We are surrounded by various types of experts who comment on and give advice on how we should live our lives, how managers should act, how organizations should work, what is good for the environment, what is good policy, what is supposed to be considered as knowledge in an area, what is good technology, etceteras. Experts, or specialists on different tasks who develop expertise in their area of competence due to long experience, is not a phenomenon isolated to contemporary society. There has for long been boat builders, butchers, executioners, bakers, tailors, smiths and the like. Mighty men have also been surrounded by advisors of various kind, who have been experts in areas such as war strategies, taxing, conspiration. Hence, that tasks have been divided, and that some individuals and groups have specialised themselves on certain tasks is not a new phenomena. Still, there are good reasons to claim that the number of experts surrounding modern organizations is on the rise.


Of particular interest among contemporary experts in the society is that they offer expert services on commercial terms in competence areas that in the second half of the last century grew in bureaucratic structures within organizations. Another remarkable dimension of what modern experts do is that certain categories of them are involved in the production of general rules, recommendations, policies, guidelines, knowledge, management techniques and management fads. In the research program Management in the expert society we focus primarily on experts in the management area for two reasons. First, the growth in areas and numbers of experts in these areas, of various forms of management support services offered on open national as well as global markets have increased rapidly in the last two decades, thus services that not are considered as included in the organizational core such as administration, market analyses, strategy work, organizational development, recruiting. Second, the members of the research group are primarily management oriented organizational theorists, which means that they have both an interest and particular competence in this area.

The overall research question in focus for the program is: What does it mean for managers to modern organizations that (1) expertise in management is purchased from external service providers instead of coordinated through hierarchy, and (2) there is a rising community of actors, national as well as global, private as well as public and ideological, that produce rules, recommendations, guidelines, knowledge, ideologies and techniques that local organizations and their leaders, in one way or another have to deal with. Thus, the program divides the expert society in two general dimensions and the main interest is how management in organizations handle these dimensions.

A starting point in the program is that one meaning of the expert society for management in organizations is that they, to a larger extent today have to purchase services in areas such as strategy, IT, PR, HRM, marketing, administration, reception etceteras. Thus, market mechanisms are more important in management and coordination of the daily toils in contemporary organizations, than 10-20 years ago. Although managers for long have hired and listened to advisors, the contemporary situation seem, from a management perspective, to be more complex than ever before since they now not only are supposed to manage their employees, but also external personal, employed in other organizations but involved in the daily toils in organizations that purchase their services. Thus, people who perform organizational work in particular organizations are today, to a larger extent, coordinated both through market mechanisms and hierarchy.

One example of this complexity is how the “non-employed personal” are committed to the organization they perform in? The classical form for managers to have people do things for them is by employing them. Such procedures involves announcement of a free position, handling of applications for the position, interviews with a selection of individuals, tests and finally choice of one individual that are employed. Employment is a work form that brings with it both legal rights and duties. In situations where individuals only are hired temporally, for a contracted period of time, the situation between the manager and the individual is another. This is a contract situation where the hired person not becomes a member of the organization where they perform their work. This person is only a visitor who delivers a service for a limited period of time. This persons work conditions is regulated in a contract signed on the market place, not in employer-manager relations at the working place. There is a lack of studies of what. In the last decade quite a few studies have been made on what it means for individual service providers who live under these work conditions. This has also been a popular topic in theories of production, strategies, marketing and organization where outsourcing has been in focus. It is, however, a challenge for our understanding of organizations and management to develop theory for what these kinds of arrangements mean for organizations in the long-run.

A second meaning for organizations of the expert society is that they have to handle an increasing number of external experts who are involved in global rule-setting and knowledge development. Among them we find standardization organizations such as ISO (International Standardization Organization), quality organizations such as EFQM (European Foundationf for Quality Management), interest organizations such as Greenpeace, international governmental organizations such as the EU (an all its departments and divisions), member associations such ICMCI (International Council for Management Consulting Institutes) etceteras. In the research program we study how organizations and their managers handle these experts, the expert work they are involved in, the “expert products” they produce and diffuse. We make comparisons between different kinds of organizations (large, small, private, public, associations, interest organizations).

Theoretically the ambition with the project is to take institutional organizational analysis further into meetings between the institutional environment (rules) and management processes in local organizations. Earlier studies have provided us with observations of that there are a large number of others in the environment that provides organizations with ideas, knowledge and rules. Studies have also been made on how ideas travel in the society (from macro to micro levels) where it has been observed that organizations tend to either reject, de-couple between talk and action, or translate influences from the institutional environment in local action. Here, however, the interest is not primarily on the flow of ideas and what happens to them when they move from one place to another. It is more on the relations between managers in organizations and the programs dimensions of the expert society.