Ramsey’s article, Management learning: A scholarship of practice centred on attention?, discusses the practice of learning and how this can help managers and leaders do their work better. Reading Ramsey’s article, I reflected on my own journey to become a more effective manager and leader. Ramsey shares project experience from which she learned and gained insight into the underlying process of how managers acquire skills and knowledge. In doing so, she reflects on the way that experience stories help us to reflect and gain wisdom. She takes us on a journey of learning within the common dynamics found within organizations and teams. In a second article, Provocative theory and a scholarship of practice, Ramsey stresses scholarship happening within, and “being shaped by the context of day-to-day managerial practice and the output of that scholarship is seen in terms of emerging, evidence based development of that practice and in an increased ability to ‘discuss’ an emerging sense making with the academy.” In order to be an effective leader, one must make sense of the situation and apply judgment within the appropriate context. And, the proof of our ability to lead can be measured as we partake in evidence based practice and demonstrate positive outcomes. As we seek to grow our leadership capabilities, Ramsey’s theories will help us to understand how to learn and develop practical wisdom.
Within an organization, the scope of knowledge necessary to lead is quite broad. To further complicate matters, the external environment in which organizations operate is fluid and internal change is continuous. The practice of management is indeed an art form, and therefore, the knowledge necessary to manage cannot be solely acquired from a textbook or reading a few case studies. Ramsey reminds us that, “The role of context is central in all the contributions to the discussion on practice.” She focuses on the process of becoming practically intelligent, and uses the word phronesis to indicate the depth of wisdom and intelligence required. A management practitioner cannot be effective if they are solely book smart. A leader who has practical wisdom is more skilled in making judgments and decisions within their practice.
Ramsey suggests that attention, or the way in which we attend to our work within the climate and varying situations, provides us cognitive growth and practical intelligence. This attention means that one is mindful in the work that they are attending to, resulting in better outcomes and increased learning. I am intrigued by Ramsey’s lessons learned through her example research project: evaluation of organizational and managerial actions within the course of an engineering project to uncover actions that promote faster new product development. In her own journey of learning, Ramsey wrote her experience narrative. “In making sense of this narrative of learning, I will articulate three domains of attention, and yet in telling that story, in creating a narrative plot, I inevitably give scope for alternative sense making. The story provides material for readers to reach their own judgments and therefore interrogate mine.” 
Ramsey’s account of her project experience paints a sharp image in my mind of the organization and team. Her story resonates strongly with my own experience working with teams. Ramsey starts her account by telling of a project leader that didn’t see the need for the type of research she was doing. So many times, people want to get projects completed quickly and fail to understand the impact that underlying team dynamics and organizational norms can have on a project’s success. Like this manager, people tend to focus on getting the work done fast and cheap. The manager that Ramsey encountered was resisting change. I admit that I laughed a little when Ramsey shared her frustration when she attempted to interview engineers. Working with technical people for most of my career, and working virtually, I could envision the conversations. The engineers likely had no thought that collaborating virtually presented obstacles beyond overcoming technical glitches. And, being a team of engineers, they are taught to solve problems. So, when presented with a problem or dilemma, they immediately looked to solutions. Exploring the root cause of organizational issues was likely far from their thought patterns. Throughout the project, Ramsey faced similar obstacles to those seen across many organizations: resources who lack the time necessary to devote to the project, pressure to provide fast output, and a resistant culture. I must credit Ramsey, as she was able to navigate the resistance and find ways to make the work visibly relevant to the team. Further, she gained buy-in from senior managers. Thus, ultimately, the project found success.
Through her consulting / research experience, Ramsey gleaned her own lessons learned, particularly in her observations surrounding the scholarship of practice. She says, “My sense making was emergent rather than analytical. It involved me in going to see people, looking for further information or new ideas. As I attended to ideas for action, they formed the premises upon which I approached my task, they contributed possible ways forward at particular moments, what I have called projective theory elsewhere.”  In the end, Ramsey found that her learning and ability to react within her work was shaped by relationships, politics, context, and situations.
As I read Ramsey’s story, my mind was immediately lost in similar memories from projects in which I’ve been involved. When I started my career, I was very green. I didn’t have enough context or experience to appropriately judge people and situations. While my academic background provided me with tools to quickly learn and to perform from a technical perspective, I lacked the soft skills to manage and lead. My ability to read people and develop relationships within a working context was naïve. I appreciate Ramsey’s recommended approach to learning within management programs. While students must understand and learn best practices, the art of applying and operationalizing those practices is critical to their personal success.
As we continue to embark on our own leadership journeys, I believe it is the art of leadership which we are seeking to attain. As we experience, engage, and perceive the context in which we work, our practical wisdom will grow with depth and breadth. Hence, we will be more effective in our efforts to engage within the world and to lead for positive change.
 Caroline Ramsey, “Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention?” Management Learning”, 45(1), (2011),1.
Caroline Ramsey, “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice,” Management Learning 42(5) (2011), 12.
 Caroline Ramsey, “Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention?” Management Learning”, 45(1), (2011),9.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 15.