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Puzzle or Mosaic?: On Managerial Information Patterns
Linköping University, The Institute of Technology. Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Economic Information Systems.
2011 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Managers and information are key components in most management control literature, and a range of tools and concepts have been developed to better accommodate the information needs of managers so as to ensure efficient action and intelligent decisions. At the same time, the managerial work is often described as highly fragmented, unstructured and interpersonal, with little time for planning and isolated reflection. It is therefore relevant to explore how and to what extent new technologies come into play in managerial information patterns. Furthermore, new management concepts and tools could potentially give rise to new control practices, resulting from e.g. novel relations between managers and other actors, new influential roles, and alternative forms of information flows.

These issues are addressed in three papers. The first paper examines the portfolio of information that managers use in their daily work, thereby putting formal information systems into the context of less formal sources. The study is based on interviews with a variety of managers in different organisations. The second paper discusses the interplay between formally designed information-based practices, and the individual perceptions and habits that emerge in relation to the formalised. People at different levels in two public-sector organisations form the basis of the second paper. The third paper explores how various control practices operate together in a government agency, thereby providing new perspectives on how management control is exercised in a knowledge-intensive organisation.

It is suggested that managerial information patterns evolve slowly compared to the technological development. Obtaining an overview of one’s area of responsibility is mainly achieved through dialogue and interaction with others. However, new technologies have influenced the more routine exchange of information, thereby causing increased dispersion among users and creating new roles. Subordinates constitute a vital influence on the managerial role and on how managers reason concerning their use of information. This people-oriented type of management results in the use of a multitude of pieces of information that is sometimes very subtle and retrieved in spontaneous interaction. The multidimensional and emerging nature of information provides insight into both the strengths and the limitations of formalising managerial information patterns. Furthermore, various information patterns are interrelated, e.g., they complement each other, substitute each other, or serve different purposes at different times. In total, managerial information patterns resemble a mosaic rather than a puzzle that can be solved by specific pieces. Management information should therefore be viewed from a broader perspective in order to better understand managers’ information needs, how control practices emerge and how information systems come into play.

Abstract [sv]

Chefer och information utgör vanligen viktiga bitar i styrningslitteraturen, och ett antal koncept och verktyg har utvecklats för att bättre stödja chefers informationsbehov och för att strömlinjeforma beteenden och bättre underbygga beslut. Samtidigt finns en uppfattning om att chefers arbete är fragmenterat, ostrukturerat och karaktäriserat av interaktion med andra, vilket medför begränsat med tid till att planera och reflektera i ensamhet. Det är därför relevant att undersöka hur och i vilken utsträckning ny teknik kommer in i chefers informationsmönster. Dessutom kan nya koncept och verktyg potentiellt skapa nya styrmekanismer, som en följd av exempelvis nya relationer mellan chefer och andra aktörer, nya inflytelserika roller, samt alternativa informationsflöden.

Dessa områden hanteras i tre artiklar. Den första artikeln undersöker den blandning av information som chefer använder i sitt dagliga arbete, och sätter formaliserade informationssystem i en kontext av mindre formaliserade informationskällor. Studien är baserad på intervjuer med chefer i olika organisationer. Den andra artikeln diskuterar samspelet mellan formaliserade informationsbaserade styrmekanismer, och de individuella uppfattningar och rutiner som uppkommer i relation till det formaliserade. Personer på olika nivåer i två organisationer i den offentliga sektorn utgör basen i den andra artikeln. Den tredje artikeln undersöker hur olika styrmekanismer fungerar tillsammans i en myndighet, vilket bidrar till att belysa hur styrning av en kunskapsintensiv organisation kan hanteras.

Chefers informationsmönster utvecklas långsamt i jämförelse med den tekniska utvecklingen. Att skaffa sig en överblick av det egna ansvarsområdet görs främst genom dialog och interaktion med andra. Dock har ny teknik förändrat den mer rutinmässiga informationshanteringen, vilket har ökat avståndet mellan olika aktörer och skapat nya roller. Underordnade har en viktig påverkan på chefens roll och utgör en viktig influens i hur chefer tänker kring sin informationshantering. En sådan typ av människoorienterad management tycks ge upphov till en mångfacetterad informationsanvändning som ibland är mycket subtil och baserad på spontan interaktion. Informationens mångfacetterade och framväxande karaktär ger en indikation om såväl styrkor som begränsningar i att formalisera chefers informationsmönster. Dessutom är olika informationsmönster relaterade, t.ex. kan de komplettera varandra, substituera varandra, eller tjäna olika syften vid olika tidpunkter. Totalt sett tycks chefers informationsmönster likna en mosaik, snarare än ett pussel som kan lösas med hjälp av specifika bitar. Styrinformation bör därför ses i ett bredare perspektiv för att bättre förstå chefers informationsbehov, hur styrmekanismer växer fram, och hur informationssystem kommer in i detta.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press , 2011. , 26 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1483
Keyword [en]
information patterns; information behaviour; information systems; management information; management control; governance; management control as a package
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-67604Local ID: LiU-TEK-Lic 2011:22ISBN: 978-91-7393-167-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-67604DiVA: diva2:411750
Presentation
2011-04-29, Carl Malmstens lokaler, Larsbergsvägen 8, Lidingö, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-04-19 Created: 2011-04-19 Last updated: 2013-02-18Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Backbone or helping hand?: On the role of information systems and non-systematic information in managers’ work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Backbone or helping hand?: On the role of information systems and non-systematic information in managers’ work
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Information systems are often described as horizontal integrators, supporting and integrating core processes and providing vast amounts of real-time data in organisations. However, previous research indicates that managers use an “information mosaic” - a variety of pieces of information and information sources, rather than one centrally planned and unified information system - to control their work. In this paper, we explore recurring work activities among a number of managers with different responsibilities, and the use of information associated with these activities. The purpose is to put the formal computerised information system into the context of the information mosaic, thereby providing insight into how formal information systems support and do not support these managers’ work. Personnel responsibility is a uniting factor in the way these managers handle information and is an area where information systems seem to mainly support minor activities. Furthermore, the use of formal and informal information sources appears to be intertwined. The main contribution of this paper lies in charting managerial information behaviour in the light of technological development.

Keyword
Information use; information sources; managerial work; management information
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-67618 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-20 Created: 2011-04-20 Last updated: 2011-04-20Bibliographically approved
2. Systems, roles and relationships in the governance ecology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Systems, roles and relationships in the governance ecology
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into how individuals perceive a management information and control milieu and how these perceptions influence the control practices.

Design/methodology/approach – By applying the concept of role, we highlight alternative aspects of management information and control practices found in two public sector organisations; aspects that are often obscured in the traditional literature.

Findings – Contrary to the formalised, depersonalised and top-down inspired practices often found in the management control literature, our findings indicate that bottom-up forces play an important role in the management landscape, that some key individuals serve to reinforce information flows and articulate expectations, and that signals can be faint yet still govern behaviour.

Research limitations/implications – The paper is intended to inspire further research into how structural and individual aspects of management control operate together. The empirical content, representing two organisations only, limits the strength of the conclusions.

Originality/value - Our findings add to the conventional understanding of management control, and the term governance ecology appears illustrative of the interplay among managers, information systems and other actors.

Keyword
Management control; management information; information behaviour; governance; role theory
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-67619 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-20 Created: 2011-04-20 Last updated: 2011-04-20Bibliographically approved
3. Controlling the Unmanageable?: On Management Control in a Knowledge-intensive Organisation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Controlling the Unmanageable?: On Management Control in a Knowledge-intensive Organisation
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This article explores and conceptualises the management of knowledge-intensive organisations by focusing on the interplay between classical top-down (cybernetic) management control forces, and the (bottom-up) control created by codes of conduct that guide knowledge workers in carrying out their work.

The emerging Management Control as a Package framework, a hitherto relatively unexplored concept, is applied to a case study of a Swedish government agency. With this perspective, the interplay between several horizontal and vertical management control dimensions is in focus, something that has been researched by interviewing knowledge workers in various organisational positions.

The findings indicate that, contrary to a wide-spread assumption of knowledge workers being difficult to manage, various aspects of control may intermix in a manner that makes a certain degree of top-down control feasible. The idea of management control as a package articulates opportunities to create a mutual reinforcement between top-down imposed cybernetic controls and bottom-up cultural controls where the knowledge workers are allowed to act in accordance with their personal interests while still conforming to the overriding goals of the organisation. Few explicit attempts to normative control were found. The results underline the role of clans and origination structure in sustaining certain values in the organisation.

Abstract [sv]

I denna artikel undersöks styrmekanismer i kunskapsintensiva organisationer. Samspelet mellan traditionell top-down-styrning, och den bottom-up-styrning som sker genom uppförandekoder som vägleder kunskapsarbetare, är i fokus.

Malmi och Browns modell Management Control as a Package har applicerats på en fallstudie av en svensk myndighet med en hög andel medarbetare med hög utbildning. Med denna modell som utgångspunkt analyseras samspelet mellan horisontella och vertikala styrningsdimensioner. Intervjuer med medarbetare i olika positioner utgör här ett viktigt empiriskt underlag.

Resultaten indikerar att olika styrningsaspekter samverkar på ett sätt som gör top-downstyrning ändamålsenlig. Tidigare forskning har betonat svårigheterna med att tillämpa topdown-styrning i organisationer med en hög grad av kunskapsarbetare. Package-modellen understryker möjligheten att skapa en styrning där top-down- och bottom-up-mekanismer samverkar och möjliggör för enskilda medarbetare att agera utifrån egen övertygelse och samtidigt bidra till att organisationen når sina övergripande mål. Vi fann få försök till normativ styrning. Studiens resultat understryker den roll som klaner och organisationsstruktur har i att upprätthålla viktiga värden i en organisation.

Keyword
Management control as a package; Control practices; Knowledge-intensive; Knowledge worker; Government agency
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-67620 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-20 Created: 2011-04-20 Last updated: 2011-05-13Bibliographically approved

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