Management is too important not to debate
What do hedge funds, the management of water, Leicester city region, Chinese banks, trade unions, global supply chains and epigenetics all have in common? They are all examples of the sort of research that informs the debates on management which is taking place at the University of Leicester School of Business.
Organisations have an enormous impact on all of us as employees, as customers and more generally as citizens. We are born in, educated in, work in, play in, are governed by, obtain goods and services from, receive medical treatment in and die in organisations. And these organisations are all managed to a greater or lesser degree.
We therefore need to debate management, business and organisations: they are too important in our everyday lives to be left unexamined. So whose objectives do they serve, why and how? Who benefits from what these organisations do or do not provide? Who does not?
Management and organisations have created many of the achievements of the modern world, but are also profoundly implicated in the pressing global problems facing us today: the persistence of war, violence, the degradation of the natural environment, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, unhealthy and unsafe work environments, work-life imbalance and the unequal global distribution of wealth, to name but a few.
Very little existing management research and consultancy deals directly with issues such as these. However, they are central to what we do at the School. Our academics and research students draw on a range of social science and humanities disciplines to provide as many different perspectives on these problems as possible. There are no easy solutions, and we need to gain insights from beyond the safe areas of the average business school.
Challenging the status quo
Our research attempts not only to understand and to explain the world from a variety of different vantage points but also to contribute to informed choices about how the world could be changed for the better. We want to challenge common assumptions about the techniques and goals of organising, managing, accounting, finance and marketing in a globalising world. The renowned sociologist Howard Becker has argued that good social science refuses to accept taken-for-granted, established ways of doing things. We agree. Good research should question the status quo and is therefore often radical in its conclusions.
We do not believe that good social science is always detached, objective and quantitative in its approach. Nor do we think it should routinely borrow from the natural sciences in its investigations. Instead we favour the use of a wide range of methods in attempting to understand and unpick management and organisations. This is why we house the largest body of heterodox researchers across the core disciplines of accounting and finance, marketing and organisation studies in the world.
Further, our diverse faculty actively seek out and work with non-western and non-capitalist ideas on and examples of how humans can organise and manage themselves; from sub-Saharan Africa, from the Gulf, from East Asia, from the Indian subcontinent and from pre- and post-colonial positions in particular. We are particularly interested in alternative organisations such as co-operatives, communes, credit unions, micro-finance providers, Local Exchange and Trading Schemes, the Fair Trade movement and so on. What might these ideas and these alternatives offer us that more conventional and familiar arrangements do not? Can we afford not to debate alternatives when we face such huge crises?
To illustrate some of our research and consultancy activities, consider our series of vignettes detailing recent and current projects. We hope they whet your appetite for the research work that we do here in the School, not least because all of these activities feed through into and actively inform our teaching and supervision at undergraduate, master’s and doctoral level. We look forward to having you join our debates!