Staff and Line Revisited: How Management Specialists Promote Change in Technical Work Settings

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This paper explores the workof peripheral experts who lack formal authority to produce change operations ina bureaucratic organization. I theorize these dynamics in terms of staff-linerelations and draw on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork to map thestruggle of a team of process improvement, knowledge management, and projectmanagement specialists to influence the aircraft development work in anaeronautical company. While previous literature documents that close ties andawareness about the work context enables experts to influence operations, Ifind that these conditions may be necessary but not sufficient. Specifically, Ifind that experts drew on their ties and awareness to translate tools andservices according to the work context and paced their offer in a stepwisemanner. Yet, as line employees rejected or ignored their tools and services,they deployed stealthy ways to infiltrate operations, piggybackingopportunities to implement their ideas and trying to bait interest amongtechnical workers and managers. I build on my findings to theorize theorganizational challenges faced by experts to accomplish their professionalmandate in complex organizations and translate ideas into practice, thusrefining our understanding of expert work in organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-second Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonja Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022: Creating a Better World Together - Seattle, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20229 Aug 2022
Conference number: 82


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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