In her articles Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention? And Provocative theory and a scholarship of practice, Caroline Ramsey poses questions regarding the development of managerial theories and practices and considers how we learn. Due to the academic nature of the articles, it can be a little tricky to get to the heart of what she is presenting.
One tool employed by Ramsey that I found particularly helpful was the inclusion of narratives to help explain her points. While I may still not fully grasps the depth of the articles, I will do my best to share what I gained from them.
At the heart of the issue is the question, how are management theories developed? In many circles, the process may be a top-down approach in which academics, often disassociated from the actual management process in a particular situation, compile data, conduct research, and develop a systematic approach to address the issues. There can be many problems with this approach. The most obvious is that the disconnect between the researcher and the real world can lead to a misunderstanding of the key issues, failing to understand the complexity of the situation from the point of view of first-hand experience. Solutions can be offered for problems that do not really exist while failing to address the critical issues. In this scenario, academic work can stay purely academic, not resulting in actions. Managers and leaders want it to make sense in the real world in which they live. Ramsey states, “sense making always involves action rather than analysis and understanding.”
Another key issue has to do with relationship. Going back to the common disconnect between the researcher and the people who are affected by theories, policies and decisions, it is easy to understand the reluctance people often have to accepting new practices of management. Developing a relationship in which ideas can go back and forth creates an atmosphere of cooperation that lays the foundation for not only better assessment and development of ideas, but for better implementation of new practices due to the fact that the person responsible for implementation was part of the process. This cooperation also recognizes that gifts, insight, and intelligence of everyone involved.
In one of the narratives, we see Mike sitting in on a jazz improv session. Mike “was interested in the way that different musicians contributed to the final piece rather than just the composer or conductor.” He points out that the maestro had to “compose around existing skills and competencies.”
This speaks of two distinct leadership styles. The first involves making top down decisions without really listening to the people who will be affected by the decisions. The second involves listening and including others in both the assessment and development of policies. The first creates a disconnect and misses opportunities to gain a fuller understanding and can even be degrading to others. The second works within the context of a team where people are heard, better policies are implemented, and those policies stand a much better chance of being put into action. The first is easier and less time consuming than the latter, but the latter generally produces better results.
These are good lessons for the Church and other christian organizations. Too often research is done by those “at the top” who make decisions and set policies. While this may be easier, it ultimately ignores that gifts and abilities of others. Rather than creating “greater efficiency”, it creates division and frustration. God has created us to be the body. Let’s honor the parts of the body as we work together to build the kingdom.
 Caroline Ramsey, “Management learning: a scholarship of practice centred on attention?” Management Learning”, 45(1), (2011): 12.
 Caroline Ramsey, “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice,” Management Learning 42(5) (2011), 13.
 Ibid., 14.