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Management Training and Communicative Action

Within broader historical epochs and their defining units such as workers and management, any society contains historically similar but also rather particular themes. Within smaller circles such as, for example, workers and management in a specific company, further thematic diversifications can be found, often divided into sub-areas. All of these remain related to the societal whole as well as the global level, which constitutes sociological and historical links. This fact remains of great importance for the investigation of generic themes. When people lack critical understanding of managerial realities, they never truly know that reality.1 To know it truly, they would have to reverse their starting point by developing a more comprehensive vision of the managerial context in order to separate the constituent elements of management from its adjacent ideology.

Equally appropriate for thematic investigations and for CPPE is to present managerial dimensions in an individual’s contextual reality. This analysis can make it possible to recognise the interaction of the various components of the managerial-ideological structure. Meanwhile existing managerial-ideological dimensions should be perceived as dimensions of the totality of the praxis-ideology interface between management and Managerialism. In this way, any critical analysis of these dimensions

© The Author(s) 2017 T. Klikauer, Management Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40778-4_6

makes it possible to develop a new, critical attitude set against thought- limiting Managerialism with which a critical comprehension of the managerial reality will acquire new depth. When carried out with a methodology of communicative action, such an investigation of the managerial universe introduces people to a critical form of thinking.

I n communicative action, however, people will perceive reality as penetrable and enveloping. It remains indispensable to proceed with communicative action by means of abstraction, but only after mutual and equal recognition has been established among the participants. On the base of mutual and equal recognition, communicative action does never involve reducing the concrete to the abstract as this would negate the dialectical character of communicative action. Instead, communicative action seeks to maintain both elements as opposites which interrelate dialectically in the act of reflection. The dialectical movement of communicative action is perfectly exemplified in the analysis of concrete— albeit “coded”—managerial situations.

By coding the ideology in order to hide its domineering impacts, hidden tasks, and reality-distorting contents, Managerialism relies on managerial buzzwords, weasel words, and rafts of rhetorical instruments.2 Set against this, communicative action allows the “decoding” of managerial ideologies requiring a move from abstract to concrete and back. But this also requires moving from parts to the whole and then returning to the parts of management and managerial ideologies. In turn, it requires that participants of communicative action recognise themselves—not as objects but as acting and communicating subjects of a communicative situation in which they partake. If the decoding of the ideological content of Managerialism has been successful, the analysis of a now-decoded managerial situation can lead to critical perceptions of the concrete reality of the managerial regime and Managerialism.

In the process of communicative action, decoding Managerialism will facilitate the discovery of the interaction among the ideological parts of Managerialism, exposing their distorting characteristics. The whole can be represented through the decoding of Managerialism that previously was only sensed but never fully apprehended. Through communicative action, it begins to acquire meaning as thought flows not just back to and from various dimensions but also among the participants of communicative action. Since the decoding of Managerialism remains a communicative task, decoders using communicative action tend to take steps from managerial-ideological representations to the concrete situation of managerial regimes. It is thus possible to explain why individuals begin to behave rather differently once managerial reality ceases to appear like a dark pathway that binds people to the ideological imperatives of Managerialism.

In all stages of communicative action, people exteriorise their views of managerial regimes and Managerialism. This alters the way many think about management. A group participating in communicative action—at the very beginning—can never express generic themes without having had the full experience of communicative action. This remains imperative for communicative action’s own existence. And this also means uttering the inconvenient truth about management and its ideological bedfellow of Managerialism. But set against such a critical discussion is the theme of “organisational silence”.3 It means that there are managerial structures of muteness in place and that these are supported by the overwhelming force of managerially introduced thoughts and speech limiting situations.

It should be re-emphasised that emancipatory management education can never be found in human beings divorced from reality, nor, in turn, when reality is divorced from human beings. Managerial reality, for example, can only be apprehended in a “worker versus management” relationship. To study management always means to study human thinking about the reality of management as well as the actions of human beings inside these confinements. It is for this reason that communicative action requires students to act as inquisitive investigators drilling into managerial regimes and Managerialism alike. The more inquisitive and critical students are in their exploration of themes of management and Managerialism, the more deeply they can develop a critical awareness of the managerial reality and the ideologies that sustain domination.4

One might think of students as student-investigators in search of the reality lurking behind the ideology of Managerialism. But the invasive inspirations of inquisitive student-investigators will—inevitably—be seen by the representatives of Managerialism as intrusions into their affairs. This means that students will not relinquish the objectivity of such an investigation but gain objectivity. All this also presupposes that managerial themes truly exist behind the veil of managerial ideologies and come to fore once the ideological fog is removed. In emancipatory management education, communicative action uncovers people’s relationships with the managerial world. Through communicative action, the uncovering of objective facts will suggest different complexities of managerial themes. Quite necessarily, there is a relation between management and Managerialism and the perceptions people have of both.

A meaningful thematic expression in communicative action occurs at any given moment when realisations about management and Managerialism are experienced as being different from earlier misconceptions. During the cause of communicative action, participants of emancipatory management education will inevitably change their perception of the facts and ideologies of management. From the standpoint of the critical educator, it remains relevant to detect the starting point at which participants of communicative action begin to visualise such new perspectives on managerial regimes and Managerialism. These moments can verify whether or not a transformation has occurred on how managerial regimes and Managerialism are perceived. Meanwhile the reality of managerial regimes and Managerialism remains unchanged when perceptions of both remain unchanged.

Emancipatory educators will realise that the aspirations, motives, and objectives of students engaged in communicative action will change towards meaningful themes linked to human aspirations. But these human aspirations never simply exist somewhere “out there” waiting to be picked up. They are no static entities. Instead, these aspirations can be developed and brought to light even when they have been smothered by the prevailing managerial ideologies. They are as historical as people themselves. As a consequence, they can never be conceptualised when they are seen as being apart from human beings and humanisation. To apprehend these themes and understand them always means to understand students in the context of managerial regimes. But it is never possible to understand these themes apart from those confined to domination. Communicative-educational investigations into managerial regimes become the determining process of a critical awareness of managerial reality. As a consequence, this makes a starting point for an educational process based on communicative action.

The danger of communicative action is not that it supposes objective facts about management to be discovered by students themselves. On the contrary, it can be found in the risk of shifting the focus of communicative action from managerial regimes and Managerialism to the students themselves and thereby treating students as objects of communicative action. But since communicative action serves as a basis for developing a critical educational programme, it must likewise be based on reciprocity of action and communication.

Communicative action occurring in the realm of humanisation can never be reduced to mechanistic action. As a process of searching for truth and creating critical knowledge, communicative action requires student-investigators to discover managerial problems by linking them to the meaningful theme of humanisation.5 Communicative action will be educational when it is critical and when it avoids narrow outlines of overtly partial, focalised, and positivist-empirical viewpoints of managerial reality often framed as value neutral. Instead, communicative action fosters the comprehension of the total reality of management (praxis) and Managerialism (ideology). As a consequence, the critical educational process involves an educationally guided searching for meaningful themes such as humanisation and emancipation, and this includes the highlighting of links between managerial pathologies and corporate capitalism as well as the ideologies used to stabilise both and to camouflage these links.

Just as critical educators dedicated to communicative action can never present ready-made training programmes to students, student-investigators cannot start from points predesigned by others—the self-appointed management training expert. Instead, when linked to education, communicative action is always designed to support emancipatory education. That is, emancipatory education must consist of communication linked to the common experience of a reality perceived in the complexity of managerial structures. When management trainers—in the name of scientific objectivity—transform organic life into inorganic numbers and static and thought-limiting models (e.g. SWOT), they engineer a predesigned outcome found in the conversion of life (human beings) into non-life (human resources). As a consequence, organisational change is nearly always a change from the living to the death by stealth—from human beings to numbers. The denying of life in favour of numbers might be a sign of organisational death and managerial decay. As a consequence, Managerialism limits change to organisational change while simultaneously pretending that there is change. In reality it asphyxiates human beings inside “their” never-ending change that in reality cements the status quo and solidifies managerial domination. Under its prime ideology of Managerialism, organisational change can never be used to stimulate change towards a more human world. Seeing change for the sake of ideological-organisational legitimacy, even if it is no more than “a sign of death”, fulfils the function of converting people into passive organisational objects. They themselves become rigid “organisational changers”. All this might be the well-hidden truth about management training on “change management”.

Set against that is the fact that human beings always find themselves rooted in temporal-spatial conditions set by management. People tend to reflect on their “situationality” as set by management to the extent that it challenges managerial regimes. Reflection upon managerial situations is reflection about the managerial condition of existence as defined through managerial domination. But through critical thinking linked to communicative action people can discover each other as valuable partners and develop a critical understanding of managerial reality. They can start to perceive managerial reality as an objective and contradictory situation only when moving towards communicative action linked to emancipatory education. Through that, they emerge from the submersion engineered by domination and will acquire the ability to intervene in managerial reality.6 Critical intervention in managerial reality is based on a historical awareness of oneself as well as of the history-specific phenomenon of management. This represents a step forward in emerging from the fog of managerial ideology. Critical consciousness develops through communicative action but it is nearly always linked to the deepening of an ascending awareness that is characteristic of processes linked to communicative action.

When communicative action is linked to emancipatory education, it will deepen the historical awareness. The more educators and students link their educational efforts to history, the more they continue to i nvestigate the reality of managerial regimes that have moved from the overseer’s whip to the ideological means during the last 100+ years, if one takes Taylor’s (quasi)-Scientific Management as the arbitrary starting point of modern management.7 When linked to CPPE, education and communicative action are movements towards humanisation.

In contrast to management training programmes, CPPE used by communicative action develops students’ views of the managerial world as they discover these by themselves rather than through pre-packaged modules of e-learning. In other words, students generate their own themes while discovering their own solutions to managerial contradictions. Under communicative action, this constantly expands and renews itself. The task of the dedicated critical emancipatory teacher is the organisation of teamwork by encouraging educational discussion on managerial regimes and Managerialism. Communicative action is capable of revealing the already present elements of humanism even inside forms of domination. Linked to emancipatory education, communicative action never means lecturing but presenting managerial problems as phenomena of problem-s olving. Once participants in communicative action

  • • have determined the area on which they will work,
  • • have established mutual and equal recognition, and
  • • have acquired a preliminary acquaintance with it

through primary (e.g. collective agreements, human resource management policies) and secondary sources (e.g. published articles), participants in communicative action can initiate the first stage of their critical investigation into the links between managerial regimes and Managerialism. This can involve difficulties and risks that are part of a regular movement towards emancipation. These risks and problems are not always evident during the first contacts of individuals with the area selected to be analysed. But in these initial steps, communicative action demands to get a significant number of people to agree—“reach common agreement” (Habermas)—when talking about the educational objectives of their session. Participants in communicative action discuss roughly five key elements:

  • 1. The reason for an analysis.
  • 2. How it is to be conducted?
  • 3. What use will be made of the knowledge created?
  • 4. What further investigation can be possible?
  • 5. How relationships of mutual understanding and trust can lead to transformative action?

Meanwhile, participants in communicative action begin their own “visits” to more specific areas of managerial regimes and Managerialism. But upholding the principles of communicative action can never be enforced externally. Instead, the participants will act as sympathetic participants with an attitude of understanding and critical reflection directed towards emancipation. While it is quite common for participants in communicative action to reach areas with values attached that influence their own perceptions, this can never mean that participants refrain from transforming themes into a critical discussion of these values. The dimensions of these values that are relevant to communicative action are those that assist a “domination^to^emancipation” move. The process of such a transition implies a correct method of approaching managerial reality in order to unveil and alter it. Such a critical process can never be imposed from above. As a consequence, from the very beginning, participants need to express educational and cultural action during the process of communicative action.

During this process, participants set critical aims on the area of management as an area to be decoded. They regard the specifics of this management area as being linked to the totality of managerial regimes and Managerialism. By revisiting these areas of discussion, they can analyse the partial dimensions which impress them and their links to overall managerial regimes as well as the ideology of Managerialism that are used to camouflages these contradictions. Through this process, they expand their understanding of the interaction between the various parts of management and its ideologies (Managerialism and neo-liberalism) and how they impact on their existence inside the structures of domination.

During this initial decoding stage, participants in communicative action observe certain moments of life as well as the asphyxiations of people inside management. Sometimes these realisations come directly and sometimes by means of informal conversations with other participants. Participants can register everything including apparently unimportant items and noticeable contradictions but also the way other students communicate and the style and behaviour inside managerial organisations while being at work. They can record the idioms of students, their expressions, their vocabulary, and their syntax in an effort to improve these. But more importantly, participants can recognise the way human thinking is constructed. It is essential for all participants in communicative action to observe the managerial area under varying circumstances and from a variety of perspectives such as the following:

  • • The role of labour in management
  • • Management meetings
  • • The organisational behaviours expected from people as defined by organisational policies
  • • The ideological content of language used by management
  • • The relations between management and organisational members (human resource management versus workers)
  • • The roles people have been assigned to play by management
  • • Leisure hours and rest periods as well as general working conditions
  • • Additional benefits and privileges granted—or not granted—by management
  • • Conversations management has with people at work, and so on.

No activity must escape the participants’ attention during the initial surveying of relevant management areas. After each discussion part is concluded, participants should draw up a brief report to be discussed by the entire group engaged in emancipatory education. This can be done in order to evaluate the preliminary findings and preliminary common agreements reached by the participants. To facilitate the participation in communicative action, the evaluation of such communicative engagements should be organised by all participants. Such evaluations represent what might be seen as a second stage of communicative action. During this stage, each person might relate to how one perceives a certain event. Such expositions might even challenge all other participants by presenting to them the managerial reality in which they find themselves in. At this moment of communicative action, participants might reconsider their position through critical considerations developed with other participants. As a consequence, the critical analysis of managerial reality made by each individual participant may even send some back to dialogically join what was ideologically disjoined. This uncovers the whole of Managerialism inside which one becomes part of the totality of management.

The more such a communicative group divides and reintegrates particular parts of management to the whole of management, the more closely they approach the nuclei of the principles of communicative action linked to emancipatory education. This also remains always linked to uncovering the contradictions camouflaged by Managerialism. By locating the nuclei of managerial contradictions, at this stage participants might even be able to organise an emancipatory programme content of educational action. It is here where communicative action becomes educational action. Indeed, if the content reflects managerial contradictions, it would undoubtedly contain meaningful themes and significant advances in the understanding of managerial regimes and Managerialism. And one can safely affirm that communicative-educational action based on these critical observations will succeed on the basis of communicative and educational decisions reached among participants rather than if they were “coming from the top”. Meanwhile participants in communicative action should avoid being tempted by these educational possibilities. The basic element when starting from the initial perceptions of managerial contradictions—that are inevitably linked to overall contradictions experienced in society and capitalism—is to study these contradictions “with” their links to society and capitalism.

Intrinsically, an acute awareness of these contradictions constitutes an overcoming of the main thought-limiting situations as engineered by standard management training. When linked to emancipatory education, communicative action allows individuals to overcome being caught up in these thought-limiting fatalistic situations. Although these situations remain an objective reality—they have been rather skilfully set up by the ideologues of Managerialism and the designers of management training programmes dedicated to domination—participants in communicative action must investigate them to raise awareness of the interface between management training and Managerialism.

As much as thought-limiting situations in management training remain concrete reality, communicative action can call forth people to work on, or better, against these limitations, ensuring that opposite themes and tasks come to the forth. As a consequence, the basic concern of participants in communicative action should be to concentrate on critical knowledge, emancipation, and domination. The creation of critical knowledge can indeed be the result of overcoming the multitude of obstacles and distortions Managerialism has placed in the way of becoming truly human. Developing a critical educational consciousness implies the possibility of reaching beyond thought-limiting situations. Accordingly, the fact that participants in communicative action—during the initial stages of communicative action—may apprehend the complexities of managerial contradictions does never authorise these participants to structure educational programmes from above and “for” others. This sort of false perception of educational realities might show the influence of Managerialism rather than that of communicative action dedicated to decoding managerial ideologies.

One of the first requirements of communicative action when linked to emancipatory education is that the decodifications must necessarily represent situations familiar to the individuals participating in communicative action. When familiar themes are examined, participants can recognise managerial situations in which these are positioned and relate their own experiences to those of managerial regimes and Managerialism. It is inadmissible to present highly abstract, unfamiliar, and irrelevant pictures of managerial reality to the participants of communicative action. The communicative procedure has to include the “familiar^ unfamiliar” dialectics so that individuals participating in communicative action can analyse an unfamiliar reality by comparing it with their own experiences inside managerial regimes and thereby discover the true limitations of these regimes. This can never occur before some of the most basic parameters of communicative action have been established. All this hinges on the communicative process that analyses people’s own reality as shaped by managerial regimes. Through this they become successively evermore aware of earlier ideologically distorted perceptions of management and will inevitably arrive at a new perception about the reality of management and Managerialism.

An equally fundamental requirement of communicative action, once placed at the centre of communicative analysis, is—quite obviously, some may say—that a selected situation to be analysed is neither too explicit nor too unknowable. The former may degenerate back into managerial propaganda. This occurs when communication does not rely on decoding processes. In these cases, what occurs is often simply a restating of obviously predetermined contents of Managerialism. Simultaneously, the latter runs the danger of appearing to be too puzzling and merely a guessing game without real substance behind it. Since communicative action focuses on real managerial situations, decodification of management should present the complexities of, for example, the “management- Managerialism” interface. This can be done through the decoding of both and the link between them by asking questions such as the following:

  • • What interest does a specific managerial action serve?
  • • What are the contradictions that come as part of such an action?
  • • Is there a degree of domination involved?
  • • Does it encourage domination?
  • • Does it prevent emancipation and humanisation?

Communicative action insists on the critical emancipatory abilities of participants in order to avoid ideological brainwashing and propa- ganda—the tools of ideology, Managerialism, and management training programmes. Communicative action dedicated to decodification is never reduced to slogans but a careful analysis of what is presented as “the given” by Managerialism. It relies on recognisable and comprehensible objects of discussions while simultaneously providing simulating challenges and critical reflections directed towards decoding.

In order to offer critical analysis in such a decoding process, participants should organise decodification so that participating decoders can reflect on them as well as on what is to be decoded. This offers a kind of intellectual opening up that never occurs under conditions of management training where managerial themes are often presented as being explicit (supportive of management) or too enigmatic (challenging to management). But for communicative action it remains indispensable to include dialectical relationships that always and necessarily exist between managerial themes and their anti-managerial opposites. As a consequence, the communicative process of decoding management reflects on real situations that must objectively constitute a totality. These interactive elements—for example, individual workers versus management as a domineering structure—must be seen as parts that constitute the entirety of the managerial-ideological apparatus.8

In the process of communicative decoding, participants of communicative action externalise management themes—through speech acts— and thereby make these explicit to other participants. As they do this, they begin to see how they themselves act communicatively while simultaneously experiencing a situation that they can now analyse. With these communicative processes, participants can reach an understanding of distorted perceptions often infused by Managerialism. By achieving this level of critical awareness, they come to perceive managerial reality and its ideologies quite differently. Through a broadening of the horizon beyond management, participants will discover their own background while sharpening the awareness of the dialectical relationships between the two crucial dimensions of managerial reality—“workers versus management”—as well as the ideologies that sustain the domination that exists in these relationships.

Communicative action will also stimulate an understanding of previous perceptions infused by Managerialism and will reshape knowledge by removing ideologically preshaped knowledge. The communicative process of decoding will stimulate manifestations of critical perceptions while developing new knowledge on managerial regimes and Managerialism. These new perceptions and knowledge can subsequently be systematically analysed and used in educational plans that have the ability to transform untested feasibility into further communicative action.

Preparing communicative action requires that, as far as possible, participants should present contradictions inclusively so that these can constitute the structure of the “management^capitalism” contradictions that exist in the area under study. Each of these inclusive contradictions with their specific “management-capitalism-lifeworld” linkage can be prepared by linking them to more general contradictions, for example, environmental degradation. These managerial contradictions are never to be seen as “contained” contradictions as they—more often than not— have broader implications and link to wider contradictions that also need to be analysed under the principles of communicative action. The uncovering of these contradictions will dialectically and communicatively clarify the situations of participants of communicative action who observe current managerial regimes and capitalism.

In communicative action, participants tend to become interested in discussions of managerial regimes when these discussions relate most intimately to “their” needs as they feel these are related to their daily experiences. Perhaps on the reverse side, however, orchestrated departures from such experiences not only destroy the very principle of communicative action but might also stifle communicative engagement and thereby create indifference among the participants. On the other hand, when communicative action remains linked to the “experience-interface” formulated as contradictions, participants in communicative action often feel that their “individual” needs as participants in communicative action allow them to concentrate their communicative contributions more sharply on such discussions. Meanwhile, recognising such contradictions can move to a point where reaching a synthesis based on the well-known dialectics of

thesis of individual experiences versus the anti-thesis of managerial regimes ^ synthesis

can be established. For this to occur, communicative action demands that a “common agreement” be reached. Also, participants in communicative action can perceive the contradictory relationship between their individually experienced needs as directly and indirectly related to the causes of these needs and contradictions. Without engaging in communicative action, many have failed to perceive the numerous feasibilities that exist beyond the real and ideological confinements of managerial situations.

The important issue, from the point of view of emancipatory management education when linked to communicative action, is that participants in communicative action will become “masters” of their thinking and their own discourse. They will recognise what lies behind managerial regimes and the many managerial ideologies that camouflage managerial domination. Using communicative action to freely discuss their thinking and views on the managerial world will become a manifestation of their own suggestions and those of their co-participants. An emancipatory education under the principles of communicative action starts with the imperative that an emancipatory educational programme can never be presented as an externally and pre-engineered management training programme. Instead, it must be directed towards humanisation. This can only be achieved in a dialogical situation “with” students. The basic parameters of communicative action as outlined above can serve to introduce critical emancipatory management education in which those seeking emancipation must participate. To further specify the role that ideal speech plays in communicative action linked to emancipatory education, the next chapter will briefly outline a few delineations of the foundational concept of “ideal speech”.


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