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Paradoxes and management approaches of competing for work in creative professional service firms

Published on Mar 1, 2017in Scandinavian Journal of Management1.415
· DOI :10.1016/j.scaman.2016.10.002
Beatrice Manzoni3
Estimated H-index: 3
(Bocconi University),
Leentje Volker8
Estimated H-index: 8
(TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)
Abstract
Despite their business relevance, creative professional service firms are under-researched, in particular with regard to how they compete for work. Competing for work is key to survival, but also extremely challenging due to the complexity of the services offered. In this paper we use a paradox framework to investigate the opposing demands that creative professional service firms experience when competing for work. Based on a set of semi-structured interviews in the context of architectural competitions, we show that creative professional service firms face two interwoven paradoxes which relate to the strategic intent (why to compete) and the design intent (what to propose) of client propositions. We describe these paradoxes and explain how organizations manage and cope with them through both synthesis and separation management approaches. Contributions of this study can be found in theorizing paradoxes of competing for work from the professional service provider's perspective, and in fostering the firms’ paradoxical mind-set, which facilitates the acceptance and resolution of complexity and different competing demands.
  • References (77)
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References77
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#1Wendy K. Smith (UD: University of Delaware)H-Index: 22
#2Paul Tracey (University of Cambridge)H-Index: 27
Organizational success increasingly depends on leaders’ abilities to address competing demands simultaneously. Scholars have applied both institutional theory and paradox theory to better understand the nature and responses to these competing demands. These two lenses diverge in their understanding and responses to tensions. Institutional theory depicts competing demands emerging from divergent field-level pressures and stresses their contradictory and oppositional nature. Organizational respons...
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#1Medhanie Gaim (Umeå University)H-Index: 3
#2Nils Wåhlin (Umeå University)H-Index: 7
We examine paradoxes in organizations and the organizations’ ability to deal with the resulting paradoxical tensions. Paradoxes constitute contradictory yet interrelated organizational demands that exist simultaneously, with the resulting tensions persisting over time. Irrespective of the prevailing evidence that engaging paradoxes leads to peak performance in the short-term, which reinforces long-term success, the question of how this might be done remains perplexing. Thus, based on pragmatic p...
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#1Frans Bévort (CBS: Copenhagen Business School)H-Index: 3
#2Roy Suddaby (Newcastle University)H-Index: 33
This article examines how individual accountants subjectively interpret competing logics of professionalism as they transform from practicing accountants to managerial roles and as their organizations transform from traditional professional partnerships to more corporate organizational forms. Based on a longitudinal ethnography of professionals in a Big Four accounting firm we analyse the process by which individual professionals make sense of their new roles and integrate the conflicting demand...
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#1Marina Bos-de Vos (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 1
#2J.W.F. Hans Wamelink (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 1
Last. Leentje Volker (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 8
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Architectural firms often have difficulty generating profit from their services as they pursue not only commercial but also professional goals. These goals frequently conflict and have to be balanced during the process of value creation and value capture. So far, literature has focused on the interaction between the perceived use value for the customer and the fee that is paid to the firm. To better understand how professional service firms realize their organizational targets, professional valu...
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#1Beatrice ManzoniH-Index: 3
#2Leentje VolkerH-Index: 8
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dDespite being one of the most important means to obtain commissions, to explore in design terms and to develop design quality, architectural competitions are an extremely controversial procedure, in both research and in practice. Competitions present contradictory features and competing demands. Nevertheless, they are increasingly used within the European procurement law, to the point that exploring and understanding these debated elements is essential to improve their effectiveness. In this pa...
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#1Jonathan Schad (University of Geneva)H-Index: 4
#2Marianne W. Lewis (City University London)H-Index: 25
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Paradox studies offer vital and timely insights into an array of organizational tensions. Yet this field stands at a critical juncture. Over the past 25 years, management scholars have drawn foundational insights from philosophy and psychology to apply a paradox lens to organizational phenomena. Yet extant studies selectively leverage ancient wisdom, adopting some key insights while abandoning others. Using a structured content analysis to review the burgeoning management literature, we surface ...
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Summary Over the last two decades, a managerial discourse has emerged that calls for introducing the logics of art and esthetics into the field of management. In this article, we seek to shed light on the ‘creative’ managerial subjectivity that is sanctioned by this discourse. For this purpose, we examine leadership development workshops that invite managers to conduct a choir, and thus embody the manager-as-artist analogy. We find that these workshops present managers with a variety of contradi...
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#1Deirdre Canavan (DIT: Dublin Institute of Technology)H-Index: 2
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Purpose – Reliance on individual talent and motivation renders creative professional service firms (PSFs) highly dependent on their ability to attract and mobilise the right individuals. This paper aims to build an integrated framework showing firstly how creative industry PSFs can differ in their strategy for growth, and secondly how these alternative strategies for growth can influence the firm's approach to organising and the type of talent required.Design/methodology/approach – The findings ...
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In this paper, the potential relationship between two design processes that are traditionally regarded as independent: the architectural and the organizational respectively, is being considered and discussed through the implications that end user participation might have on the written brief, upon which an architectural competition is being based. The empirical context is the establishment of a new municipality town hall outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. In this project, end user participation has...
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Project-based firms have to capture value from the projects in which they engage. This can be challenging as firms need to reconcile project goals and organizational goals while attempting to avoid the slippage of value to other actors. Drawing on interviews with architects and clients, this research reveals how architectural firms used the strategies of postponing financial revenues in a project, compensating for loss of financial revenues across projects and rejecting a project to accept or mi...
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Professional roles within inter-organizational projects have become increasingly diverse and contested, yet little is known about how professionals react to such threats of marginalization. Drawing on empirical data from interviews with architects, a profession in which historically established role boundaries have become particularly blurred, we analyse how professionals negotiate their roles in inter-organizational projects. We identified three types of boundary work—reinstating, bending, and ...
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It is well established that engaging paradoxes and the role of space are important aspects of idea work. Although the significance has been recognized, studies that focus on the intersection betwee ...
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In reaction to the recent call for critical debate in the field of construction management research, I argue that we should embrace the richness of adjacent fields of study in order to dynamically develop our own and face the plethora of contemporary societal challenges that exist in our industry. I introduce the concepts of other-than-rational thinking in decision-making and multiplicity in management responses as examples of inspirational sources from social sciences that would contribute to t...
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Abstract Paradoxical tensions are pervasive and unavoidable in the everyday practice of creativity-based contexts, such as architectural firms. Whilst the existing literature has extensively explored both coping strategies and multiple ways of approaching paradoxical tensions, we still have a limited understanding of how individuals engage with paradoxical tensions and how organizations support their members' efforts to sustain such tensions. Accordingly, my purpose here is to explore paradoxica...
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