The Politics of Standards in Modern Management: Making the Project a Reality

20 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2007

See all articles by Damian Hodgson

Damian Hodgson

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School

Svetlana Cicmil

University of the West of England (UWE) - Bristol Law School

Abstract

In this paper, we explore the standardization of contemporary management knowledge, focusing in particular upon the role of standards in creating and reifying organizational objects, with powerful consequences and with often unrecognized ethical implications. It is our argument that modernist beliefs in general, abstract and timeless ideas (Brunsson et al., 2000, p. 173), enshrined in a universal and abstract rationality, results in the marginalization of more reflexive forms of rationality and the suppression of autonomy, creativity and discretion in organizations. To investigate the consequences of standardization, we take as the focus of our analysis a specific management model which has a significant and growing impact on many sectors of contemporary industry; that of project management. Drawing on the work of Timmermans and Berg (1997), Bowker and Star (1999) and Brunsson et al. (2000), we draw attention to the reification of the object of management; in this case, the project itself, as a transhistorical, real world object. By tracing efforts to establish and institutionalize standards in this and other fields of management, in particular through the creation and dissemination of a universal body of knowledge for this field, we draw attention to the political and moral significance of the blackboxing of knowledge. It is our broader intention here to help to denaturalize this organizational object, to legitimize other modes of knowledge and practice in the field, and thereby to reopen debate in this and other arenas of standardization.

Suggested Citation

Hodgson, Damian and Cicmil, Svetlana, The Politics of Standards in Modern Management: Making the Project a Reality. Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 44, Issue 3, pp. 431-450, May 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=976214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6486.2007.00680.x

Damian Hodgson (Contact Author)

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School ( email )

Booth Street West
Manchester, M15 6PB
United Kingdom

Svetlana Cicmil

University of the West of England (UWE) - Bristol Law School ( email )

Frenchay Campus
Coldharbour Lane
Bristol, BS16 1QY
United Kingdom

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