All of my research rotates around one single but not simple question: can management be positive without being positivist?
My answer to this question has become increasingly more positive in the last few years!
I now believe in the possibility of moving beyond rational choice (and beyond its positivist, functionalist and realist assumptions) while still providing principles and tools that are able to positively influence how organizations, corporations, governments and communities are governed and their actions and performances visualised. Rational choices are impossible but reasonable ones are within our reach.
Every single accountant or programme manager would know that a full knowledge of financial transactions and of a multimillion major programme is impossible and still one would pretend that this is not the case, one would still try to measure and represent. The edifice of my project instead take this impossibility seriously and starts from there.
Most of my empirical research, from the history of the administration of the Jesuit Order to the complexities of management in UK Major Programmes, is inspired by the same desire to offer a paradigm shift, that build on years of critical accounting and management while building a valid alternative. I have chosen my research settings following two aims. Firstly, to de-familiarise ourselves from taken for granted notions of what management is about (who said that accounting is only about the calculation of profit?). Secondly, to explore and systematise different approaches to management which still produce a form of management and governance (meant as the device of practices that guarantee some kind of social and economic co-habitation) while refusing the belief in ‘best ways’, ‘best practices’ and the rational choice approach that, mostly unconsciously, underpins them.
I study accounting and management techniques for their visual power and ability to engage the user rather than simply for their aid to rational decision making. More recently, I am increasingly interested in the magic power of numbers and figures, how they enchant and make people suspend judgment and build beliefs (the case of the savings on the NHS on the Brexit bus comes to mind!)
Business visualizations and management practices for me are spaces of mediation and compromise beyond the idea of sharing and agreeing, they are spaces for continuously managing conflicts and different notions of truths, beliefs and worth. In my view accounting always fails to provide accurate information but it is important for the effects that it produces on organizational actors, on what actions it generate, and for the roles it plays other than exclusively producing information for decision making.
Accounting cannot provide true and fair views but can do many other things that are possibly even more important. Rational choices exists only in our dreams and irrational ones are in front of our eyes every day but this does not mean that reasonable choices are not within our reach. I want to understand how, why, one can make these choices, what they are about and who can make them, that is, what kind of economic agent we want to portray when we write about accounting, accountants, management and managers.
I have successfully supervised a number of PhD students whose research ranges from managing humanitarian crisis & major programmes, to accounting and valuation from a semiological perspective. I look for students who have a broader interdisciplinary interest in accounting as a major valuation practice that informs decision making in conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity. These are areas where I currently accept doctoral students (but if you have a great idea just let me know):
- the role of accounting as a platform of mediation, negotiation and for the exploration of ‘unknown unknowns’ and wicked problems.
- How accountants and experts, and notions of value and valuations practices will be affected by the digital revolution
- How design of performance metrics (dashboards etc.) can be understood from a non-economic perspective (for example, cognitive, artistic & aesthetic, design)
- How these metrics and their power can be understood beyond the cognitive features of numbers and figures to involve other modes of understanding (e.g. religion and magic)
I am interested in students who have a solid interdisciplinary background and curiosity.