Table of Contents

Critical Management Studies at Work

Critical Management Studies at Work

Negotiating Tensions between Theory and Practice

Edited by Julie Wolfram Cox, Tony G. LeTrent-Jones, Maxim Voronov and David Weir

This book is the first of its kind to reflect on what it means to actually perform critical management studies (CMS): how consultants, researchers, teachers and managers negotiate the tensions they experience in their everyday practice.

Chapter 13: Caught in ‘No-Man’s Land’? Consultancy and Critique

Brendon Harvey

Subjects: business and management, critical management studies, international business, organisation studies


13. Caught in ‘No Man’s Land’? Consultancy and critique Brendon Harvey INTRODUCTION Studying management critically focuses on management as an occupation or activity and seeks a critical understanding of the relationships between management, power and politics (Deetz 2003). Drawing on my recently completed doctoral thesis, this chapter seeks to illuminate processes of consultancy activity ‘from the trenches’, within three different companies in three sectors, that shaped, and were shaped by, the power relations and complexities of the organizational context. The chapter further explores the possibility of critical consultancy and the tensions of working beyond a technocratic rational understanding of consultancy (Alvesson 2002). The latter relates to consultancy activity failing to address taken-for-granted assumptions and ideologies. Consequently, consultancy privileges particular meanings of workplace organization and behaviour. In particular, three critical incidents will be explored that highlight the assumptions and ramifications of consultancy, identifying that such ideas are not neutral technical rules and principles but have political significance (Watson 2002). Moreover, it is argued that the consultant is working within a context of competition and across a contested area. He/she is not a neutral ‘caught in the cross fire’ between opposing trenches but may also be influencing the nature of conflict or resolution, as well as influenced by it. Drawing on my experience of working closely alongside managers and their employees in my role as consultant, this chapter seeks to explore the unease of being in ‘No-Man’s Land’,1 brought about by critically reflecting on my own role and its impact on...

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