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  1. 1. Normativity in Management Research in Practice <ul><li>Geoff Easton </li></ul><ul><li>Professor of Marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Lancaster University </li></ul><ul><li>Management School </li></ul><ul><li>United Kingdom </li></ul>
  2. 2. Genesis of the research project <ul><li>Advanced Institute for Management (AIM) </li></ul><ul><li>Call for proposals </li></ul><ul><li>International Study Fellowship 2004 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Manager - Researcher Relationships; The Scandinavian Experience” </li></ul><ul><li>Rationale </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sociology of Management Research” </li></ul>
  3. 3. Research Design <ul><li>Depth interviews with researchers and managers </li></ul><ul><li>Snowballing from key collaborators </li></ul><ul><li>Co-construction of knowledge experiment </li></ul><ul><li>Research sites; Copenhagen Business School, Stockholm School of Economics, Uppsala University, JIBS, Chalmers, Gothenburg, B.I. </li></ul><ul><li>Digital recording </li></ul><ul><li>Coding via HyperResearch software </li></ul>
  4. 4. Sample Characteristics <ul><li>114 interviewees </li></ul><ul><li>21 managers </li></ul><ul><li>45 researchers without major non academic experience </li></ul><ul><li>48 researchers with major non academic experience </li></ul><ul><li>Academics including a University Principal, Deans of Business Schools, Professors and PhD students </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly middle managers from a range of industries </li></ul>
  5. 5. Data Analysis <ul><li>All interviews digitally recorded </li></ul><ul><li>Coding of sound “records” using HyperResearch software </li></ul><ul><li>43 active codes (e.g. access, funding) </li></ul><ul><li>3600+ sound “records” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Normativity- Definition <ul><li>“ Establishing or setting up a norm or standard” (OED) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Aspects of the world are normative in as much as they or their existence constitute reasons for persons, i.e. grounds which make certain beliefs, moods, emotions, intentions or actions appropriate or inappropriate.” </li></ul><ul><li>Christine Korsgaard, Tanner Lectures on Human Values </li></ul>
  7. 7. Normativity and Management Research Some alternative positions <ul><li>“ We shouldn’t help managers, we should simply theorise, research or criticise them” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We should help managers but not directly during our research” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Others might help researchers during research but I prefer not to” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I prefer to help managers directly but it depends on the circumstances” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The only way to do good research is to help managers while you are doing it” </li></ul>
  8. 8. Normativity Themes <ul><li>Researcher attitudes and beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>Manager attitudes and beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>Modes of intervention </li></ul><ul><li>Processes and outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Contingencies </li></ul><ul><li>Sub-themes and topics </li></ul>
  9. 9. Researcher Attitudes and Beliefs For Involvement <ul><ul><li>“ That’s my job as well. It’s not only to write articles or whatever it is but you go out and try to help people.” Swedish Academic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I enjoy staying not only here but spending a substantial amount of your time in companies working together with managers in the companies. Not necessarily running around doing all sorts of actions but working in close collaboration. Staying a substantial amount of time out there to learn how to relate and to establish the right relationships with the practitioners. Learning the language of practical management.” Danish Academic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I consider myself as one of the.. to be one of the participants, that is the only way to do it.” Swedish Academic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Yes I think it is appealing if you hold, keep yourself, don’t become the complete consultant.” Swedish PhD </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>“ I don’t consult, generally speaking… Talking to companies is a waste of my time… I have written the occasional paper saying, you know, implications for managers but I don’t if I can help it… I am doing this (current research) because it gives me a kick.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ve never been interested in that (consultancy). I’ve tried to avoid it. I thought that it was really difficult to try to tell people that have been working with things and worked for 30 years, what they should do.” Swedish Academic </li></ul>Researcher Attitudes and Beliefs Against Involvement
  11. 11. <ul><li>“ Because it is impossible to end up with the conclusion that the world is so complicated we can’t do anything, because you have to do things. Then, hopefully, eventually (research programme) will also provide not only some questions but also some answers.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul>Researcher Attitudes and Beliefs Normative Imperative
  12. 12. <ul><li>“ I was taking my doctoral courses in qualitative research and I was extremely careful. I did everything by the book. Even if they asked, I was very careful, “I cannot tell”, I was very strict. Today I would be much more talkative and give interaction. Maybe we could do something interesting like a project together. We give and take much more like that.” Swedish Academic </li></ul>Researcher Attitudes and Beliefs Maturation?
  13. 13. <ul><li>“ I don’t want to mix my research with my advising. I want to keep these things separate. I don’t want to convert my role from being a researcher to something else. I think that there is, to some extent, a conflict between these two roles.” Swedish Academic </li></ul>Researcher Attitudes and Beliefs Separation
  14. 14. <ul><li>So in that way I think that it is impossible not to be normative. So whatever we try to do, however we try to do, we are always normative and the question is if we manage to realise that, because if we realise it we can handle it better than if we believe that we are not normative.  Norwegian Academic </li></ul>Researcher Attitudes and Beliefs Unavoidable
  15. 15. <ul><li>My view is that generally speaking, and that goes for all Sweden, my view is that the best researchers are also the best consultants. Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>I guess that for almost all researchers, they can’t help themselves but think they can change the situation.. Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>that can be a problem… as a (consumer) researcher with views on the industry why am I better off than a (consumer)… what better solutions can I give? Danish Academic </li></ul>Researcher Attitudes and Beliefs Competence
  16. 16. <ul><li>“ But it requires a very good way of handling organizations and some organizations won’t be able to take that. They will ask for a simple solution.” Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ A typical manager he would be concerned with finding the right answer. That would be finding the truth with capital letters because he assumes that it is out there and these very bright people, they can find it.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>but </li></ul><ul><li>Never have I been in a company when they have said “Great, are you going to provide me with a tool where this is how I should be treating my customers?” Norwegian Academic </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>Manager Attitudes and Beliefs Simple solutions and the right answer
  17. 17. Manager Attitudes and Beliefs Neutrality <ul><li>“ What we would need …to make corrections. If this is sensible to measure what is happening. How do they see it? If you ask a consulting company hopefully be standing together with you but (researchers) should be outside as a neutral or whatever and just watching and giving back messages.” Norwegian Manager </li></ul><ul><li>I was in that change process and saw that process from a neutral ground. Norwegian PhD Student </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>“ This is a way of working with the company and contributing to it because we try to underline the research questions that would both be of interest to the company, are really interested in because often it is issues that maybe they don’t have the resources to explore.” Swedish PhD </li></ul>Manager Attitudes and Beliefs Extra resource
  19. 19. Manager Attitudes and Beliefs Consultant comparison - Compatibility <ul><li>“ They were pretty tired of the ordinary management consultant … it was quite interesting because the first time that (research programme) was there, it was a very research driven organization. The managers that were in that meeting said this was something different, they are researchers like we are. It was a different understanding and a different approach too. They were not the consultants that would actually tell you how to do things. They would also do research and they would be on the same kind of level.” Swedish Academic </li></ul>
  20. 20. Manager Attitudes and Beliefs Consultant comparison- Expectations <ul><li>“ I think inside they shake their heads and say “Well, damn researchers.” And then I said if you want somebody to tell you what you should do go out and hire a consultant. That’s not my business.” Danish PhD </li></ul><ul><li>“ That’s a problem when the company doesn’t understand the difference between the consultancy company and the researcher and there can be conflicts… but now they wanted exactly what benefits do we have in our company from this donation. That we must know.” Danish Academic </li></ul>
  21. 21. Manager Attitudes and Beliefs Consultant comparison- Cheapness <ul><li>“… the brand manager, he really wanted to work with me; I think he is very sincere but he said there is no money.. and that’s an issue.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think he looked upon me as some sort of cheap consultant.” Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>“ But again, in the beginning, what do we as a company get out of it? Sometimes you get something out of it and sometimes less, yeh but by always saying no I think you lose opportunities there.” Norwegian Manager </li></ul>Manager Attitudes and Beliefs Risk and Return
  23. 23. Modes of Intervention Questioning <ul><li>“ I don’t think you can really change people’s minds by the questions you ask.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think that we have been a little bit provocative sometimes and said why do you…?” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“… .and tried to not facilitate change in that sense but I mean ask questions about whether or not change had been facilitated and in that sense, of course, I provoked change.” Swedish Academic </li></ul>
  24. 24. Modes of Intervention New Perspective <ul><li>“ I mean we were not expensive consultants. We were actually honest researchers with a kind of commitment ….We sent them a few pages saying we perceive your strategy is like ……, that was actually a second opinion, a view from outside which is very often a surprise for the enterprise. They don’t get it (very often).” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>I told him I was going to do research in the iron industry …I don’t know that much about your company… and he said OK but what’s the benefit for me. I said he could see me as an outside person with fresh eyes. Danish PhD </li></ul><ul><li>A lot of the things that I am talking about get taken up in their discussion …One of the senior managers said “I got this from (PhD student)” Norwegian PhD </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
  25. 25. Modes of Intervention Feedback <ul><li>“ We invited him because I wanted him to discuss with the companies because I cannot see a lot of things that have happened. So I wanted him to tell them what he expected and how he interpreted it and then I said it is up to you to decide.” Swedish Academic </li></ul>
  26. 26. Modes of Intervention Understanding <ul><li>And what came out of it, they took something out of it, we cannot suggest you anything at all but we can describe the situation today as a product of the past so you are on a route and there is a path and all complications you are facing today have roots in the past… but we are not advising this with the purpose of helping you … to help you make choices… they said several times that it helped them understand, it helped them make choices. Business Historian </li></ul><ul><li>Also I discuss their roles and the present situation and what they should do. I have my own opinions and I would never write them. I knew the motivations when (company) wanted us to do this because they were facing new challenges and we designed the book in the way they could understand themselves in order to face these challenges. Business Historian </li></ul>
  27. 27. Modes of Intervention Understanding <ul><li>“ Although they started out by saying this is nice because it is free, in the aftermath they see the value of having persons involved with the purpose of seeing patterns, understanding processes rather than sheer delivery of results.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ That general or generic picture of the industry that I am painting in my head, I think they like to hear about that and maybe have some of their own ideas confirmed or disconfirmed.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul>
  28. 28. Modes of Intervention Understanding <ul><li>“ In my own mind I am creating a mirror to hold up to them, they can see if their hair is a mess.” Danish PhD </li></ul><ul><li>“ They do say these are our problems and we would like to have an answer… how to deal with it … for example in Sweden none of the (industry) companies are very large… one of the companies reaches say around 100 people they break. They had a problem, they were asking me, they don’t understand how this happens.” </li></ul><ul><li>Swedish Academic </li></ul>
  29. 29. Modes of Intervention Prediction <ul><li>“ ..the way that was done in the end was to say that the short term consequences of introducing something like this could be that the customers get upset… the long term consequences could be that the adaptation, costs and time works through and it works.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul>
  30. 30. Modes of Intervention Advice <ul><li>“ They haven’t yet asked my advice, more sending them papers and looking to discuss them. They have a lot of opinions but they still have all the answers!” Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>They were interested in what came out of the reports and of course we were giving some advice in general but they were not asking for the specific, with one exception where there was a project we did for (nationalised industry) where they specifically want us to say how they could develop the (programme). Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>They see (business school) as some sort of helper producing these kinds of pictures but they are not waiting for that…. It is more that we are a catalyser being involved and helping.   </li></ul><ul><li>Norwegian Academic </li></ul>
  31. 31. Modes of Intervention Implementation <ul><li>“ In this last meeting it ended up - now we want to do something concrete … We have to do something that will lead to some kind of action and implementation.” Norwegian PhD </li></ul><ul><li>“ They know that I am a researcher and the next steps they will have to take for themselves.” Norwegian PhD </li></ul>
  32. 32. Modes of Intervention Action research / long term involvement <ul><li>“ My mandate is such that I am not doing consulting and I am not doing action research. I am participating, observation.” Norwegian PhD. </li></ul><ul><li>“ What is needed is such relationships are developed so you can really start to try to find ways to help them.” Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ Action research …getting into the dialogues and interventions, you know, with the employees .. and the subject of the research isn’t just you thinking about it and then developing the knowledge.” Danish Academic </li></ul>
  33. 33. Modes of Intervention Action research-long term involvement <ul><li>“ What am I really on about, that’s a tricky role to take because the problem is it is action research. I am in it, I am living it.” Norwegian PhD. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Consulting they can do anyhow but they also realise that some of the problems are related to.. they don’t dare to talk to each other in that way.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul>
  34. 34. Process and outcomes Alignment and trade-off <ul><li>And that was also a problem when I started at (company). From the beginning we wanted to have a (particular theoretical) perspective … soon we found out it is very difficult to force on the (particular theoretical) perspective and especially when you are in a company. I mean they wanted to do it from their point of view and so we kind of changed it to a (different theoretical) perspective instead. Danish PhD </li></ul><ul><li>And I presented this in a report … they really enjoyed that. Still, as I see it, it was like a business way of giving something back. In my head I have my PhD and I will have to discuss the issues from a theoretical point of view later on but still I have a nice set of data. Norwegian PhD </li></ul>
  35. 35. Process and outcomes Alignment and trade-off <ul><li>“ The things I present are the things that I want to present … what kind of issues I want to address. Its my choice and its directly on my thesis .. what you see is what you have in your head and what I have in my head is my thesis.” Norwegian PhD </li></ul><ul><li>“ Still it was difficult to get something out of it like good articles. A lot of that research was very applied and for them to use tomorrow kind of. I wasn’t really very happy with that. It was too close to consultancy.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul>
  36. 36. Process and outcomes Alignment and trade-off <ul><li>“ We tried to define parts of the project. We always tried to see if there were openings to write some papers but that came in addition to that, to the work. Of course it helped to get some empirical stuff.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s hard to claim findings sort of in terms of generic models with the action approach at all in the first place.” Danish PhD. </li></ul>
  37. 37. Process and outcomes Comparison with Consulting <ul><li>“ If you compare them (consultants) and us I think we have better information. We are more rigorous and we are more modest.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>It’s a lot of common things (between researchers and consultants). Both for (researchers) and consultants we need to do a lot of training we need to train them how we do the business and often that’s the main part of it (laughter). What’s different? The way of looking have so far been a little different because the (researchers) have focused on the processes the consultants will also have a little focus on the process but in a business way. Norwegian Manager </li></ul>
  38. 38. Process and outcomes Impact <ul><li>“ He was splendid to me but when I left he made sure I didn’t get any impact on his department. He didn’t want that. Which was good and bad because they could have used my results very much and they didn’t use it at all and it was very stupid because some people really wanted to do that.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ That’s why I am saying that my results they got used there but not in the way I had imagined not in a planned way. Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ But another way I also think that they got a lot of value out of it was even though I couldn’t work with the directors I could work with some of his people … I think they really learned a lot these people.” Danish Academic </li></ul>
  39. 39. Contingencies <ul><li>Policy research </li></ul><ul><li>“ I mean when I was working for the (foreign government) that was a different story. I could see the results almost immediately. We were working with politicians, NGOs for social and civil development.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>Contracting </li></ul><ul><li>“ I would say that the typical article we can publish would look like this. It is rather coolly descriptive 90% and then we are more or less required by the sort of journals.. in the conclusions we draw a number of practical implications which are based on not very well thought out normative assumptions but we are not doing action research or anything like that.” Swedish Academic </li></ul>
  40. 40. <ul><li>Operations Management </li></ul><ul><li>“ Now in most of our projects here we can say in our department everything, it’s applied together with companies. It does concern some problem in reality” Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ Well, we go to them. We go to the people we know. We say that we believe there is interest in this area. We see that you have the same problem internally. Do you feel it severely enough to finance our research?” Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ We can hardly ever say an exact outcome but we can have, we can state the ambition, we can state the method, we can state what tools we will use, then it is up to how clever we are to deliver results that is good payback for the money.” Swedish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>Contingencies
  41. 41. <ul><li>Logistics </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think what changed with (research programme) actually from doing projects for companies writing big reports you know and stuff like that. (Research programme) is more for me doing research in companies but not as much being involved and doing, well, answering questions they would have. So for me is more a basic research project.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul><ul><li>Methodological Paradigm </li></ul><ul><li>“ But it turned out that they had never really realized that this (thesis) was supposed to be made from action research …. so this guy was a little more square so he saw the methodology chapter and he pulled out of the (examining) committee.” Norwegian Academic </li></ul>Contingencies
  42. 42. Contingencies <ul><li>Business School </li></ul><ul><li>“ I would say that in our centre … they are action protagonists, they are part of taking place, they are not in the CEO’s mind but they are sitting at the executive board meetings and of course they can have research assistants do more research on certain areas but they are very much in a consultancy role.” Danish Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ I guess the roots were in (business school) which is sort of the action research homeland in Norway and this academic pocket in (city)” Norwegian Academic </li></ul><ul><li>“ In Sweden most universities don’t make a good line between these two ways for getting research, grants from a company or having commissioned work …we try to strictly distinguish between one or the other” Swedish Academic </li></ul>
  43. 43. Contingencies <ul><li>Management vs. “technical” research </li></ul><ul><li>“… ..that was a technical project run at that time… the guy was asked to investigate between legislation and some technical developments. He took his time. It’s a great thing, those guys have the time for it and the normal people in their normal capacity - well you know how it is. You are stretched for time always. He talked to people inside the company … and outside the company, he summarised, concluded and said this is the way to go and we used that. Norwegian Manager </li></ul>
  44. 44. Tentative Conclusions <ul><li>Relatively strong normative attitudes and behaviour in favour of helping managers but </li></ul><ul><li>Not much reflection by academics about their normative position and behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>Variety of modes of intervention with possibilities for many hybrid alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulties of alignment and trade-off </li></ul><ul><li>Differences among sub-disciplines, paradigms and centres </li></ul>