1st Edition

Action at a Distance Studies in the Practicalities of Executive Management

By R.J. Anderson, Wes Sharrock Copyright 2018
    194 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    194 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines the nature of work and management, centring on documents as a class of management objects which have been relatively understudied in ethnomethodological research. Treating documents and similar artefacts as ordering devices, the authors describe consociation – the social organisation of patterns of coordinated action in situations where the usual resources of face to face communication are absent. With a focus on senior managers, this volume provides a description of the interior configuration of the world of senior management as the encountered, everyday experience of managing, drawing on first person experience rather than ethnographic fieldwork to shed new light on the importance of third person reflection upon practical understandings. An innovative study of the social character of such management objects as spreadsheets, strategic plans, computational models and charts, Action at a Distance will appeal to scholars of sociology with interests in ethnomethodology, the sociology of work and method in the social sciences.

    List of Figures

    List of Appendices


    Part I: Foundations

    1. The World of the Senior Manager

    2. Management as a Common Sense Construct

    Part II: Studies in the Practicalities of Executive Management

    3. Representations and Realities

    4. Representations without Metaphysics

    5. Intersubjectivity and the Arts of Financial Management

    6. The Contingencies of Due Process


    7. Sensitivity Analysis as Practical Modal Realism


    8. Benchmarking as Reality Conjuncture


    9. Does It Wash Its Face?


    10. Plans and their Situated Actions

    Part III: Conclusion

    11. Ethnomethodology: A First Sociology?



    Bob Anderson is the former Pro Vice Chancellor for Research at Sheffield Hallam University. As CEO of University Campus Suffolk, UK, he led the founding of what is now the University of Suffolk. He is currently an Associate in the Horizon Research Institute at Nottingham University.

    Wes Sharrock is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Manchester University, UK.

    "This ground-breaking book explores the neglected, everyday practicalities of management, focusing on the role of key artefacts in ordering organisational life. In doing this it exemplifies what the authors characterise as "third-person phenomenology". Locating their study in the tradition of ethnomethodological work, the authors offer stimulating reflections on the character of this radical enterprise, treating it as a "first sociology"."

    Martyn Hammersley, The Open University.

    "Authored by two of the leading researchers in the field of ethnomethodology, this book makes a unique contribution not only to ethnomethodology but to management and organizational studies in general. Its innovative study practice provides highly original and provoking insights into the often closed world of senior management in organisations."

    Graham Button, formerly Pro-Vice Chancellor for Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences, Sheffield Hallam University, and Laboratory Director, Xerox Research Centre Europe, Grenoble.

    "Anderson and Sharrock investigate the "shop floor problem" – usually a problem for managers who want to know what other workers actually do in day-to-day practice.  Drawing upon their own experiences as managers and with managers, they observe that the "shop floor" for managers is largely constituted by records that enable action at a distance.  In addition to giving a rare entry into the mundane work of management, the book introduces keen insight into ethnomethodology and social theory through their "third-person phenomenological" perspective."

    Michael E. Lynch, Cornell University, USA.