Handbook of Critical Information Systems Research
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Handbook of Critical Information Systems Research

Theory and Application

Edited by Debra Howcroft and Eileen M. Trauth

This important Handbook provides a unique overview of information systems (IS) research by focusing on the increasing interest in critical-related issues.
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Chapter 7: Management Fashions and Information Systems

Chris Westrup


Chris Westrup Introduction Management fashion appears to be the antithesis of rational management and far removed from the straw man of management engaged in an unrelenting pursuit of extracting surplus value from labour. This is both a strength and a weakness. Perhaps an exploration of management fashion can open up understandings of management as varied, uncertain and aping rationality, and management knowledge as contestable and provisional? On the other hand, a focus on fashion can overemphasize an aesthetic notion of management and downplay continuities in processes of change. It is the contention of this chapter that a critical engagement with the notion of management fashion can shed light on the development and use of information systems (IS) and reflexively say something about the field of IS research. To explore this, I shall mainly consider the example of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems with some discussion on business process re-engineering, e-business and customer relationship management (CRM). By even mentioning these examples, it is clear that fashion is a strong contender in any explanation of these phenomena. Willmott (1995) even considers that we could be engaged in a ‘turkey shoot’ with easy targets for academics to aim at, but perhaps more is at stake here. For example, managerial fashion is often linked with management best sellers and management gurus. Michael Hammer’s article in the Harvard Business Review, ‘Don’t automate, obliterate’ (1990) and the subsequent books on business re-engineering are a classic instance of the rise of a management guru and a...

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