OMT WebOrganization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management
At this year’s Academy of Management meeting in Philadelphia, Royston Greenwood received our division’s Distinguished Scholar Award and delivered an engaging talk on the past, present, and future of OMT research (and his research in OMT). Royston is the Telus Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Alberta School of Business. You can read Royston's presentation here. This interview was conducted by Laura Singleton, winner of this year's Pondy Award.
LS: In preparing for this interview, I looked over your CV and noticed that you'd initially done your research on British municipalities. How did you get from there to the big accounting firms that you've studied more recently?
RG: Well, as an undergraduate student in political science, I had done a thesis on the socioeconomic status of members of the Bradford city council over the previous 75 years and how it was changing. At that time, in political science, municipal (or ‘community’) politics were viewed as microcosms of the state, though we don't think of it that way now. Because of that study, I was invited to be research assistant at the Institute of Local Government Studies. They had seen my thesis and gave me a salary of 680 pounds a year, which wasn't much, even then, but it allowed me to indulge myself by doing higher degrees.
Back then, the Institute did executive education for public officials – which, of course, included various professions – lawyers, social workers, engineers, as well as accountants. So my start was in public administration and in particular I was exposed to the professions. Because local government was undergoing significant reforms I became interested in the intra-organizational dynamics of organizational change - and in particular, how the different professions within municipalities were responding.
Then in 1982 I went to the University of Alberta. An MBA student told me of the planned merger (which actually didn’t happen) of two very large accounting firms and it seemed an interesting change process to study. So, partly by accident again, I got drawn into the arena of professional firms as an empirical context of organizational change.
LS: I know it's a stereotype, but I have to ask: Doesn't it get boring talking to all those accountants?
RG: People do think accountants would be boring, but why would they be? They're the gatekeepers of the capital markets and part of what keeps the system running. (Today, I'm particularly interested in their role in corruption and how it's been able to happen – you can’t say that’s not interesting!) Accounting is also actually quite like higher education in that they theoretically have to combine quite a few institutional logics such as professionalism, making money, and the like. So, although we have stereotypes of accountants wearing green eyeshades and such, they're not boring at all. What they do matters. Moreover, they're often ego-driven, yet they have to work together. Does that sound like a university, or what? But seriously, when I began to study professional service firms they were a very different – and important - type of organizational form (they are now often referred to as ‘knowledge-intensive firms’) and we (Bob Hinings and myself) thought we could learn from them and develop interesting theory.
+ All tags