Guest editorial

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Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Publication date: 1 October 2004


Trehan, K., Rigg, C. and Stewart, J. (2004), "Guest editorial", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 28 No. 8/9.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

About the Guest EditorsKiran Trehan is Head of Department of Management Business School at the University of Central England, where she undertakes research, teaching and consultancy with a variety of public and private sector organisations in the area of human resource/organisational development. Her fields of interest include critical approaches to human resource development, management learning, power and emotions in organisational development. Her current research interests include critical thinking in human resource development, critical reflection and action learning in practice with particular reference to leadership development power relations and group dynamics.

Clare Rigg teaches Organisation Change and Public Leadership at the School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, UK. She is currently involved in a range of projects and programmes across the public sector designed to facilitate leadership and organisation development. She is particularly interested in the use of action inquiry approaches to development, especially in joint learning on complex and cross cutting issues.

Jim Stewart is Professor of Human Resource Development at Nottingham Business School where he is Joint Course Leader of the Doctorate in Business Administration, which he launched in 1998. He previously led the design and development of the NBS MSc. in HRD for which he was Course Leader for six years. Jim has worked in universities since 1986 following careers in operational management in the retail industry and as a development professional in local government. An active researcher and writer during his career as an academic, Jim is the author, editor and co-editor of ten books on HRD, including the ground-breaking text edited with Jim McGoldrick (1996), HRD: Perspectives, Principles and Practice; the single authored (1999) Employee Development Practice and four co-edited texts published between 2002 and 2004 in the Routledge Studies in Human Resource Development Series. Two of those four texts are the result of Jim’s joint award with Professor Jean Woodall and Professor Monica Lee of an ESRC Research Seminar Series on Human Resource Development: The Emerging Theoretical Agenda and Empirical Research. Jim has Guest Edited special issues of Personnel Review, Journal of Strategic Change and Journal of European Industrial Training.

A critical turn in human resource development

This issue will comprise a number of papers relating to a series of themes on critical human resource development. The editors proposed the theme due to their concern that the debates and practice of human resource development (HRD) were being dominated by an unquestioning performativity or an assumption of benign humanism.

Many practitioners in the “management and human resource development business” have long felt their role was dubious if they merely operated in a technocratic way – refining individual skills and developing organisational capabilities to continue operating in ways that have serious human and ecological consequences.

In the background, a number of practitioners and academics have been quietly working with critical approaches to learning and development and have built up a degree of experience of the possibilities, dangers and constraints of critical HRD. The aim of this issue is to collate lessons from this experience in a critically reflexive way. It is about critical HRD, in the sense of going beyond a simplistic unquestioning advocacy of HRD theory and practice.

Since the mid-1980 s, Britain has seen increased exhortations to improve its development of managers, including the Constable and McCormick (1987) Report, Handy’s (1987) Report, the Mangham and Silver Report (1986), and more recently the Institute of Management’s report (Thomson et al., 1997) and the Storey, Edwards and Sisson (1997) study. Invariably, the rationale for development is to better pursue competitive advantage, to “meet the changing character of market conditions” (Storey, Edwards and Sisson, 1997, p. 207), or to fulfil the needs of business strategy: “organizational management is a vital ingredient in securing improved business performance” (Woodall and Winstanley, 1998, p. 3). In the past decade, ideas of critical thinking have been increasingly related to management, motivated by a rejection of the conception of management as a technical activity. As Alvesson and Willmott (1996, p. 17) argue, “the functional rhetoric of technical rationality” denies or mystifies the moral basis of management practice. A critical perspective would offer managers “an appreciation of the pressures that lead managerial work to become so deeply implicated in the unremitting exploitation of nature and human beings, national and international extremes of wealth and poverty, the creation of global pollution, the promotion of “needs” for consumer products” etc. (Alvesson and Willmott, 1996, p. 39).

Despite the increased interest in a critical management perspective, there is a dearth of empirical experience of expediting critical HRD.

This issue addresses these gaps and illuminates the emergence of HRD and its “critical turn”. The papers presented provide a review of what being “Critical” might involve in the context of HRD, by examining discourses associated with “being Critical” as well as emerging and eclectic discourses of HRD. This volume contributes to a rich understanding of HRD by evaluating whether this is indeed a Critical time for HRD (Sambrook, 2004).

The first set of papers (Sambrook, 2004; Holmes, 2004 Myers, 2004) explore the tensions and contradictions in HRD, the papers critically scrutinise HRD by applying critical thinking to HRD practices and discourses.

The second set of papers (Anderson and Thorpe, 2004; Harvey, 2004; Kellie, 2004) illuminate the complexity of teaching Critical HRD and highlight constraints in classroom practice.

Each of these two contexts is important to both academics and professional practitioners and therefore the readership of this journal. As guest editors we hope to have stimulated thoughts and reflections that will lead to more content on critical HRD in this and other journals.

Kiran Trehan, Clare Rigg, Jim StewartGuest Editors


Anderson, L. and Thorpe, R. (2004), “New perspectives on action learning: developing criticality”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 28 No. 8/9, pp. 657–68

Harvey, B. (2004), “Chuck out the chintz? ‘Stripped floor’ writing and the catalogue of convention”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 28 No. 8/9, pp. 609–75

Holmes, L. (2004), “Challenging the learning turn in education and training”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 28 No. 8/9, pp. 625–38

Kellie, J. (2004), “Management education and management development: widening participation or narrowing agenda?,”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 28 No. 8/9, pp. 676–88

Myers, J. (2004), “Developing managers: a view from the non-profit sector”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 28 No. 8/9, pp. 639–56

Sambrook, S. (2004), “A ‘critical’ time for HRD?,”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 28 No. 8/9, pp. 611–24