According to conventional wisdom, managers can somehow stand outside the ongoing flow of human interaction and choose the optimum way to manage the situations in which they find themselves. Then, provided that others implement their decisions as planned and comply with the prescribed ways of working, it is assumed that the sought-after outcomes will be achieved.
Most managers would concede privately that this bears little resemblance to their everyday lived reality. However, the presumed ability to predict, organize, and control outcomes persists. Nor is it limited to management writing, leadership development programmes, and consultancy offerings. It also frames the ways in which managers’ actions are scrutinized and commented upon by politicians, journalists, and members of the general public. Most significantly, perhaps, this scientifically rational view of organization and management practice remains central to the way in which managers’ performance is typically judged by the in-house scorekeepers and commentators on whom their current standing, ongoing remuneration, and future prospects depend.
When managers account formally for their practice, therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised if they adopt the clichéd language and “We did this and got that” explanations that reflect this managerially ‘correct’ and politically acceptable view of their practice.