Sub-theme 03: (SWG) Professional Service Organizations and Knowledge-Intensive Work
Call for Papers
Professional service organizations (PSOs), such as accounting, law, architecture, advertising and engineering firms, have
distinctive governance and organizational arrangements, which are currently adopted by many contemporary organizations. Indeed,
PSOs are currently seen as the fastest growing segment of the Western population of organizations (or organizational work
units). It is within this growth that PSOs often bridge continents, cultures and worldviews. How can society at large
learn from these professionals through better 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 PSOs bring with them sets of identity challenges (what is a professional), cross-boundary challenges (how do we work effectively across professions), and managerial/leadership 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 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 cross-boundary 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 which we seek to answer in 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, thereby building bridges methodologically and theoretically. We welcome papers that develop innovative theoretical and empirical approaches. In line with the conference theme we would particularly welcome papers which address the topic of 'bridging continents, cultures and worldviews' in PSOs. This could be applied to professional identity, working across boundaries and the globalization of the PSO.