Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Applying CMS to the Indian Call centre

Introduction The assumption that management is a value free and neutral role that is geared towards the attainment of the important goals of the organisation which are a common good has in the recent past been greatly challenged by critical management studies (CMS). CMS has greatly questioned the various assumptions that have long been accepted in the management field practice both in the institutions and also in the society. It questions and identifies conflicts and purposes of interest and power (Reynolds, 1998). CMS common core is about the issues of the failure of the common management methods that are used for instance regarding their morality and social sustainability. CMS on the other hand is not about the personal failure of the managers but the underlying assumptions which the management of the organisations serve. CMS views majority of the current management practices such as team work to be very problematic. For instance teamwork which is geared towards the achievement of the goals of the organisation will result into team members’ oppressive internalisation of the goals and the values of the business (Wood, and Kelly, 1978). The team members’ will exploit each other and in most instances even discipline their peers in as long as the objectives of the business are achieved (Zald, 2002). The management ideologies of conformity have acted to suppress the democratic values and aspirations of the various employees of the firm. The CMS resulted from the realisation that if the traditional management theories are examined and challenged, new norms, ideas, values and management policies can be generated (Thompson and Warhurst, 1998). CMS arose from the various humanistic criticism of the corporate capitalism and the bureaucracy and a growing body of research which brought to the fore how the employers were exploiting their workers (Alverson and Willmott, 1996). The role of CMS is to deconstruct the techniques and function of the traditional management practices so that the various forms of exploitation and discrimination that takes place in the workplace can be dealt with. All this is done so that the employees of the various firms can be emancipated from the frustrations, suffering and pain that they go through due to the management ideologies that are used in the firm which they work for (Alverson and Willmott, 1996). The CMS theory was supported by four main theorists who will be discussed. Herbamas was mainly concerned with the recognition and renewal of the new management’s role to emancipate the employees of the firms from oppression. He was mostly against the subjection of the members of the organisation be them the employees or the managers of the firm (McCarthy, 1978). He challenges management concepts which encourage the narrow instrumentation of process-work relationships (Habermas, 1987). Weber’s work held the assumption that the organisation, especially the very large and complex ones, must contain some forms of bureaucracy. This work by Weber has been very important in the CMS research especially the Weber’s critique of the market relations as an avenue through which the very powerful firms dominate the less powerful employees (Koontz, 1980). He also discussed about how bureaucracy is the epitome of the iron cage and how formal rationality has been elevated over substantive rationality. CMS got its inspiration to explore the realities of the various managerial works especially following Weber’s assertions that bureaucracy can be used to deal with the issues of dominion (Koontz, 1961). Foucault on the other hand was more concerned with the relationship between the power and knowledge (Dean, 1994). He explained that power struggle took place throughout thee organisation and was therefore not a struggle between those who have more versus those who have less (Allen, 1991). He went ahead to state that power enabled some possibilities to become actualities thus it was both positive and negative. Marxism on the other hand has contented that the structure of the whole society is important in understanding how organisations work (Knights and Willmott, 1989). The structure of the society is determined by relationships of production for example controls and ownership and labour power. The amount of labour that will be extracted by thee owners will depend on class conflicts (Luhman, 2006). The ideologies of Marx have been used by CMS in issues such as analysis of class structures, to criticise the market as well as the capitalist work organisation and the experiences of the employees. The paper is an application of the CMS to the Indian call centre. Application of CMS The Indian call centre is an offshoot of the western approach of management that was exported into India. The call centres are organised along the line of scientific management which was proposed by Taylor. The call centres used the scientific values as they were focused on increasing the productivity of the various employees who worked in them. The works were simplified so that the employees could be able to carry out the tasks so that even the unskilled employees could be trained so that they could carry out the simple tasks that were found in the call centre (Fleet and Peterson, 1994). There is also the Taylor’s principle that deals with the development of the hierarchies in the organisation. The work in the call centre has been divided between the employees of the firm and the managers so that each of them knows distinctively what they are supposed to carry out (Koontz, 1980). There is also the idea of the tasks which should be carried out by the employees who are found in the firm for instance they know so well the activities which they are to carry out every given day when they com to work. The Indian call centre also fits the definition of what Weber referred to as the iron cage of bureaucracy. Max Weber believed that bureaucracy was a representation of a modernity which was tragic in that almost all the benefits of bureaucracy such as an increased efficiency cam at a cost. The costs included reduced level of creativity by the employees who are under the bureaucratic control as well as there was non-consideration of the different aspirations of the individuals (Koontz, 1980). Iron cage, a sociological concept which was introduced by Weber, refers to the increased rationalization inherent in people’s social life. This rationalization has been of great influence in the western society. The "iron cage" acted as a trap of the individuals to the system based mostly on efficiency, rationalization and control. Weber also talked about how the social actions of the different individuals were increasingly being based on the notion of efficiency and there was also a general increase in the dependence of goal related rationality. This change from the values and traditions to the use of the goals of the organisation was according to Weber brought about by bureaucracy. Weber believed that firms with bureaucracies were majorly goal-oriented and all their actions were formed according to rational principles that make use of efficiently to reach the goals of the firm. The organisations operate according to a clear hierarchy of authority, clearly written laws and rules governing all the activities, division of labour that is highly specialised and finally labour efficiency (Baehr and Wells, 2002). Iron cage of bureaucracy signifies the rigid, ordered and dehumanised society where people are subjected to and must adhere to sets of rules and rules. The humans, employees of the firms, can be said to be in an iron cage as their actions and freedoms are limited by the laws and the rules. The employees in the organisation have no choice but to do what they are paid to do, they do not have a choice anymore. The employees at the Indian call centre have a very little personal freedom as all their action are governed by the rules especially regarding the different service levels which they should offer to the people whom the centre deals with. The employees who are employed in the Indian call centres view their work as being oppressive according to the case (D’Cruz and Noronha, 2009). CMS has used Marxist ideologies to study various themes that relate to management in organisations. There was an oppression that was created due to the service level agreements which the firms had entered into with the clients. Marx noted that the market brought some levels of instability which are intricately embedded thus there is a general tendency of the firms to engage in overproduction (Linstead, 2004). This is where the service level agreements (SLAs) with the clients come in as they are supposed to be provided with a certain level of service if the contracts are to be satisfied (Knights and Willmott. 1989). The firms were thus engaged in the implementation of the expectation of the clients as were contained in the SLAs to the extent that all the practices in the organisation as well as the work contexts were geared towards the high production levels which were contained in the SLAs. The Marxist ideology can also be applied to the call centres especially considering the work organisation in the call centres. Marx noted that there is a high general incompleteness of the various contracts of employment which are entered into between the firms and the employees (Mandel, 1992). There is a high tendency that is created by the management to exploit the employees as the contracts are not geared towards satisfying the needs and expressing the values and aspirations of the employees but are just geared towards ensuring that the firm can maximise on its profits while also ensuring that the firm optimises the input that they use in the production (Linstead, 2004; Mandel, 1992). The above scenario comes about when the firm must compete for the various investment resources that are offered by the market players, who generally allocate their resources to the most efficient as from those firms, the clients will be able to earn a great deal of profits. An example of this scenario can be seen from the case (p. 30) where many of the agents who were working attributed the oppression at the Indian call centres to the new ways of doing business in the new global world. It went ahead to state that this new state of affairs was brought about by the need of clients to maximise their revenues at minimal costs while also ensuring that the clients has a sustainable competitive advantage. It can then be deduced that the exploitation that is being experienced was being done in the name of fulfilling the contracts that are contained in the service level agreements. Marx also noted that the ideologies of oppression are deeply rooted in the way the management makes the employees perceive their situations. Marx when ahead to state that capitalism was only in existence due to the fact that majority of working class people believed in the system; this was majorly based on the notion that the way things were working presently was the best system and thus any calls for changes were at best misplaced (Luhman, 2006). Capitalist ideologies are thus not only based on a system of economic and political domination but they also highly require ideological dominion where the bourgeois system can be accepted by the workers. From the case (p. 32) this capitalistic ideology can be seen to have been greatly embedded in the thoughts and the minds of the employees to the extent that they do not view it as exploitation anymore (Knights and Willmott, 1989). The employees believe that they are working under the conditions that they do because if they did not, the clients would move the work elsewhere thus they will loose their jobs. The actions of the team leaders (TLs) and the operations manager to them are not conceived as being oppressive. This is because they have been programmed to accept the fact that the work has to be done to achieve the SLAs, so it does not matter to them whether they are being shouted at as this to them is just one way of getting the work done. There are even notions that the capitalists [clients] needs must always be met. According to the case (p. 32), an employee stated that “Someone or the other is always being pulled up on the call floor...uncomfortable atmosphere is always there...it is quite stressful...it is not personal, they are getting the work done”. The Foucault’s ideologies can also be applied to the oppression that is experienced in the Indian call centres. The most outstanding theme that was advanced by Foucault was the issue of performance appraisal which has been considered as highly synonymous with the Weber’s iron cage as it also mentioned the capitalist ideologies which were aimed at enriching the firms (both the client and the call centres) while the employees of this firms remain significantly poor (Foucault, 1982; Cruikshank, 1999). From the case, this is true as the employees work towards satisfying the needs of the clients which are contained in the SLAs. The Foucault’s concept of panopticism which he developed especially from the works of Bentham Jeremy, who was operating in the 19th century, the works by Bentham were centralised around the prison cells which were mostly grouped around a central viewing tower (Allen, 1991). Foucault drawing from these ideas also developed his concept of the metaphor of the operations of power as well as the surveillance in the contemporary society (Foucault, 1982). Foucault noted that due to the tendency that their can be resistance to power, it is imperative that discipline is ensured in the organisation so that the time, space, behaviour and the activity of the people who are found in the organisation can be able to work under the power that is in existence in the organisation. The discipline is enforced through complex surveillance systems. From the case (p. 32), the team leaders (TLs) use the systems that are available in the firm to ensure that the employees are disciplined. The complex systems which are found in the Indian call centres include a log in and log out system which is very strict. The employees are thus made to observe the various times which the operations are supposed to take place strictly. The employees of the firm cannot leave the premises as the power that the team leaders wield will lead to their punishment if they left even if it was to visit the lavatories. For an employee to leave the call centre floors it must be a case of emergency and permission has to be obtained from the TLs. These showed a great level of oppression as due to the complex systems of the surveillance in the call centres, the employees could not even have the opportunity to answer to the call of nature without being granted the opportunity by the team leaders. The personal freedom of the employees of the call centre in India is severely limited. Foucault also brought to the fore the concept of governmentality which embraces the fact that in the modern society, the sovereign state and the modern individual are co-determinants of the emergence of each other (Cruikshank, 1999). This concept that was developed by Foucault was very useful in the analysis of power especially regarding the two centres of power; violence or through built consensus. Foucault noted that through the governance power, the headless body could behave as if it had a head and that the power was important in guidance for instance the guidance of the shape and governance structures so that the actions of the various subjects can be shaped. The shaping of the actions of the subjects can take the forms that had been discussed earlier; violence or consensus (Dean, 1994). Where the actions of the employees are not shaped by consensus, which is the case in most instances, then there is experienced a high level of oppression of the employees who in most cases are the subjects (Allen, 1991). Foucault also brings to the fore the various ideologies regarding the fact that the technologies that are found in the organisation can also lead to coercion and domination (Patton, 1998). The people are driven by the others in the ways, the leaders, conduct themselves. This is also a cause of oppression (Foucault, 1982). At the Indian call centres, the employees have targets of production which they have been allocated to by the team leaders in the pursuit of the achievement of the SLAs. The targets were linked to the different processes that the employees were dealing with, and these targets had fixed times when they were to be completed. The employees who were not able to meet the targets were retrained and by extension they were aware that what awaited them was dismissal. The oppression came in that the employees were coerced into conforming to the standards, otherwise they will be dismissed from their current operations. The direction of the work in the Indian call centres cannot be called anything else, but oppressive. The employees can be forced to put in extra hours of work if the TL is satisfied that the people did not meet the targets that had been set for them. The extension is forceful and is not remunerated at all. Jurgen Habermas was more concerned with the emancipation of the employees from the various forms of tyranny which they were under, especially through the use of the communicative ethics (Hindess, 1996; Habermas, 1987). Habermas hugely criticised positivism and its social consciousness which was dependent on technocratisation. Habermas was clearly opposed to the gains of the capitalists which were the genesis of the oppression of the employees in the various firms (Willmott, 1997; McCarthy, 1978). He greatly appealed to the conscience of the managers who were in-charge of the different operations. To Habermas order, truth, reason and justice could only be achieved if the interest of the community was taken into consideration especially in cases where there was a conflict of self interests and collective interests (Habermas, 1982). According to Watson (1994), when that is not done, there is the existence of the cases of the exploitation of the employees of the firm if their common [group] interests are relegated to the background while the various needs of the capitalist [client] are promoted. White (1988) and Willmott (1997) also shared the same notion about the issue of the self interest versus the communal interest. From the capitalist point of view the benefits are those that will profit them; increased level of profitability, reduction of cost and the general efficiency of the operations. They do not consider the personal comfort of the employees who work in the Call Centres as well as their different aspirations. Where there are conflicts, the selfish needs of the clients always take centre stage even if it means the employees of the firm will be greatly disadvantaged. The case (p. 36) indicates a situation where the employees well being is not considered for instance when the employees become ill, the constant demands for them to perform will be too much thus in most cases, there was a general case of oppression and exploitation of the employees. Conclusion CMS is a movement away from the other management practices which had characterised the management practice for very long time. CMS contains a wide range of topics; some converging while others diverging from the orthodox and mainstream management. It is a new alternative through which the analysis of the organisation can be tied because of the various reasons that have been stated in the paper. There is the de-naturalisation where there is a high level of opposition of the various tendencies that characterised the traditional management practice for instance the power relationships between the employees of the firm and the management. The CMS therefore goes against the notion that someone must be in charge in the organisation and that this is du to the high level of skill that the managers have. Secondly, CMS has also moved away from the traditional management paradigms in their view of productivity as the employees of the firm are no longer viewed as tools through which the productivity of the firm can be maximised. All the themes that have been discussed above revolve around the notion of knowledge and power. Bibliography Allen, B. 1991, "Government in Foucault", Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 21(4), 421-440 Alverson, M. and Willmott, H. 1996, Making sense of management, London: Sage Baehr, P. and Wells, G. (Translators) 2002, Introduction, in M. Weber, The Protestant ethic and the ‘spirit’ of capitalism and other writings, New York: Penguin Cruikshank, B. 1999, The Will to Empower. Democratic Citizens and Other Subjects, London: Cornell University Press Dean, M. 1994, Critical and Effective Histories: Foucault's Methods and Historical Sociology, New York: Routledge Fleet, D. and Peterson, T. 1994, Contemporary Management, London: Houghton Mifflin Company Foucault, M. 1982, The Subject and the Power, in: H. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, Brighton: Harvester Habermas, J. 1982, A reply to my critics, In J. B. Thompson and D. Held (Eds.), Habermas; Critical debates, London, Macmillan Habermas, J. 1987, The theory of communicative action Vol. 2, Boston: Beacon Press Hindess, B. 1996, Discourses of Power: From Hobbes to Foucault, Oxford: Blackwell Knights, D. and Willmott H. 1989, Labour process theory, New York: Macmillan Koontz H. 1961, “The Management Theory Jungle”, Journal of the Academy of Management, December Koontz, H. 1980, “The Management Theory Revisited”, Academy of Management Review, April Linstead, S. 2004, Organization theory and postmodern thought, London: sage Luhman, J. 2006, Theoretical postulations on organisation democracy", Journal of Management Inquiry, 15(2), 168-85 Mandel, E. 1992, Power and money: A Marxist theory of the bureaucracy, London: Verso McCarthy, T. 1978, The critical theory of Jurgen Habermas, London: Hutchinson Patton, P. 1998, Foucault's Subject of Power, in: J. Moss (ed.), the Later Foucault. Politics and Philosophy, London: Thousand Oaks Reynolds, M. 1998, "Reflections and critical reflections in management learning", Management Learning, 29(2), 291-312 Thompson, P. and Warhurst, C. (Eds.) 1998, Workplaces of the future, London: Macmillan Watson, T. 1994, In search of management, London: Routledge White, S. 1988, the recent work of J. Habermas, Cambridge University Press Willmott, H. 1997, "Management and organisation studies as science? Methodologies of OR in critical perspective", Organisation, 4(3), 309-344 Wood, S. and Kelly, J. 1978, "Towards a critical management science", Journal of management studies, 15, 1-24 Zald, M. 2002, Spinning disciplines: Critical management studies and the struggle in the context of the transformation of management education", Organisation, 9(3), 365-85