Control in Complex Organizations

Jens Rennstam, Dan Kärreman

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    The extant research on organizational control builds on the assumption of vertical control – managers are thought to develop orders, rules and norms to control the operating core. Yet it is claimed that work becomes increasingly “knowledge intensive” and that organizations rely heavily for their productivity on the knowledge and creativity of their work force. In this type of “knowledge work,” the strong focus on vertical control is insufficient as it fails to account for the important operative and horizontal interactions upon which many contemporary organizations depend. Drawing on practice theory and an ethnographic study of engineering work, this paper theorizes control as a form of work that does not only belong to formal management, but is dispersed among various work activities, including horizontal ones. The article introduces the idea of control work as a key practice in contemporary organizations, and the concepts of constructive disobedience, translation, and peer reviewing as ways of understanding how control work is exercised at the operative level.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2014
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2014: The Power of Words - Philadelphia, United States
    Duration: 1 Aug 20145 Aug 2014
    Conference number: 74


    ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2014
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    Internet address

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