On the Metaphysics of Management

Lauri Koskela1 & Mike Kagioglou2

1Professor, Salford Centre for Research and Innovation (SCRI) in the built and human environment, University of Salford, 4 th Floor, Maxwell Building, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WT, United Kingdom. Email: l.j.koskela@salford.ac.uk
2Centre Manager, Salford Centre for Research and Innovation (SCRI) in the built and human environment, University of Salford, 4 th Floor, Maxwell Building, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WT, United Kingdom. Email: m.kagioglou@salford.ac.uk

Abstract

The question about the metaphysics of management is considered especially from the point of view of the subject, acts and object of management. Management is understood holistically, in connection to production, rather than as an independent domain in itself. In terms of metaphysics, the time-honoured question about the superiority of thing (substance, matter) ontology or process ontology is addressed. The determination of metaphysical commitments is discussed. Empirical evidence on the appropriateness of alternative metaphysical assumptions in management is forwarded. It is concluded that Western management thinking has been dominated by thing metaphysics. This has led to deficient conceptualizations and counterproductive methods, present in the 20 th century. There have been process metaphysics based correctives, which include Japanese-originated methods and out-of-the box methods developed by Western parties. These correctives have often outperformed their substance based counterparts, but their adoption in the West has been slow. It is concluded that the Western metaphysical assumptions, especially when implicit, hinder learning, understanding and implementation of the process based correctives in the realm of management. However, even if the dominant Western metaphysics constrains our thinking, it might be possible to break out of it, through appropriate ontology training.

Keywords

Metaphysics, management, production management, organization, change, process, substance

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Reference

Koskela, L. & Kagioglou, M. 2006, 'On the Metaphysics of Management' In:, 14th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Santiago, Chile, 1-.

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