Sub-theme 03: (SWG): Professional Service Organizing and Leadership
Call for Papers
Currently, the fastest growing segment of the Western population of organizations (or organizational work units) consists
of the professional service organization or group. These organizations range from professional service firms (such as accounting,
law, architecture, advertising and engineering firms) that have distinctive governance and organizational arrangements, to
more traditionally organized and governed organizations (or organizational staff units) of professionals (e.g., in the areas
of health, education, finance, marketing, research, HRM). Individual professionals, including their leaders, moreover, are
becoming more-and-more the pillars of our 'service/information or knowledge societies'.
How can society at large gain from these professionals through better organizing (including perhaps more self-organizing)? It is known that the professional organizational prototype carries elements of the bureaucratic, entrepreneurial and voluntary organization. Yet, the operating logic and dynamics of the professional organization/group differ significantly from these other organizational forms. This is a direct consequence of its service character that requires direct interaction with clients and a strong focus on the development of professional knowledge.
These and other characteristics of the professional service setting bring with them sets of managerial/leadership, organizing and behavioral challenges that are imperfectly understood and insufficiently studied. Key, for instance, in any professional type work setting is a strong need among many professionals 'to learn' and at the same time to improve the quality of their work. This learning occurs typically in close cooperation with bosses, co-workers, mentors, clients and external advisors. Plus, increasingly, use is made of new information and knowledge technologies. Such processes of learning and changing seem necessary because most professional work is dealing with an increasing variety of needs of consumers and other relevant stakeholders. We are thus challenged to develop new and acceptable/improved arrangements for high-quality professional work. This type of work calls for particular leadership styles, (change-)strategies, organizational and HRM practices as well as governance modes. Exactly what kind and amount of these behaviors, strategies and work or change practices will prove successful for the harnessing of professional effort and learning is not completely known, but long-term societal development will be affected by our ability to learn on this score. These are key questions of our Standing Working Group.
Scholars of professional service firms, the professions, professionals, professionalization, and the leadership thereof who investigate these issues within e.g. hospitals, universities, public-sector organizations as well as professional service firms/settings should find a stimulating home in this eclectic standing workgroup. We do encourage a variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches. These include sociological and psychological approaches, but also those rooted in combined anthropological, political, educational and/or managerial/leadership literatures. We welcome papers that develop innovative theoretical and empirical approaches for understating the role of the professions, professionals in contemporary organizational analysis and leadership of professional services organizations.