Can specialists be general managers?

Martin Clarke (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Publication date: 1 April 1998


The plight of the middle manager has received considerable attention recently as this endangered species has been delayered, rationalised and subjected to many organisational change programmes. These changes have pushed the middle manager into an increasing number of apparently contradictory and paradoxical situations. In the postmodern world, reality is chaotic and unstable and middle managers in particular cannot rely on unambiguous models of thinking to steer them through this uncertainty. This paper identifies some of the ways in which a paradoxical perspective can illuminate the tensions faced by middle managers and the impact of culture change programmes on their ability to make decisions informed by reflective thinking. Discussion is given to considering what actions might be taken to develop a paradoxical perspective in middle managers and this framework is applied to a management development programme, General Management or Specialists, currently being run at Cranfield School of Management. This is used as a practical example of the usefulness of a paradoxical perspective in helping managers make real choices about the world in which they work.



Clarke, M. (1998), "Can specialists be general managers?", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 191-206.

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Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

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