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PhD Series No. 17.2012
Management in a professional service firm such as Deloitte is suspended between a range of different fundamental concerns and ways of thinking. There is a market in which client needs are to be met, competitors matched and outperformed. There is the general public in which accounting firms such as Deloitte increasingly have become the object of critical scrutiny in their role as guardians of the common rules of accountability and legislation on accounting. There is a very strong professional culture and ethics, stemming from being a part of the professional community of a profession which creates unique ways of organizing and managing. And there is a growing concern about how to run the continually growing accounting-based advisory organizations (or professional service firms) in a way that efficiently utilizes the aggregated resources, which again creates a focus on management as a distinct issue. It is primarily the contradiction and dynamics of the latter two ‘internal’ concerns that the study of the dissertation is about - seen as institutional logics of professionalism and, or versus, bureaucracy. While the focus of most research into professional service firms has been on how general structural changes affect this unique species of organization, this study investigates how these contradictions affect the way accountants live and work performing roles as managers; how do accountants who become managers make sense of these contradictory logics? The dissertation treats this question theoretically by applying extant literature dealing with institutional change and logics with a special emphasis on recent research that focuses on the micro-processes which are the foundations of institutions and concretizes how institutional logics affect the action and sensemaking of actors. The dissertation contributes to this research by applying sensemaking theory and symbolic interactionism. The study is based on a 3-year ethnographic study in which managers at all levels have been interviewed and observed. Actual management processes and management training have been observed, via shadowing and participant observation. Relevant archival material has been included in the analysis. All these sources have been recorded and systematized in order to create a point of departure for the analyses of the dissertation. The main findings of the study point to: The institutional changes described by the Professional Service Firms research can be identified at the micro- or actor level in terms of ideals, systems, way organizing and structures which use a logic of bureaucracy and among which the development of a new middle-management role is a critical feature. These changes seem to have important consequences for the basic psychological contract between the professional and the organization in professional service firms. The changes, as they are found in the case, are more complex and laden with conflicts than otherwise described in the literature about professional service firms. This is based on the way the actors ‘draw on the existing logics’ and the conditions they have for doing this locally. This points to the importance of investigating the interaction of actors in order to understand how the new management practices are institutionalized/structurated. The changes towards a new model of management, found in the study, are based on the ability (and will) of the managers to navigate the contradictory logics in such a way that they can establish a meaningful identity as managers, and that they can mobilize other actors who support a new way of understanding management and that they are able to create space for the conversational reflection upon their behavior as managers and management. The ability (and will) of the managers is in its turn dependent on local conditions and interaction enabling these steps of sensemaking.
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