'Control - What Control?' Culture and Ambiguity Within a Knowledge Intensive Firm
AbstractThis paper explores the distinctive culture that existed within a knowledge-intensive firm (KIF) and also attempts to explain the emergence and effects of this culture. The findings are based on a detailed case study that was conducted over two years within a consultancy firm that created and applied scientific knowledge and expertise to the invention of solutions for clients. The firm employed highly educated scientists, considered 'leading' in their respective disciplines and project work was inherently fluid, complex, and uncertain. These kinds of 'knowledge workers', and this kind of work, are expected to demand high levels of autonomy. This creates complex managerial dilemmas around how to balance autonomy with control and uncertainty and flexibility with efficiency. The analysis shows how a strong culture based on an acceptance of ambiguity (e.g. in roles, power relations, organizational routines and practices) promoted the development of a loyal, committed, effective workforce and sustained a fluid and flexible form of project working over time. Critically, ambiguity allowed individuals to sustain multiple identities as both 'expert' and 'consultant'. This, coupled with a corporate identity premised on 'élitism', helped to maximize commitment to the work and minimize tensions between control and autonomy. Thus the culture that embraced ambiguity (a consensus that there would be no consensus) engendered a form of normative control whereby consultants operated freely and at the same time willingly participated in the regulation of their own autonomy. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2003.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Journal of Management Studies.
Volume (Year): 40 (2003)
Issue (Month): 4 (06)
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0022-2380
You can help add them by filling out this form.
CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
- Willem, A. & Scarbrough, H. & Buelens, M., 2007.
"Impact of coherent versus multiple identities on knowledge integration,"
Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School Working Paper Series
2007-28, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School.
- A. Willem & H. Scarbrough & M. Buelens, 2007. "Impact Of Coherent Versus Multiple Identities On Knowledge Integration," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 07/464, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
- Martin, Joanne, 2004. "Organizational Culture," Research Papers 1847, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
- Lucie Noury & Sébastien Gand & Jean-Claude Sardas, 2012. "Exploring the dark side of consultancies' organisation of excellence: Individual strategies to manage contradictory expectations," Post-Print hal-00780522, HAL.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing) or (Christopher F. Baum).
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.