Sub-theme 03: (SWG) Professional service organizations and knowledge-intensive work
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, 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 partly a consequence of its service character, which is significantly different from a manufacturing identity.
These and other characteristics of the professional service setting bring with them sets of managerial, organizational 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 arrangements for high-quality professional work. This type of work calls for particular leadership styles, strategies, organizational and HRM practices as well as governance modes. Exactly what kind and amount of these behaviors, strategies and work 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 or professionalization (also e.g. within hospitals, universities, public-sector organizations, etc.) should find a stimulating home in this eclectic standing workgroup. We had our previous meetings in Copenhagen, 2003, Ljubliana, 2004, Berlin, 2005, Bergen, 2006, Vienna 2007 and Amsterdam, 2008. We do encourage a variety of disciplinary approaches. These include sociological and psychological approaches, but also those rooted in the anthropological, political, educational, or managerial literatures. For the year 2009, we will also welcome papers that provide thoughtful analysis or study on the Barcelona theme, as long as issues of professional organizing and/or 'professionalization' are embraced.