More on scholarship in management history

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 26 September 2008



Lamond, D. (2008), "More on scholarship in management history", Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

More on scholarship in management history

Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Management History, Volume 14, Issue 4

The series of articles that constitute this fourth issue of Volume 14 of Journal of Management History (JMH) represent the usual mix of excellent scholarship in management history and commentary on scholarship in management history, and I look forward to introducing these in due course. Before I do though, as we reach the end of three full years of the “new” JMH, I thought the following series of statistics might be of interest to those of you who are regularly involved in the scholarly conversation that JMH exists to facilitate, especially in light of Emerald Group Publishing’s mission to publish “research you can use”. There are two sets of measures we can consider in this regard.

The first relates to the conversation we have between ourselves as scholars, and involves the variety of citation metrics that are available to us. When we consider this set of metrics, we find that JMH is the second most cited journal in Google Scholar’s business/management history category, with JMH’s top ten most cited articles totalling 83 citations. Using Harzing’s “Publish or Perish” software, JMH receives an h-index of two for 2006-2008. These results stand us in good stead as we work our way through the process of gaining SSCI ranking, and are complemented by the second set of measures, related to the conversation we have with ourselves, students and practitioners, and reflected in the article usage statistics for Emerald’s electronic databases.

Emerald has been tracking the usage of content published online in its journals for the last seven years. Since 2004, the total number of JMH articles downloaded has steadily increased from 21,000 to 61,000 per annum in 2007 (+190 per cent). In the same period, the number of Emerald customers who have downloaded at least one article from JMH has increased from 770 to 1,530 per annum (+99 per cent). Further, the average number of downloads per article has risen from 135 in 2004 to 284 in 2007 (+110 per cent).

These very positive sets of metrics are a tribute to the quality of the papers that have been received and the excellent work that the Editorial Advisory Board does in the scholarly quality assurance process of reviewing those papers. They are not surprising when it is noted that the JMH Editorial Advisory Board numbers over 40 academics from around the globe, ranging from long established senior scholars to the next generation of leading edge researchers. From the current UK Research Assessment Exercise (which assesses the quality of research in universities and colleges in the UK), a total of 50 per cent of JMH ’s UK editorial board members are at the top-ranked 5* or 5 universities. My thanks for this support for JMH go to all the authors, EAB members and casual reviewers.

With that brief review, I turn now to the current issue and some observations about the importance of having an understanding of, and appreciation for, the ontological and epistemological underpinnings of scholarship. I raise this issue, in part because several of the articles in this issue address these concerns, but also because such a consideration is sadly rare in the doctoral theses I have examined in recent times. One understands that, with the limits placed on us in journal articles, an explicit articulation of the ontology and epistemology that informs the method using for the research reported is not always possible. With the opportunity to be more discursive in the context of the doctoral thesis, it is disappointing to find that, more often than not, the authors present their work as self-evident in terms of the understanding of reality and the ways by which reality is known that supposedly inform it.

The importance of being able to clearly articulate one’s ontological and epistemological position is emphasised in the examination by Adcroft and Willis (2008) of nearly 4,000 articles on strategy in 23 journals between 2002 and 2006. Adcroft and Willis (2008) contrast two differing views of the world – positivist and phenomenological – and their attendant differing views on how the world can be analysed and understood, and then demonstrate a clear relationship between journal ranking and positivist focus, such that the so-called “top tier” journals are almost exclusively positivist/quantitative in their ontological and epistemological underpinnings, while the lesser ranked the journal, the more it is to be phenomenological/qualitative in approach. The corollary of their analysis is that it appears to be the case that the key to getting one’s work published in top ranked strategy journals appears to be based on making a conceptually minor but mathematically difficult addition to a familiar model. It may seem to be an odd contribution to a JMH, but as Adcroft and Willis (2008) point out, with reference to Carr’s (1961) What is History?, to truly understand history, and why things are as they are, it is necessary to examine the philosophical and ideological discourses which underpin them. Adcroft and Willis (2008) provide an important touchstone in this regard.

Milorad Novicevic leads two different groups of colleagues in separate contributions to this issue, the first concerning methodological issues that accompany the articles reviewing past research in strategic management (Novicevic et al., 2008a) and, later, an examination of Chester Barnard’s seminal treatise on status systems in organizations (Novicevic et al., 2008b). While Adcroft and Willis (2008) have proffered a review article related to strategic management, Novicevic et al. (2008a) present a review of a specific set of review articles related to strategic management, considering the methodology and assumptions made in narrative reviews of strategic management research, noting that, although narrative reviews have long been legitimized as often-cited intellectual contributions that complement systematic reviews (meta- and citation analyses), little attention has been paid to the assumptions and the methodology used in this form of inquiry in strategy scholarship.

They identify three distinct views of the intellectual history of strategic management and strategy embedded in the review articles they consider– deterministic, indeterministic, and underdeterministic – reflecting three equally distinct sets of philosophies relating to the means and modes of reviewing, and the forms of claims made as a result of the reviews. In doing so, they identify the need for a methodology by which to systematically review and interpret knowledge in strategic management and call for the development of an alternative, agreed method of constructing a shared history of the subject (Novicevic et al., 2008a). This seems an important imperative in light of the findings by Adcroft and Willis (2008).

Continuing this theme of re-examination, Wood (2008) studies the financial restructuring of the US department store industry during the 1980s and 1990s from a different, qualitative, perspective, by way of a series of interviews with those who were the company executives in the industry at the time, those who were left with the task of reworking the strategies and structures of the department stores involved. In so doing, Wood (2008) accesses the social and human perspectives of the events and sheds light on the background to the leveraged transactions and the implications of those transactions for the strategy and structure of the US department store industry.

In further effort of re-examination, Wagner-Tsukamoto (2008) critically questions some of the conventional views of Scientific Management, especially in relation to Taylor’s portrayal of workers and managers, drawing on concepts from institutional economics. A focus of his work is on the asymmetry in Taylor’s treatment of workers, on the one hand, as “self-interested”, contrasted with his characterisation of managers, as “heartily cooperative”, on the other. As a result, Wagner-Tsukamoto (2008) argues, Taylor failed to properly apply a model of economic man, homo economicus, in order to test potential interaction conflicts between equally self-interested managers and workers. Wagner-Tsukamoto’s (2008) recasting and application of the model has important implications for the theory and practice of management.

A wise and experienced former colleague used to impress on me the importance of the “badge” I wore as the senior member of staff in an institution in which I was engaged in the first half of this decade. He regularly pointed out that my position, my status if you will, meant that much greater meaning and significance were attached to my various actions and utterances by the staff of the organisation than I had realised. This notion of status is one of the themes explored by Novicevic et al. (2008a, b) in their work on Chester Barnard’s seminal treatise on status systems in organizations, which Barnard himself labelled as a “missing scroll” of his book The Functions of the Executive. Novicevic et al. (2008b) show how Barnard’s insights can inform contemporary views of and understanding of status systems in organisations.

The final paper in this issue, by McLaren and Mills (2008), is an exploration of the notion that “the ideal manager” is a social construct that is a product of the context within which it exists. The context that McLaren and Mills (2008) choose to illustrate this idea is that of the USA in the first two decades of the Cold War (1945-1965), while the method of analysis they use is an examination of 17 management textbooks published in the USA during this period. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the “ideal” manager in this context is portrayed as an educated male who wielded authority effectively and accepted social responsibility. McLaren and Mills (2008) show how these characteristics can all be tied to the social and political context of the early Cold War years. Noting that quite different portrayals are likely in the different contexts of other times and places, McLaren and Mills (2008) argue that it is important for management educators to use these insights to choose management textbooks that present management theory in a problematic way, properly taking account of the social and political context.

I hope you enjoy this combination of management history scholarship and meta-scholarship, looking forward to 2009 and two special issues on the legacies of Alfred Chandler and, in the centenary year of his birth, of Peter Drucker.

David Lamond


Adcroft, A. and Willis, R. (2008), “A snapshot of strategy research 2002-2006”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4

Carr, E.H. (1961), What is History?, Random House, New York, NY

McLaren, P. and Mills, A.J. (2008), “A product of ‘his’ time? Exploring the construct of the ideal manager in the Cold War era”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4

Novicevic, M.M., Ghosh, K., Clement, D.M. and Robinson, R.K. (2008a), “A ‘missing scroll’ of the functions of the executive: Barnard on status systems in organizations”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4

Novicevic, M.M., Harvey, M.G., Buckley, M.R. and Adams, G.L. (2008b), “Historicism in narrative reviews of strategic management research”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4

Wagner-Tsukamoto, S. (2008), “Scientific management revisited: did Taylorism fail because of a too positive image of human nature?”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4

Wood, S. (2008), “Reinterpreting the great US department store bankruptcies of the 1980s – a catalyst to strategic structural change”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4

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