Critical management studies or CMS collectively form a broad discipline that generally centers on critiquing management practices in business organizations and non-profit organizations. It is also considered as a movement that has emerged to study and even question the authority of established management practices as opposed to merely developing management principles and legitimizing the function of management (Alvesson, Bridgman, & Willmott, pp. 1-10). Because it primarily involves a careful scrutiny of established principles and practices in management, studying CMS would thereby allow a practitioner or to be more specific, a practicing manager to become completely aware of his or her managerial and leadership capacity because the discipline trains him or her to become a reflective and proactive leader and learner, while also removing the possibility of developing a bias and preference toward a specific a specific practice and principle in management.
At the heart of CMS is critical theory. As a backgrounder, critical theory original came from the field of sociology. It is specifically a sociopolitical school of thought that not only assesses but also challenges established social conditions, traditions, and institutions. Compared to other theoretical approaches that are merely concerned with providing explanations, critical theory is concerned with continuously criticizing norms and standards or the status quo in an attempt to promote rationality and justice (Scherer, 29-51). When applied in CMS, critical theory provides a foundation for challenging established management principles and practices as well as conventional understanding about organizations (Alvesson, Bridgman, & Willmott, pp. 1-10). As an academic discipline, CMS teaches learners and future managers or business professionals about the political and ethical issues that should concern management and organizations. Take note that these issues are not concerned with management and organizational performance but rather with the people or community these management and organization are performing for (Tadejewski, Maclaran, Parsons, & Parker, 1-5). In consideration of the definition and function of critical theory, CMS thereby approaches management and related organizational studies with unconventionality simply by critiquing or in other words, challenging or subjecting management and organizational norms and standards under scrutiny with a primary purpose of upholding moral standards or ethical values as well as promoting greater responsibility.
From what has been said above, it is easy to gather the fact that lessons in CMS generally revolve around the continuous search for and incessant need to uphold integrity in management and within organizations. So how would this benefit a practicing manager who has gone through CSM lessons—especially in seeing his or her work? Note that because CMS involves criticizing established management principles and practices, it also equips learners and thereby, future practicing mangers with the capacity to be unbiased. Some managers might adhere to a specific principle or practice in management or style in leadership. This can be problematic because there might be scenarios in which a specific style might be inappropriate. Furthermore, there is no one-size-fits all solution to problems. Adhering to a limited number of management principles and practices or leadership approach is tantamount to limiting the opportunity to find solutions. However, managers who have gone through CMS lessons were not only exposed to such principles, practices, and styles but they have also subjected such under scrutiny. In other words, these individuals are trained to know when and how to use the appropriate managerial and leadership approach depending on the requirements of the circumstance. Moreover, because they have scrutinized various managerial and leadership approaches, they have become familiar of their respective manifestations or impacts, thus allowing them to easy shift or adjust their approach. With this in mind, lessons in CMS teach learners to become unbiased by making them flexible managers and leaders who are well acquainted with all aspects of management principles and practices, as well as theories or approaches and styles in leadership.
There are lessons under CMS that put a premium on moral standards and ethical values. This is inevitable since CMS is founder under critical theory, which on the other hand, promotes rationality and justice. It is worth reiterating that CMS concerns itself not with merely optimizing management and organizational performance but in determining the stakeholders that are worth performing for. Thus, learners undergoing these CMS lessons are also taught to become fair and upright. In addition, these learners are also trained to become responsible. CMS imparts a strong sense of accountability not only for the sake of productivity but also for the benefit of everyone affected by the operation of an organization. In relation to how this fact affects how a practicing manager sees his or her work, note that moral standards, ethical values, fairness and uprightness, as well as responsibility or accountability are positive characteristics pertaining to the capability of an individual, organization, or a community to govern or regulate itself effectively. Because CMS put a premium on these positive characteristics, individuals thereby adapt a managerial and leadership style that is capable of self-regulation and of course, self-scrutiny. Practicing mangers trained under CMS or more appropriately, managers who adhere strongly to CMS also put a premium on the need to operate as ethically or as fair and upright as possible. This includes a incessant need to improve their performance in consideration of their accountability and relative to the stakeholders they are performing for.
Note that self-reflection and critical thinking seem to be prevailing themes in CMS. As discussed above, CMS subjects management and organization under constant scrutiny. Of course, this does not mean that CMS is completely anti-management, anti-business, or anti-organization. The goal of CMS is to promote further how individuals and societies perform their managerial duties and responsibilities as well as how to organize and handle organizations by criticizing norms and standards or the status quo. In other words, CMS is a discipline for teaching managers and leaders. While anti-management, anti-business, are anti-organization tones are evident in CMS, the discipline is actually an attempt to become self-reflective. It essentially teaches individuals to constantly reflect from the field in which they operate so that they will be able to identify rooms for improve or any nuisances that might affect their performance. Nonetheless, self-reflection allows these managers not just to see their own work but also to subject such under careful and constant scrutiny with an end goal of further improvement. Doing so requires critical thinking however. Only a true critical thinker is capable of remaining unbiased, fair and upright, as well as self-critical. Remember that critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It also includes abilities such as independent learning and thinking as well as reflective learning and thinking.
In considering the discussion above, critical management studies do not only provide learners and managers with a lens to examine management and organization but also with a mirror to reflect management principles and practices, as well as leadership and professional actions and behaviors.
Alvesson, M., Bridgman, T. & Willmott, H. “Introduction.” In Eds. M. Alvesson, T. Bridgman, & H. Willmott, The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009. eBook
Scherer, A. G. “Critical Theory and Its Contribution to Critical Management Studies.” In Eds. M. Alvesson, T. Bridgman, & H. Willmott, The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009. eBook
Tadejewski, M., Maclaran, P., Parsons, E., & Parker, M. “Introduction: What Is Critical Management Studies?” In Eds. M. Tadejewski et al, Key Concepts in Critical Management Studies. London: Sage Publications. 2011. Print