Standing Working Group 3 (Sub-theme 03):
Professional Service Organizations and Knowledge-Intensive Work
Celeste P.M. Wilderom
University of Twente (The Netherlands)
University of Illinois, Champaign (USA)
Call for papers
Currently, the fastest growing segment of the Western population of organizations (or organizational work units) consists of the professional service organization or group. These organizations range from professional service firms (such as accounting, law, architecture, advertising and engineering firms) that have distinctive governance and organizational arrangements, to more traditionally organized and governed organizations or organizational (staff) units of professionals (e.g., in the areas of health, education, finance, marketing, research, HRM). Individual professionals, moreover, are becoming more-and-more the pillars of our 'service/information or knowledge societies'.
How can society at large gain from these professionals through better organizing (including perhaps more self-organizing)? It is known that the professional organizational prototype carries elements of the bureaucratic, entrepreneurial and voluntary organization. Yet, the operating logic and dynamics of the professional organization/group differ significantly from these other organizational forms. This is partly a consequence of its service character, which is significantly different from a manufacturing identity.
These and other characteristics of the professional service setting bring with them sets of managerial, organizational and behavioral challenges that are imperfectly understood and insufficiently studied. Key, for instance, in any professional type work setting is a strong need among many professionals 'to learn' and at the same time to improve the quality of their work. This learning occurs typically in close cooperation with bosses, co-workers, mentors, clients and external advisors/networks. Plus, increasingly, use is made of new information and knowledge technologies. Such processes of learning and changing seem necessary because most professional work is dealing with an increasing variety of needs of consumers and other relevant stakeholders. We are thus challenged to develop new and acceptable arrangements for high-quality professional work. This type of work calls for particular leadership behaviors; strategies; tools; employee organizing; HRM practices; governance models, etc. Exactly what kind and amount of these behaviors, strategies; practices; models, etc will prove successful for the harnessing of professional effort and learning is not completely known, but long-term societal development will be affected by our ability to learn on this score. These are key questions of our Standing Working Group.
Scholars of professional service firms, the professions, professionals or professionalization (also e.g. within hospitals, universities, public-sector organizations, etc.) should find a stimulating home in this eclectic standing workgroup. We had our previous meetings in Copenhagen, 2003, Ljubliana, 2004, Berlin, 2005, Bergen, 2006 and Vienna, 2007 and we will continue as a standing work group for at least four more years. We do encourage a variety of disciplinary approaches. These include sociological and psychological approaches, but also those rooted in the anthropological, political, educational, or managerial literatures. For the year 2008, we will also welcome papers that provide thoughtful analysis or study on the Amsterdam theme, as long as issues of professional organizing and/or ‘professionalization’ are embraced.
- Managing client relations in professional service firms (PSFs)
- Professional identity formation and the management of diversity in PSFs
- Comparative governance structures within professional service firms
- Globalization of professional services and its organizational consequences
- Building sustainable competitive advantage within a knowledge society
- Behavior and skills of professionals and their professional (career) development
- Professional teams and their effectiveness
- Professionals versus managers?
- Virtual cooperation among professionals
Special Issue (2003): Knowledge and Professional Organization, Organization Studies, 24: 6.
Woo, K. & Ennew, Ch. (2005): Measuring Business-to-Business Professional Service Quality and its Consequences. Journal of Business Research, 58: 1178-1185.
Heusingkveld, S. & J. Benders (2005): Contested Commodification: Consultancies and their Struggle with New Concept Development. Human Relations, 58: 283-310.
About the convenors
Celeste Wilderom is professor of Management and Organizational Behavior in the Private and the Public Sector within the University of Twente (Enschede, The Netherlands, www.mb.utwente.nl/iscm/staff/academic/Wilderom/), Department of Information Systems & Change Management. Her main research focus is on human predictors of highly effective organizations, including leadership, culture and careers with a special interest in Service Management. She is one of the three editors of the award-winning Handbook of Organizational Culture & Climate (2000, Sage). She is publishing in a variety of academic journals (Journal of Organizational Behavior; Leadership Quarterly; Applied Psychology, etc.). She is currently serving as an associate editor of (1) the British Journal of Management, and served as associate editor of (2) the Academy of Management Executive; and (3) the International Journal of Service Industry Management.
Huseyin Leblebici is professor of Organizational Behavior and the Head of the Department of Business Administration at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (www.business.uiuc.edu/facultyprofile/faculty_profile.aspx?ID=92). He received his MBA and PhD in organizational behavior from University of Illinois. His research interests are in sociology of economic transactions, organizational design, and interorganizational relations within the context of professional service firms. He has served on the editorial boards of Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Journal of Management, Journal of Management and Governance, and Organization Studies.