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Researcher of the Month Renate Meyer

Video Renate Meyer

Renate Meyer

Researcher of the Month in October

Share­holder value, CSR, di­versity – What’s in, what’s out, and what’s here to stay

Terms like share­holder value, CSR, or sus­tain­ab­il­ity are la­bels for the ideas about how or­gan­iz­a­tions should be set up, run, and man­aged. Man­age­ment con­cepts like these often co­ex­ist side by side and fol­low cer­tain cyc­lical pat­terns. Not every man­age­ment idea can al­ways work all the time and anyplace. WU Pro­fessor Ren­ate Meyer’s re­search fo­cuses on the ques­tion of which man­age­ment con­cepts fre­quently oc­cur at the same time as oth­ers, how they aug­ment each other, and how one and the same name can mean dif­fer­ent th­ings to dif­fer­ent people. Her stud­ies show that not all man­age­ment trends de­liver what they prom­ise; often they’re just old ideas in sh­iny new pack­aging.

A In her cur­rent re­search at the In­sti­tute for Or­gan­iz­a­tion Stud­ies at WU’s De­part­ment of Man­age­ment, Ren­ate Meyer is fo­cus­ing in­tently on the ques­tion of how new man­age­ment ideas come to be, what they mean in dif­fer­ent con­texts, which or­gan­iz­a­tions and or­gan­iz­a­tional forms they are suit­able for, and how they evolve and even dis­ap­pear. In a cur­rent study fo­cus­ing on pub­lic or­gan­iz­a­tions and based on an ana­lysis of rel­ev­ant peri­od­ic­als, WU Pro­fessor Meyer has ap­plied a se­mantic net­work ana­lysis to identify four spe­cific clusters or bundles of con­cepts that often ap­pear to­gether: One in­cludes per­form­ance man­age­ment con­cepts, one qual­ity man­age­ment meas­ures, a fur­ther in­volves eGov­ern­ment, and a fourth deals with di­versity man­age­ment. “The suc­cess of in­di­vidual man­age­ment ideas often de­pends not only on how well they ac­tu­ally solve man­age­ment prob­lems, but also on how well they can be com­bined with the ex­ist­ing port­fo­lio of con­cepts already in use, and how so­cially ac­cept­able they are,” says Meyer.

Im­ple­ment­a­tion or just lip ser­vice?

A de­tailed look tells even more: In spe­cial­ist lit­er­at­ure, al­most all man­age­ment con­cepts are praised as new, in­nov­at­ive, key, com­pre­hens­ive, top pri­or­ity, etc. – in short, they’re all im­port­ant. Where it gets in­ter­est­ing is when com­par­ing the di­versity and com­plex­ity of in­di­vidual con­cepts. Some man­age­ment ideas are described in com­pre­hens­ive de­tail while oth­ers are given only brief at­ten­tion. The eGov­ern­ment, open gov­ern­ment, and open data bundle, for example, is praised not only very highly, but also in great de­tail – aside from the usual spe­cial­ist jar­gon, these de­scrip­tions in­clude val­ues like demo­cracy, par­ti­cip­a­tion, etc. that these man­age­ment con­cepts are sup­posed to en­cour­age. The di­versity bundle, on the other hand, is presen­ted in a fairly one-di­men­sional man­ner and as­so­ci­ated with equal op­por­tun­it­ies, legal ob­lig­a­tions, and sanc­tions. The re­main­ing two bundles are located between these two ex­tremes. “This doesn’t ne­ces­sar­ily al­low us to draw con­clu­sions about im­ple­ment­a­tion, but it does in­dic­ate the level of enthu­si­asm that some con­cepts seem to in­spire more than oth­ers,” Meyer ex­plains, “which may also be an in­dic­ator of which con­cepts are im­ple­men­ted com­pre­hens­ively and which ones may be used less often or are not as well though-out.” 

Foresight bet­ter than trend-hop­ping

Man­age­ment ideas and con­cepts have life cycles just like anything else – the shelf life of the aware­ness and prac­tical rel­ev­ance of in­di­vidual con­cepts var­ies. “Like other fash­ions, some trends are easier to com­bine with oth­ers, and which ones go to­gether well de­pends on what you already have. Our res­ults make it easier to re­cog­nize trends. We know which man­age­ment con­cepts har­mon­ize well, which con­cepts have im­plic­a­tions that make them in­com­pat­ible with cer­tain other ideas, and which con­cepts are ex­pec­ted by vari­ous stake­holder groups,” ex­plains WU Pro­fessor Meyer. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the com­plic­ated in­ter­ac­tions between the vari­ous con­cepts make it dif­fi­cult for rad­ic­ally new busi­ness and or­gan­iz­a­tional ideas to es­tab­lish them­selves suc­cess­fully in this com­plex net­work. This can be ob­served for example in non-h­i­er­arch­ical or­gan­iz­a­tional forms or in busi­ness mod­els based on non-­mon­et­ary bar­ter­ing sys­tems. These res­ults also show that as a man­ager, it is par­tic­u­larly im­port­ant not to blindly fol­low every man­age­ment trend, but rather to take a long-term per­spect­ive and view each idea and con­cept as part of the big pic­ture. This makes it possible to re­flect care­fully on whether or not to im­ple­ment a con­cept into an in­di­vidual or­gan­iz­a­tional man­age­ment sys­tem.