Managers in Search of Purpose

Senior Manager: “In a sense, Mariella is the owner of the kind of regulatory side. In fact, there’s a great responsibility on her. We always hear they could go to prison.” Carole: “Can I just check that you are saying that you have

been told that if someone does something that didn’t meet regulatory standards, Mariella would go to prison?”

Senior Manager: “That’s the ultimate message we get given. That’s the end story, but yes, I mean it’s the one thing we all fear. We would hate to pur her in prison. That would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it? [Laughs] But no, we’d hate to have [the regulator] coming down on us and putting serious financial penalties in as well.”

Drawing the Battle Lines: Heroes and Villains

The multiple logics within the association produce contradictions that managers use to draw battle lines between (social) “good” and (economic) “evil” within the organization. Within my day-to-day work I became aware of emotionally charged conversations between two departments led by different directors for whom we use the pseudonyms Mariella and Geoff. Mariella’s department was responsible for promoting and protecting standards within the association and the profession; Geoff’s was responsible for corporate activity, or more specifically delivering educational products to corporate entities. From the outset, their respective job descriptions and role expectations set the two directors and the functions they oversee on a course to work against each other (see Table 3.1).

Job Summary



Al. Responsible for the development and continuous

improvement of global education standards that meet regulatory and market needs and position [the association] as the leading authority and standard setter for the profession.

B1. Accountability for the delivery of all B2B products and services, maintaining margins leading to increased returns (financial and volume).

Key Responsibilities [in order of presentation on Job Description]

A2. Develop, manage and deliver a global plan that promotes and adheres to professional standards.

B2. Input into the Corporate Strategy and business Plans, with

responsibility and accountability for the delivery of corporate products and services, maintaining margin and maximising financial return.

A3. Develop, manage, deliver and maintain the [name]

International Standard ensuring that it meets the needs of global markets and supports the Public Benefit needs of the Charter.

B3. Lead and direct Group Product Development activities,

developing new leading edge products and enhancing current offerings to maximise profit and increase market penetration and reputation.

A4. Develop, manage and deliver new global education

products and services that will support and continuously raise standards and meet the needs of the corporate market.

B4. Lead and direct the maintenance and expansion of local and international senior professional networks (member and nonmember), Corporate and individual stakeholder groups to support reputational growth and influence and exploit business opportunities.


Lead and direct the continuous development of educational/ assessed programmes to meet current and future market needs - both in the academic world to ensure world-class status and to meet the needs of the corporate market.

B5. Lead and direct key/strategic supplier networks to ensure continued quality of delivery and availability of a range of appropriate partners to meet current and future demand.

А 6.

Lead and direct alternative routes to membership ensuring no detriment to standards of entry.

B6. Control and manage the department’s finances to ensure effective budgeting and cost control.

А 7.

Lead and direct the management and continuous

improvement of a range of academic consultants/providers to ensure on-time, quality provision of examination material, coupled with robust marking and assessment to agreed standards.

B7. Direct and develop staff of the department to ensure they are appropriately motivated, trained and are working towards the achievement of plans and objectives.


Lead, direct and protect the independence of the Awarding Body, ensuring strong compliance, clarity of purposes and continuous improvement.

End of Document


Responsible and accountable for protecting the legally binding regulatory compliance status of the Awarding Body.


Lead representative/ambassador in the global education arena and wider into the corporate market to support reputational and business growth.


Responsible and accountable for the provision and continuous maintenance and growth of a global network of education providers, ensuring fairness, open access and formal auditing to maintain standards and to meet the Charter objectives of 'access for all’.


Job Summary



A12. Responsible and accountable for assessment methodologies to support the currency and credibility of the global standard and lead current thinking in the academic world and to ensure relevance to other stakeholders.

A13. Responsible and accountable for the continuous monitoring of Government, agencies and other global educational bodies to assess potential impact and opportunities for professional development activities.

A14. Control and manage the department’s finances to ensure effective budgeting and cost control.

A15. Direct and develop the staff of the department to ensure that they are appropriately motivated, trained and are working towards the achievement of business plans.

Source: Bain (2017).

As context, the role holders had each drafted their own job description for approval by the CEO, with the Human Resources (HR) department then adding standardized items relating to people and budget management (A 14 and A15; B6 and B7). Mariella had worked in several regulated environments in a number of different organizations. This had mostly been within education, and in small-medium sized charities and nonprofit organizations. Geoff had worked for 25 years prior to joining the association in privately owned large corporate organizations; this is his first charity and first small-medium sized organization.

There are a number of important points to note. First, Mariella’s role walks the “hybrid” line between commerciality and public good. The role description pays homage to addressing market needs [Al, АЗ, A4, A5, A10], but constantly positions it next to maintaining and improving standards and reputation, meeting regulatory requirements and achieving Charter objectives and public benefit. In stark contrast, Geoff’s role is devoid of (nonprofit) organizational context, focusing solely on maximization of financial returns [Bl, B2, ВЗ, В4]. Second, the descriptors stand in opposition at a rhetorical level, with Mariella positioned as the “protector” of standards, fairness, open access and ultimately Charter objectives [A6, A8, A9, All] and Geoff as the “exploiter” of business opportunities for greater market penetration [B3, В4]. A community logic, where addressing market needs is the means to achieving a higher social purpose, is inherent in Mariella’s articulation of her role. For Geoff, making money is the end game itself. Such competing organizing principles can inevitably set managers, functions and departments at war with each other based on allegiance to one logic or another. That the directors had each been socialized throughout their professional life with divergent logics, which they subsequently bring to the fore in constructing their job roles, supports the idea of employees as “carriers” of institutional logics (Greenwood & Hinings, 1993; Zilber, 2002). This is not to suggest that they are mere cultural dopes, simply acting out the directives provided by cultural, organizational and societal norms to which they have been exposed (Garfinkle, 1967; Tolbert & Zucker, 1996). As we will see in this chapter, organizational inhabitants are artful and agentic in exploiting the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in hybrid organizations towards their own ends, not least through creating and deploying “rational(ized) myths” (Meyer & Rowan, 1977; Zilber, 2006; Bayma, 2012).

At a broader level, the two directors’ respective departments were operating under different principles or regimes. Mariella’s department, and its associated “education” profit and loss account, was expected to break even whereas Geoff’s “corporate” profit and loss account was expected to generate over half of the £1 million per annum return to financial reserves target. Mariella had actively and successfully fended off the intensified pressure for income and growth outlined in Chapter 2

by citing the regulator’s interest in ensuring participation and accessibility to education as a significant risk to the association’s awarding body status (and associated revenue) should prices increase too greatly. This was strengthened by an imminent routine audit by the regulator. Mariella’s department was achieving a break-even position with income being sufficient to cover its cost base. Geoff’s department, however, was making a loss and a “CEO Task Force” to secure profitability was initiated. At a senior leadership team meeting a few months later, Geoff presented the Task Force as the “Keeping me in a job project,” using serious humor to express a level of concern around personal consequences. For me, this brought context to the shock I had felt at a previous meeting when Geoff suggested it would be beneficial if learners failed their exams, as they would then transfer onto a new programme giving greater financial returns.

One incident in particular is useful in illustrating the internal battles that can arise in the milieu of divergent organizing logics. The incident involved Mariella challenging Geoff over a marketing email promoting one of his team’s new educational products. Mariella felt that Geoff had used privileged access to internal data in an unfair way and to the detriment of external stakeholders (namely, other study centers that delivered the association’s qualifications). Mariella claimed that Geoff’s team was not authorized to access or use her team’s data, that this constituted a conflict of interest and that by using it Geoff and his team had compromised the integrity of the Awarding Body. Ultimately, she argued, this put the association at risk of regulatory action. I experienced much persuasive and emotive rhetoric around this incident from both parties, as Mariella and her department appropriate a “protector of public good” identity as a justification for policing and sanctioning other functions within the organization.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >