivery, and an enhanced international focus are identifiable examples of institutional responses. However, there are still questions being asked about whether current management education is adequately meeting the needs of Australian managers and their future challenges.

This paper intends to discuss the changing role of managers, the provision of management education in Australia, and the role of management academics in ensuring that the requirements of emerging managerial roles are met. A key issue that will be addressed is the extent to which management academics should adopt a proactive role in the provision of management education, and essentially become agents for change.


Changes in the business environment and managerial workplace and the role of managers are innumerable. Of particular significance is the ability of managers to cope with "globalisation, turbulence, social change, technological discontinuity, and transformed organisational and management practices and cultural individualism" (Limerick & Cunnington 1993:7). It is essential that managers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully manage constant environmental and organisational change.

The most significant changes have been in: technology, communication, the internationalisation of business, the growth in the service sector, a focus on quality, organisational structures and networks, workforce diversity, work processes and the role and accountability of the chief executive officer (Lewis, Goodman, & Fandt 1995; Limerick & Cunnington 1996). To operate in this new environment, managers will have to develop different styles of management, and possess new skills and competencies.

Johnson (1996) and Lewis et al. (1995) agreed that the competencies of successful managers in the 21st century will be different from those traditionally valued. A Swiss-based executive search firm, TASA (undated) identified the criteria for the successful manager as being visionary, change and action focussed, people oriented, team players, with broad experience and understanding of outside constituencies, who are able to motivate and plan for the future (Johnson 1996:65-66). This view was supported by Lewis et al. (1995:25-27) who argued that the successful managers of tomorrow must be great communicators, team players, technology masters, problem solvers, foreign ambassadors, and change makers.

These requirements were summed up well by Kanter (1989) who stated that management:

... requires faster action, more creative maneuvering, more flexibility, and closer partnerships with employees and customers than was typical in the traditional corporate bureaucracy. …

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