There has been quite a flurry of interest in theorizing and researching the nature of management and managerial activity since the early 1980s. Until that time, organizational researchers tended to be much more interested in studying and writing about non-managers, such as ‘shop-floor workers’, ‘white-collar’ staff and engineers. One reason for the shift of focus may well be the decline, both relatively and absolutely, in the numbers of people performing the former work as against those in the financial, retail and service sector more generally. Another may be to do with the change in political agendas during the 1980s, whereby it became (more) fashionable and timely (in terms, for example, of getting access to research grants) to be examining what managers, as against say assembly-line workers, were doing, or rather should do (much of this earlier work was not well-founded in tightly defined and conducted empirical research); it was, in a sense, all part of the ‘enterprise/entrepreneurial’ culture much promulgated and discussed at the time. Indeed, Pettigrew’s (1985) influential study of continuity and change in ICI has as its focus the analysis of the management of strategic change (see chapter 5). Before this time, the publication of a book about management and managing, which had a strong empirical base and a focus upon relating and attempting to understand what managers actually do (in contrast to normative statements about what managers ought to do, as found in so-called ‘classical management’ and similar texts) was a comparatively rare occurrence. Exceptions include Pollard (1968), Dalton (1959), Braverman (1974), Mintzberg (1973) and Chandler (1977). Rather than describing and reviewing this earlier work, as important and influential as some of it has been, we prefer here to begin the more detailed discussion of management and managing by taking as our point of departure more recent research which has examined and reflected upon this matter from an ethnographic and/or critical perspective relating to the conduct of such discursive and practical activity in organizations during the 1990s. Helpful and influential reviews and commentaries upon this earlier work are to be found in Anthony (1986), Child (1969), Hales (1993), Jackall (1988), Mintzberg (1973), Reed (1989), Scase and Goffee (1989) and Stewart (1991).
What, then, is meant by ‘management/managing’, and how can we understand it? Let us initially provide a summary of our answer(s) to these two questions; we will then refer to and draw upon some recent theorizing and empirical research