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Management development on the edge: HRM in a knowledge intensive organization

Thomas Sewerin (Thomas Sewerin AB, Malmö, Sweden)
Robert Holmberg (Department of Psychology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Mats Benner (Research Policy Institute, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 17 July 2009




This paper aims to present a case of project‐based management development with a group of younger researchers in a medical faculty in a university.


The case is based on documentation and recollections in which the first author was involved as a learning coach. The paper is a way to share a process of conversation between the authors and to highlight some critical issues through the elaboration of three perspectives: a macro perspective where the situation in the medical faculty is related to developments in the organizational field; a description from the consultant's point of view; and a human resource perspective in which the style of intervention is linked to the contingencies facing the organization at this point in time.


In retrospect the program was found to create opportunities for identity‐work and sensemaking involving the participants' individual roles as well as their representations of how the medical faculty was organized. While normal human resource management (HRM) may be seen as a kind of regular maintenance of an organization, it is suggested that the style of management development (as part of an overall HRM strategy) described here is better understood as a form of organizational identity work.


Distinguishing between different styles of HRM and relating them to contingencies in terms of threats to organizational identity contributes to a more nuanced discussion of the practical challenges, possibilities and risks related to different styles. There is a need for both large‐scale studies of the prevalence of new practices and in‐depth ethnographies of interventions like the one described in this paper, especially in situations where there are perceived threats to identity.



Sewerin, T., Holmberg, R. and Benner, M. (2009), "Management development on the edge: HRM in a knowledge intensive organization", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 225-243.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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