To report on an exploratory study on unwritten rules carried out in Australia, place this study in the context of the historical development of thought on rules and discuss implications for management learning.
This paper has three parts. The first part reviews the theoretical scholarly writings on rules as social structures from the early sociology of the nineteenth century to the organizational theory of the present day. Theories of structural functionalism and institutionalism are acknowledged as historical influences on rules and the assumptions likely to be made by managers about compliance and implementation. In the second part, the research is described in which staff members from five organizations were invited to technology‐supported focus groups. The data collection was supported by group support systems technology, which allowed anonymous inputs. Staff were asked, in various ways, about both official rules and unwritten rules. These included the use of scenarios, reported here. In the third part, the findings are discussed and three implications for management learning are suggested.
The research produced evidence that rules exist, are acted upon and require a view of the rule‐implementer as complex and holistic. The findings supported Giddens' theory of structuration which suggests that the individual rule taker draws on rules and also personal sensibility when involved in social encounters.
This paper provides contemporary data on rules as perceived practice which is presented within the context of the historical development of relevant management theory. Attention is drawn to three implications for management learning, which are: what rules mean, assumptions of managers, and deep listening as social responsibility. The future research agenda should be of value to those considering a practical contribution to this original field of institutional inquiry.
Whiteley, A. (2006), "Rules as received practice: historical perspective and implications for managers", Journal of Management History, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 53-70. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552520610638274Download as .RIS
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