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Managerial work and learning in small firms
Halmstad University, School of Business and Engineering (SET), Centre for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Research (CIEL).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6476-2547
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis deals with how managerial work sets the agenda for managerial learning in small firms. Although studies of learning in organizations are numerous, research on managerial learning in the small-firm context is limited. In particular, our knowledge of managerial learning suffers from an insufficient understanding of what top managers in small firms do. The primary purpose of this thesis is to describe how the work of small-firm managers sets the agenda for managerial learning, and how their learning can be supported. Additionally, the thesis explores the use of so-called “Action Technologies” in supporting managerial learning in small firms.Drawing on an observational study of six owner-managers in small (17-43 employees) manufacturing firms, and a synthesis of earlier studies, this thesis shows that three features of managerial work shape managerial learning in small firms: The small firm’s top manager (i) operates in context with specific structural conditions that affect his/her behavior, (ii) have certain cognitive predispositions guiding his/her behavior, and (iii) have certain behavioral preferences directing his/her behavior.The main argument in this thesis is that managerial learning in small firms is made difficult due to features that make it hard to come to a point where learning (in terms of reflection and conceptualization) is given time and resources, as the manager has trouble in finding time for learning, and as learning risks to become low-priority. Learning is also difficult due to barriers related to the learning process: the work of the manager fosters a superficial learning orientation, makes it difficult to probe deeply into and to develop complicated understandings of issues at hand, and makes peer-learning rarely possible.Drawing on an action research project of managerial learning in four networks of small-firm owner-managers, the thesis also explores, in a concrete manner, how managerial learning might be supported in a way that circumvents the deficient situation for managerial learning in this kind of firm. More specifically, it seems that Action Technologies by their design constitute a learning context that supports the learning of the small-firm top manager by dissolving the barriers to learning identified above.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gothenburg: Chalmers University of Technology , 2005. , p. 69
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie, ISSN 0346-718X ; 2265
Keywords [en]
Managerial learning, Managerial work, Managerial behavior, Owner-manager, Small firms, Direct observations
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-555Local ID: 2082/896ISBN: 91-7291-583-8 OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-555DiVA, id: diva2:237734
Public defence
(English)
Note

Original papers included. Paper III, "Managerial behavior in small firms - a critical analysis of evidence from observational studies" changed title to "Managerial work in small firms: summarising what we know and sketching a research agenda".

Available from: 2007-03-03 Created: 2007-03-03 Last updated: 2013-10-15Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Collaborative approaches to management learning in small firms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Collaborative approaches to management learning in small firms
2003 (English)In: Journal of Workplace Learning, ISSN 1366-5626, E-ISSN 1758-7859, Vol. 15, no 5, p. 203-216Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this paper is to describe how learning in collaborative approaches – in this paper labeled “collaborative approaches to management learning” (CAML) – can support the learning situation of small firm owner-managers. Drawing on a socio-cognitive learning framework, the context of the small firm and its consequences for management learning are framed and discussed. Drawing on four episodes of management learning in CAML, it is suggested that CAML establishes a new context in which old truths can be questioned and new insights can be created. In CAML the owner-managers are offered a position on the periphery of practice of the other managers and other network visitors, where trust among the network participants provides the foundation for admitting and openly facing lack of knowledge on different issues, something that is prohibited within their enterprises, due to the lack of peers and expected omniscience of the owner-manager.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2003
Keywords
Learning cycles, Management development, Small enterprises
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-294 (URN)10.1108/13665620310483903 (DOI)2-s2.0-84993099030 (Scopus ID)2082/591 (Local ID)2082/591 (Archive number)2082/591 (OAI)
Available from: 2006-11-28 Created: 2006-11-28 Last updated: 2018-02-09Bibliographically approved
2. The emergent prerequisites of managerial learning in small firm networks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The emergent prerequisites of managerial learning in small firm networks
2004 (English)In: Leadership & Organization Development Journal, ISSN 0143-7739, E-ISSN 1472-5347, Vol. 25, no 3/4, p. 292-307Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Descriptive studies have shown that co-operation in networks produces better possibilities for higher-level learning than small firms can organise on their own. Previous studies of learning in networks, however, have not considered how the prerequisites for higher-level learning develop over time in networks. This paper reports on a seven-year participant observational study of two different network constellations. A conclusion from the study is that the learning in networks of small-firm owner/managers is based on trust and has emergent prerequisites. These prerequisites are reciprocity between learning actors, the learning actors’ receptive and confronting capacity, and the transparency of the dialogue in the networks. Over time these prerequisites develop and create better opportunities for higher-level learning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bradford: MCB Publishing, 2004
Keywords
Learning, Management development, Small enterprises
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-275 (URN)10.1108/01437730410531083 (DOI)2-s2.0-84992943361 (Scopus ID)2082/571 (Local ID)2082/571 (Archive number)2082/571 (OAI)
Available from: 2006-11-27 Created: 2006-11-27 Last updated: 2018-02-23Bibliographically approved
3. Key learning themes in the small-business literature
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Key learning themes in the small-business literature
2003 (English)In: Small Enterprise Research: The Journal of SEAANZ, ISSN 1321-5906, Vol. 11, no 1, p. 56-70Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article presents a review of the literature on learning in small businesses. The sources for the review are two major databases on management research: Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) and ABI/INFORM (ABI). In all, about 500 abstracts published between 1973 and 2002 have been classified. The review shows that research still is built on primary empirical research and that there are no obvious core groups of researchers publishing in the field. Our review does, however, identify a general trend pointing towards an increasing interest in research on learning in small businesses. Further, it is shown that key learning themes discussed during the last 30 years related to small businesses are: education and training (of both management and employees), strategic planning and IT/Software support. During the last decade, the interest in inter-organizational learning (networks and clusters) has increased dramatically. The review indicates that research on small businesses and learning is multidisciplinary and in an early stage of its growth. An in extenso analysis, of all articles in the five most prominent journals found in the review, shows few signs of coherent bodies of knowledge on which the literature draws. Many of the articles (37%) give no accounts of explicit theory. This is the case particularly in the early publications. The review does not reveal any 'original' theory generated by the small-business research community. Instead theories are extracted from other academic disciplines, mainly from the field of economics but also from other social sciences such as sociology and psychology and from engineering. The review shows that empirical studies of learning in small businesses are rare. This means that our understanding of learning processes in this kind of organisations is limited. Research is necessary to increase our knowledge of learning in different levels but also from different perspectives in small firms. The 'small-firm effect' on learning needs to be further explored.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Caulfield East: School of Accounting, Monash University, 2003
Keywords
Learning themes
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-292 (URN)10.5172/ser.11.1.56 (DOI)2082/588 (Local ID)2082/588 (Archive number)2082/588 (OAI)
Available from: 2006-11-28 Created: 2006-11-28 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
4. What do owner-managers in small firms really do?: Differences in managerial behavior in small and large organizations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>What do owner-managers in small firms really do?: Differences in managerial behavior in small and large organizations
2004 (English)In: Small Enterprise Research: The Journal of SEAANZ, ISSN 1321-5906, Vol. 12, no 1, p. 57-70Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The research presented is a replication of Mintzberg's on managerial work. The article focuses on owner-managers in small manufacturing firms in an initial attempt to reveal the nature of the work undertaken by this type of managers. The purpose is to describe what they do and to compare their behaviour with that of managers in large and intermediate organizations as described by Mintzberg and Kurke & Aldrich. Our study compliments an earlier small-scale study on managerial behavior in small firms and includes sufficient data to test Mintzberg's propositions on managerial work. Empirically this paper draws on an observational study that deployed the method of structured observation. The daily activities of the small-firm owner-managers in our study are characterized by, among other things, informality and constant interruption as the process by which their work is organized. This differs partly from the results found in the studies of managers' work in larger organizations, where formal and planned activities serve more often as the procedure through which the managers design their work. Of Mintzberg's seven propositions, we found support for four, although with some hesitation. This calls into question the asserted generality of several such propositions. Our study indicates that there seem to be certain myths about what small-firm owner-managers really do, myths that need to be considered in future research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Caulfield East, Vic.: School of Accounting, Monash University, 2004
Keywords
Managerial behavior, Leadership
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-332 (URN)10.5172/ser.12.1.57 (DOI)2082/634 (Local ID)2082/634 (Archive number)2082/634 (OAI)
Available from: 2006-12-20 Created: 2006-12-20 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
5. Managerial work in small firms: summarising what we know and sketching a research agenda
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managerial work in small firms: summarising what we know and sketching a research agenda
2006 (English)In: International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, ISSN 1355-2554, E-ISSN 1758-6534, Vol. 12, no 5, p. 272-288Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: The purpose of this article is to describe the basic characteristics and qualities of managerial work in small firms.

Design/methodology/approach: The article draws on a summary and synthesis of five studies from the “managerial-work research tradition” that investigates the behaviour of top managers in small firms by means of direct observation. Studies are evaluated by using research on managers' jobs in general, and some needs as well as guidelines for future research on entrepreneurial and managerial work in small firms are suggested.

Findings: Managerial work in small firms is described by discussing: how managers divide their time between different activities; managerial interaction and communication, and the elements of managerial work in small firms. Three limitations of existing studies are identified: they are difficult to compare; they adopt a simplistic conception of the constituents of managers' jobs, and more specifically of the relation between the managing actor and the context in which he/she works; and they fail to recognise to the value of inductive analysis.

Research limitations/implications: Future studies of managerial work in small firms have much to gain by considering the development that has been taking place within general management theory and in the study of managers' jobs. This article contributes a first step towards bringing research on managers' jobs into the small-business research community.

Originality/value: The paper initiates a better understanding of the basics of managerial work in small firms, which has not previously been elaborated upon and is an important step in exploring the dynamics of small business management.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Yorks, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2006
Keywords
Management styles, Owner-managers, Small enterprises
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-276 (URN)10.1108/13552550610687646 (DOI)2-s2.0-33747486329 (Scopus ID)2082/572 (Local ID)2082/572 (Archive number)2082/572 (OAI)
Available from: 2006-11-27 Created: 2006-11-27 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved

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