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Understanding control in communities of practice-Constructive disobedience in a high-tech firm

Rennstam, Jens LU and Kärreman, Dan (2019) In Human Relations
Abstract
Communities of practice (CoPs) represent a broad range of work situations characterized by shared knowledge and situated knowledge use. Although CoPs have been studied rather extensively, discussions of control in CoPs are rarer. This is peculiar because CoPs are characterized by a common tension in contemporary work: on the one hand, CoPs are expected to autonomously “think together,” but on the other they are expected to be responsive to various managerial control attempts. We interrogate this tension in an ethnographic study of engineering work, where we found that in response to management control the engineering communities engaged in constructive disobedience – that is, subversion and displacement of rules and orders to construct a... (More)
Communities of practice (CoPs) represent a broad range of work situations characterized by shared knowledge and situated knowledge use. Although CoPs have been studied rather extensively, discussions of control in CoPs are rarer. This is peculiar because CoPs are characterized by a common tension in contemporary work: on the one hand, CoPs are expected to autonomously “think together,” but on the other they are expected to be responsive to various managerial control attempts. We interrogate this tension in an ethnographic study of engineering work, where we found that in response to management control the engineering communities engaged in constructive disobedience – that is, subversion and displacement of rules and orders to construct a dynamic of control where work can be executed autonomously. By associating constructive disobedience with control in CoPs, our study contributes with insight into and theorization of how management control is dealt with and how control operates in work characterized by CoPs. The study also provides deepened insight into the limits of management control and how professionalism may be maintained despite increased management. These insights may support development of a more knowledgeable and nuanced approach to attempts at managing communities of practice. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
epub
subject
keywords
communities of practice, organizational control, ethnography, constructive disobedience
in
Human Relations
pages
27 pages
publisher
SAGE Publications Inc.
external identifiers
  • scopus:85065527261
ISSN
0018-7267
DOI
10.1177/0018726719843588
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
76efaeee-ab24-4365-993f-579abf85d71a
date added to LUP
2019-05-09 10:14:53
date last changed
2019-08-19 11:53:40
@article{76efaeee-ab24-4365-993f-579abf85d71a,
  abstract     = {Communities of practice (CoPs) represent a broad range of work situations characterized by shared knowledge and situated knowledge use. Although CoPs have been studied rather extensively, discussions of control in CoPs are rarer. This is peculiar because CoPs are characterized by a common tension in contemporary work: on the one hand, CoPs are expected to autonomously “think together,” but on the other they are expected to be responsive to various managerial control attempts. We interrogate this tension in an ethnographic study of engineering work, where we found that in response to management control the engineering communities engaged in constructive disobedience – that is, subversion and displacement of rules and orders to construct a dynamic of control where work can be executed autonomously. By associating constructive disobedience with control in CoPs, our study contributes with insight into and theorization of how management control is dealt with and how control operates in work characterized by CoPs. The study also provides deepened insight into the limits of management control and how professionalism may be maintained despite increased management. These insights may support development of a more knowledgeable and nuanced approach to attempts at managing communities of practice.},
  author       = {Rennstam, Jens and Kärreman, Dan},
  issn         = {0018-7267},
  keyword      = {communities of practice,organizational control,ethnography,constructive disobedience},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {27},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications Inc.},
  series       = {Human Relations},
  title        = {Understanding control in communities of practice-Constructive disobedience in a high-tech firm},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0018726719843588},
  year         = {2019},
}