Managers as Practical Authors: Reconstructing Our Understanding of Management Practice

21 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2004

See all articles by Ann L. Cunliffe

Ann L. Cunliffe

University of New Mexico - Robert O. Anderson Schools of Management

Abstract

In Conversational Realities (1993), John Shotter draws on social constructionist suppositions to conceptualize management as a rhetorically-responsive activity in which managers act as 'practical authors' of their social realities (pp. 148-59). From this perspective, organizations are reworked from permanent, independent social structures to relational landscapes continually shifting from the imaginary to the imagined in interactive moments. Managing is seen as an embodied and situated dialogical activity in which managers act as authors of organizational realities through their conversations. In this article, I take as my central premise, the constitutive and metaphorical nature of language, and explore the practical, enacted aspects of Shotter's concept of authorship. Specifically, I suggest authorship may relate to how managers attempt to construct a sense of who they are, create a shared sense of features of their organizational landscape, and how they may move others to talk or act in different ways through their dialogical practices. I draw on research conversations with managers to explore how everyday poetic talk may be crucial to the process of constructing self, realities, and meaning. This 'reconstruction' of management practice offers both a different way of thinking about managing and potential dialogical resources which may allow managers to author or construct organizational experiences in more deliberate ways.

Suggested Citation

Cunliffe, Ann L., Managers as Practical Authors: Reconstructing Our Understanding of Management Practice. Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 38, pp. 351-371, May 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=565050

Ann L. Cunliffe (Contact Author)

University of New Mexico - Robert O. Anderson Schools of Management ( email )

Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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