The word “critical” in critical management studies historically refers to the “Critical Theory” of the Frankfurt School (Visser, 2010). Its meaning also relates well to the labor process theory, critical realism, postmodern, and poststructuralist approaches used and integrated with management theory and business organizations (Visser, 2010). Critical management offers alternatives to popular management theories and practices with a notion that management can be radically transformed. It debunks the mainstream theories and practices through the grounds of morality and ecological sustainability (Visser, 2010). Critical management is more concerned and troubled by the environmental settings (such as the social injustice and the flawed socio-economic system) than the personal or organizational performances of those involved with management. In sum, critical management studies intend to show how power, both individual and group power, privilege some individuals and groups at the expense of others, thereby promoting social injustice in organizations and in the larger society (Prasad, et. al., 2015).
Critical management answers for a series of management issues from different fields. It is applied in business, in industrial relations, foreign business, strategy, marketing, accounting, information systems research, among others (Prasad, et. al., 2015). It criticizes “socially divisive and ecologically destructive broader patterns and structures” like capitalism, patriarchy, neo-imperialism, and the like (Prasad, et. al., 2015). Critical Management would like to prove that damaging patterns and structures support and sustain mainstream beliefs and practices. It emphasizes how these systems can be altered.
Critical management involves a multi-stakeholder approach to management as designed by business educators and managers. As recorded, critical management studies originated in the European and Australian business schools before it reached the United States (Safranski, 2010). This is the result of the efforts of non-business disciplines like those from the departments of sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, and other social sciences (Safranski, 2010). With its non-business principles and non-American orientation, critical management considers management as to how it affects the organization. Hence, critical management intends to grasp management as both through the scientific and the non-traditional approaches (Safranski, 2010).
Critical Management in Action
Google is a very fine example of how critical management approaches are used for its excellent management, productivity, and leading innovations. Google applies a radical and an unorthodox approach to managing its organization (Steiber, 2014). The Google model applies six critical management principles, and these are intrinsically applied in the company’s leadership, culture, human resource management, and organizational structure (Steiber, 2014). Google named this critical management practice as “Management for Continuous Innovation” in this digital and radically changing the world (Steiber, 2014).
The achievements of critical management as illustrated by Google are indicated by their performance. Google has become one of the world’s leading brands in the last five (5) years, with just twelve years of its operations (Steiber, 2014). In 2012, its gross sales reached $50 billion dollars, and it registered almost $11 billion dollars gross profits (Steiber, 2014). Google now stands as one of the most innovative companies in the whole world.
Google has successfully reengineered traditional management with its radical management practices. This achievement is due to its unorthodox management model which basically consists of the fine application of critical management strategies and approaches. Accordingly, the six critical management principles which Google applied are as follows:
- Dynamic capabilities– this pertains to Google’s ability to combine, develop, and restructure internal and external competencies so as to comply with its demanding business environment.
- A continuously changing organization – the company believes in the sense of urgency; that a problem should be acted upon as soon as possible before it is too late. Hence, the company embraces change, and it applies creative solutions to its myriad of problems.
- A people-centric approach – Google is people-focused, with the motivation of unleashing their creative capacities and innovations. This principle is founded on the company’s belief that the company is not the hierarchy; it is just a venue wherein the individuals can express their creativity.
- An ambidextrous organization – under one organization, the company integrates two varied forms of organizational philosophies. These consist of 1.) daily production, which is successful with a traditional planning-and-control approach, and 2.) innovation, which demands greater freedom, flexibility, and a more open outlook toward continuous change and trial and error methods.
- An open organization integrated with its varied environments – Google is very open to integration. Continuously innovative companies have flexible boundaries and limitations, and they have a full awareness of the information exchange that goes around this continuity.
- A systems approach to work – Google employs an unconventional and non-linear system of working. A systems approach needs a holistic view and understanding of the whole organizational structures and systems and how the internal and external elements impact each other.
In general, Google’s application of the principles of critical management leads it to its unprecedented status as the world’s famous and well-respected brand. It has imbibed a radical approach to management, especially in its human resource relations. It is an ambidextrous organization. The people inside the company are not evaluated based on their traditional work performances. They are also assessed according to how they apply their creativity to make innovations that will benefit the whole company. Hence, they are very project-oriented as they do their daily work performances. It is very impressive how the company balances the traditional and the radical work orientations. It is also promoted in their company structures and their strong corporate culture. Google values both production and innovation. It is nurtured as a symbiotic orientation.
Prasad, A., Prasad, P., Mills, A., & Mills, J. (2015). The Routledge Companion to Critical Management Studies. London: Routledge.
Safranski, S. (2010). Management is Ethics: Critical Management Studies and Professionals in the MBA Program. A paper presented at the 13th Annual Meeting of Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. Retrieved on September 30, 206 from, http://iajbs.org/cdn/gallery/410.pdf.
Steiber, A. (2014). How Google Manages Continuous Innovation in a Rapidly Changing World. London: Springer.
Visser, M. (2010). “Critical Management Studies and “Mainstream” Organization Science. A Proposal for Rapproachment.” International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 18 (4), p. 466-478. DOI 10.1108/19348831011081912.