Professor of Strategy at Durham University Business School
Professor of Strategy, Author and Coach


Kevin Morrell is a Professor of Strategy at Durham University Business School. He is also Associate Dean of Postgraduate Research and Director of the PhD Programme.

Kevin was previously a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow (2015-16). He was also a Professor of Strategy at Warwick Business School as well as Head of the Strategy and International Business Group.

Kevin’s research focuses on governance in corporations and society. In his consultancy practice he specialises in translating frontier research insights into accessible executive briefings and reports.

He also offers fee based 1-1 coaching for advanced Postgraduate Students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs).

Shortened CV

I am fascinated by a fundamental strategic question: how can private corporations, public organizations and other stakeholders enhance the public good? My interests branch out to other fields in management such as Governance, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Leadership and the relationship between business research and practice – the relevance debate.

To provide distinctive answers to this question I draw on my first degree – philosophy and am known internationally as a committed and passionate advocate of drawing on the humanities to understand organizations; for instance as the leading critic of the “evidence-based” approach to business research.

Recent career achievements:
• 2015 awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship. There were 35 of these awards across all the Social Sciences and Humanities.
• 2014 the Academy of Management Learning & Education Editor invited me to write an Exemplary Contribution, as the leading critic of evidence-based management. This was judged runner up for best paper of 2015.
• 2013 awarded the Haldane Prize, an annual best paper award, for my paper in Public Administration ‘What is Governance in the Public Interest’.
1999-2002 PhD in Organizational Behaviour, University of Loughborough.
1998-9 MSc in HRM Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Business School.
1992-5 BA, MA in Philosophy, Jesus College, Cambridge.
2017- Professor of Strategy, Associate Dean, Durham University Business School.
2012-17 Professor of Strategy, Warwick Business School.
2007-12 Reader in Organizational Behaviour, University of Birmingham, Business School.
2003-7 Principal Research Fellow in Political Leadership, WBS.
2003 Research Officer, King’s College London (p/t).
2002-3 ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Loughborough University, The Business School.
1995-8 Xerox and Paigelaw: Business Analyst and Consultant.

Selected Published Articles
Learmonth, M. and Morrell, K. (2017) Is Critical Leadership Studies ‘Critical’, Leadership, 13(3): 257-271 (invited contribution). ABS 2
Arikan, O., Reinecke, J., Spence, C. and Morrell, K. (2017) ‘Signposts or Weathervanes? The Curious Case of Corporate Social Responsibility and Conflict Minerals’, Journal of Business Ethics, 146(3), 469-484. ABS 3, FT Listed
Morrell, K. and Brammer, S. (2016) ‘Governance and Virtue: The case of riot police’, Journal of Business Ethics, 136(2), 385-398. ABS 3, FT Listed
Jayawardhena, C., Morrell, K. and Stride, C. (2016) ‘Fair Trade and other Ethical Consumption Behaviours in Shoppers’, Journal of Marketing Management, 32(7-8): 777-805. ABS 3
Currie, G., Tuck, P. and Morrell, K., (2015) ‘Contesting, accepting, or escaping normative governance? The narration of tax inspectors’ ‘Professional’ identity’, Accounting Auditing and Accountability Journal, 28(8): 1291-1309. ABS 3
Morrell, K. and Learmonth, M. (2015) ‘Against Evidence-Based Management, For Management Learning’, Academy of Management Learning & Education. Runner up for Outstanding Article in AMLE of 2015. ABS 4
Morrell, K. Learmonth, M. and Heracleous, L. (2015). ‘An Archaeological Critique of ‘Evidence-Based Management’’, British Journal of Management, 26(3): 529–543. ABS 4
Morrell, K. and Currie, G. (2015). ‘Impossible Jobs or impossible tasks? Client volatility & front line policing practice’, Public Administration Review, 75(2): 264-275. ABS 4
Morrell, K. and Tuck, P. (2014). ‘Governance, Tax and Folk Tales’, Accounting Organizations and Society, 39(2): 134-147. ABS 4*, FT Listed
Morrell, K. (2012) ‘Evidence-Based Dialectics’, Organization, 19(4): 461-79. ABS 3
Morrell, K. and Harrington, N. (2012) ‘What is Governance in The ‘Public Interest’?, Public Administration, 90(2): 412-428. Won the Haldane Prize, an annual best paper award, according to a distinguished jury. ABS 4
Morrell, K. and Clark, I. (2010) ‘Private Equity and the Public Good’, Journal of Business Ethics, 96(2): 249-263. ABS 3, FT Listed
Morrell, K. and Jayawardhena, C. (2010) ‘Fair Trade, Ethical Decision Making and the Narrative of Gender Difference’, Business Ethics: A European Review, 19(4): 393-407. ABS 2
Morrell, K. (2009) ‘Governance and the Public Good’, Public Administration, 87(3): 538-556. ABS 4
Morrell, K. (2008) ‘The Narrative of ‘Evidence based’ Management: A polemic’, Journal of Management Studies, 45(3): 613-635. ABS 4
Morrell, K. and C Jayawardhena (2008). ‘Myopia and (Ethical) Choice: Framing, Screening, Shopping’, Journal of Marketing Management, 24(1-2): 135-152. ABS 3
Morrell, K. (2007). ‘Aesthetics and Learning in Aristotle’, Leadership, 3(4): 497-500. ABS 2
Morrell, K. (2006). ‘Policy as narrative: New Labour’s reform of the National Health Service’. Public Administration, 84(2), 367-385. ABS 4
Morrell, K. (2006) ‘Aphorisms and Leaders’ Rhetoric’, Leadership, 2(3): 367-382. ABS 2
Morrell, K. and Hartley J. (2006) ‘A Model of Political Leadership’, Human Relations, 59(4): 483-504. ABS 4
Morrell, K. and Hartley J. (2006). ‘Ethics in Leadership: The Case of Local Politicians’, Local Government Studies, 32(1): 55-70. ABS 2
Morrell, K. and Anderson M. (2006). ‘Dialogue and Scrutiny in Organisational Ethics’, (on Enron) Business Ethics: a European Review, 15(2): 117-29. ABS 2
Morrell, K. (2006). ‘Governance, Ethics and the National Health Service’, Public Money and Management, 26(1): 55-62. ABS 2
Morrell, K. (2004) ‘Decision Making and Business Ethics’, Journal of Business Ethics, 50, 239-252. ABS 3, FT Listed
Morrell, K. (2004) ‘Socratic Dialogue as a Tool for Teaching Business Ethics’, Journal of Business Ethics, 53, 383-392. ABS 3, FT Listed.
Morrell, K., Loan Clarke J. and Wilkinson A (2004). ‘The Role of Shocks in Employee Turnover’, British Journal of Management, 15, 335-349. ABS 4
Morrell, K. (2004). ‘Enhancing effective careers thinking: scripts and Socrates’, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 32, 547-558.
Morrell, K., Loan-Clarke J. and Wilkinson A. (2004). ‘Organisational Change and Employee Turnover’, Personnel Review, 33, 161-173. ABS 3
Morrell, K. (2004). ‘Socratic Dialogue as a Tool for Teaching Business Ethics’, Journal of Business Ethics, 53, 383-392. ABS 3, FT Listed
Morrell, K. and Wilkinson A. (2002). ‘Empowerment: through the smoke and past the mirrors’, Human Resource Development International, 5, 119-130.
Morrell, K. Loan-Clarke J. and Wilkinson A. (2001). ‘Unweaving leaving: the use of models in the management of employee turnover’, International Journal of Management Reviews, 3, 219-244. ABS 3, FT Listed

Morrell, K. (2012) Organization, Society and Politics: An Aristotelian Perspective. (Palgrave).
Relates Aristotle’s analyses of politics and ethics to the power, rhetoric and ethics of contemporary organization. Some of this has been done before, but rarely, if ever, has it been done so competently, critically, constructively and compellingly. Weaving together insights from several disciplines in arguing for Aristotle’s continuing importance, Kevin Morrell here establishes himself as an incisive voice in contemporary Aristotelianism. Dr Kelvin Knight, Director, Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics & Politics (CASEP)
Amply demonstrates the relevance of Aristotle’s thought to the twenty-first century world, suggests fresh approaches to the problems of modern organizations and of society at large. Richard Stalley, Professor of Ancient Philosophy, University of Glasgow.
An original and conceptually rigorous contribution to Management and Organization Studies Iain Munro, Professor in Business Administration, Innsbruck, Austria.
It is common that texts about management pretend to be clever, and decorate themselves with a little philosophy in order to do so. In Kevin Morrell’s book, we see the reverse, the intelligent and subtle use of Aristotle’s philosophy to try to understand the nature of the challenges which management and governance presents us with. This is an important work. Martin Parker, former Editor in Chief of Organization: The Critical Journal of Organization, Theory and Society, University of Leicester School of Management.
Other Books
Morrell, K. and Bradford, B. (in press) Policing and the Public Good: Governance, vices and virtues. (Routledge).
Noon, M., Blyton, P. and Morrell, K. (2013) The Realities of Work. (4e Macmillan). I led in writing the 4th edition of this influential textbook, opening with an account of the Global Financial Crisis.
Mellahi K., Morrell, K. and Wood, G. (2010) The Ethical Business. (2e Macmillan). This textbook covers many aspects of CSR including chapters on Corporate Governance and Accounting, Economics and Finance

Selected Book Chapters and Reviews
Morrell, K. (in Public Administration). Review of Ian Dunt’s book: Brexit, What the Hell Happens Now? – Ian Dunt is a prominent Brexit commentator, he said of this review, “Means a lot when someone notices the core thing you were trying to achieve, but did not state. It’s one of the things that makes the entire gruelling process worthwhile.”
Morrell, K. and Learmonth, M. (2017). ‘Evidence based management’ in A. Wilkinson, Armstrong, S and Lounsbury, R. (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Management, OUP: Oxford.
Morrell, K. and Heracleous, L. (2014). ‘Is Shareholder Empowerment a ‘good thing’?’ in M. Goranova and L. Ryan (Eds) Shareholder Empowerment, New York: Palgrave.
Morrell, K. (2014). ‘Organization as Koinōnia’ in A. J. G. Sison (Ed) Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management, New York: Springer.
Selected International Refereed Conference Papers
Uotila, J. and Morrell, K. ‘Can Strategy Be “Evidence-Based”? The Search for Actionable Knowledge in Strategy’ 77th Academy of Management Conference ATLANTA, August 5-9 2016.
Fernandes, O. J., Heracleous, L. and Morrell, K. ‘Bridging cognitive and sociopolitical legitimacy judgments: A host policymaker’s perspective on base erosion in Multinational Enterprises, 33rd EGOS Colloquium COPENHAGEN. July 6–8, 2017.
Ozcan, P., K. Gurses, B. Yakis-Douglas and Morrell. K. “Who Owns The Airwaves? Using Cases Of Disruptive Communication Technology To Teach “Public Interest”. DRUID17, NEW YORK, June 12-14 2017.
Learmonth, M. and Morrell, K ‘Evidence based management and the Medicine as Management Motif’. 76th Academy of Management Conference ANAHEIM, August 5-9 2016.
Morrell, K. and Javid, B. How do we measure Public Confidence in Policing? Analysis of large scale survey data targeting Public Administration Review. 76th Academy of Management Conference ANAHEIM, August 5-9 2016.
Morrell, K. and Lockett, A. ‘Organizational Identification In Start-Ups: An Existential Perspective’ 75th Academy of Management Conference VANCOUVER, August 7-11 2015.
Heracleous, L. and Morrell, K. ‘Space and Speech Act Theory’ 75th Academy of Management Conference VANCOUVER, August 7-11 2015.
Kravcenko, D. and Morrell, K. ‘A Narrative perspective on Materiality in Temporal Organizing’ 75th Academy of Management Conference VANCOUVER, August 7-11 2015.
Morrell, K. ‘Just how Impossible are ‘Impossible Jobs’? The case of riot policing’ 74th Academy of Management Conference PHILADELPHIA, August 1-5 2014.
Morrell, K. ‘Civilianization and its Discontents? Explaining the differential effects of organizational change on middle managers’ 74th Academy of Management Conference PHILADELPHIA, August 1-5 2014.
Cooper, S., Currie, G. and Morrell, K. ‘Influencing top tier internal and external executives: the case of the middle manager in shaping strategic decision making’, 30th European Group of Organization Studies Colloquia, ROTTERDAM, July 3-5 2014
Morrell, K. ‘Ballet to Bolshevism’, 73rd Academy of Management Conference FLORIDA, August 9-13 2013.
Morrell, K. ‘Corporate Governance and the Desperate Need for Mumbo-Jumbo’, 73rd Academy of Management Conference FLORIDA, August 9-13 2013.
Morrell, K. and Tuck, P. ‘Professions and Identity during Austerity: An Archaeological, Discursive Practice Perspective’ 7th Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference KOBE, July 26-28 2013
Morrell, K. and Tuck, P. ‘Global Crisis: Professions and Identity in Austerity’ 7th International Conference on Accounting, Auditing and Management MILAN, September 4-6 2012.
Morrell, K. ‘Policing Contested Space’, 7th Organization Studies Workshop, RHODES, May 24-26 2012.
Morrell, K. and Tuck, P. Tax and Fairy Tales’, 7th Triennial Critical Perspectives on Accounting Conference FLORIDA July 10-12 2011.
Morrell, K. ‘Governance as Narrative’, ‘Governing good and governing well’: The first global dialogue on ethical and effective governance, AMSTERDAM May 28-30 2009.
Purchasing Behavior’, 38th Academy of Marketing Science Conference “Marketing for a Better World”, (reviewed Poster) BALTIMORE, May 20–23 2009.
Morrell, K. ‘Communication, Ethics and Leadership’, Confederation of Indian Industry (practitioner conference on leadership) NEW DELHI, October 8 2007.
Hartley J., Rashman L., Radnor Z. and Morrell, K. ‘Rich aunts and poor cousins’, 9th International Research Symposium on Public Management, BOCCONI University, Italy, April 6-8 2005.

Contact me for Details

Job Titles only, please contact me for detailed CV

Durham University Business School (May 2017-)
Associate Dean, Doctoral Programmes

WBS (2012- Apr 2017)
Head of the Strategy and International Business Group

Birmingham Business School (2007-12)
Reader in Organizational Behaviour

WBS (2004-7)
Principal Research Fellow Leadership and Governance

ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow
Reviewed for: Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, British Journal of Management, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Business Ethics, Critical Policy Studies, Group & Organization Management, Higher Education Research & Development, Human Relations, Human Resource Management Journal, International Journal of Management Reviews, International Journal of Nursing Studies, International Journal of Public Sector Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Leadership Studies, Journal of Organizational and Occupational Psychology, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Leadership, Local Government Studies, Management Learning Quarterly, Organization, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Personnel Review, Policy & Politics, Public Administration, Public Administration Review, Public Money and Management, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management. ESRC peer reviewer, perennial conference reviewer, reviewed numerous book proposals for CUP, OUP, Macmillan, Elgar, Cengage Learning, CIPD, Pearson, Prentice Hall, Polity, Sage.



01 Sep 2001

The use of models in the management of employee turnover

Loughborough University; United Kinddom

This paper offers a review of the literature on labour turnover in organizations. Initially, the importance of the subject area is established, as analyses of turnover are outlined and critiqued. This leads to a discussion of thevarious ways in which turnover and its consequences are measured. The potentially critical impact of turnover behaviour on organizational effectiveness is presented as justification for the need to model turnover, as a precursor to prediction and prevention. Key models from the literature of labour turnover are presented and critiqued.

Journal Paper Kevin Morrell, John Loan-Clarke and Adrian Wilkinson

The use of models in the management of employee turnover

Kevin Morrell, John Loan-Clarke and Adrian Wilkinson
Journal Paper
About The Publication


In this paper, we present an overview of the literature on labour turnover. We begin by outlining the justification for continuing research into turnover, and discuss the key themes of meaning, measurement and prediction, relating these to the organizational goal of effective management of turnover. We argue that despite contextual, relational and epistemological complexities surrounding the phenomenon, the economic and psychological dimensions to turnover, as well as its organizational significance, justify the use of models in turnover research. A dichotomy is introduced between two traditions of turnover.

research: the labour market school and the psychological school. A critique of the labour market account of turnover is offered, and then four key models from within the psychological school are presented and critiqued. We conclude that the inability of both schools of turnover research to explain and predict turnover adequately restricts the scope for organizations to manage turnover effectively, and that there is a need for new theory

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23 Jun 2018

Organisational change and employee turnover

Loughborough University; United Kinddom

Using insights from the relevant literature and recent empirical data, this paper investigates the relationship between organisational change and employee turnover. It proposes a mechanism for how widespread change translates into individual decisions to quit, and corroborates four relevant hypotheses. The paper also illustrates the importance for managers of understanding avoidability — the extent to which turnover decisions can be prevented — and concludes with a research agenda, encapsulated by a model describing the relationship between organisational change and turnover.

Journal Paper Kevin Morrell, John Loan-Clarke and Adrian Wilkinson

Organisational change and employee turnover

Kevin Morrell, John Loan-Clarke and Adrian Wilkinson
Journal Paper
About The Publication


Employee turnover is a much studied phenomenon (Shaw et aL, 1998, p. 511). Indeed, one recent meta-analysis (Hom and Griffeth, 1995) reviewed over 800 such studies (Iverson, 1999). However, there is no standard account for why people choose to leave an organisation (Lee and Mitchell, 1994).

This is noteworthy because it is typically the occasions where people choose to leave (i.e. voluntary, rather than involuntary turnover) that concern organisations and organisational theorists. Voluntary turnover incurs significant cost, both in terms of direct costs (replacement, recruitment and selection, temporary staff, management time), and also (and perhaps more significantly) in terms of indirect costs (morale, pressure on remaining staff, costs of learning, product/service quality, organisational memory) and the loss of social capital (Dess and Shaw, 2001).

Although these costs are a feature of involuntary turnover (during downsizing, or where employees are made redundant), turnover is more commonly voluntary. Additionally, whereas in downsizing programmes, the more able employees are retained, when it comes to voluntary turnover, the best performers are also more likely to find alternative employment, and thus leave Gackofsky et aL, 1986).

Although there is no standard framework for understanding the turnover process as a whole, a wide range of factors have been found useful when it comes to interpreting employee turnover, and these have been used to model turnover in a range of different organisational and occupational settings.

They include: job satisfaction (Hom and Kinicki, 2001); labour market variables (Kirschenbaum and Mano-Negrin, 1999); various forms of commitment (see Meyer, 2001 for a review); equity (Aquino et aL, 1997); psychological contract (Morrison and Robinson, 1997); and many others (see Morrell et al. (2001a) for a review).

However, there is little research specifically exploring the link between organisational change and turnover and this is a gap in the existing literature.

No one would seriously challenge the idea that mismanaging organisational change can result in people choosing to leave. Indeed, as noted, it may result in the highest performing (and therefore most employable) employees leaving (Jackofsky et aL, 1986). However, explaining how and why organisational change can result in differential rates of turnover is less straightforward.

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01 Jul 2011

Evidence-based dialectics

Warwick University; United Kingdom

`Evidence-based policy' and 'evidence-based management' are increasingly popular ways of describing the relationship between research and practice. The majority discussing the evidence-based approach have tended to be in favour: here, 'believers'. Yet this approach has also attracted critics: 'heretics'. Understanding of such a division can be enhanced by dialectics: a process which tries to destabilize, reconcile or transcend apparent opposites. This divide is not simply a consequence of differences relating to epistemology, but also aesthetics: a set of reactions to the world seen as art. So, to analyse this divide requires a correspondingly rich model of dialectic. Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy offers this in its account of Apolline and Dionysian responses to the world. Dialectics supports a move beyond synchronous critique, and allows speculation as to the future development of the evidence-based approach.

Journal Paper Kevin Morrell

Evidence-based dialectics

Kevin Morrell
Journal Paper
About The Publication


A great many social scientists now advocate ‘evidence-based management’ and ‘evidence-based policy’ (e.g. Ashkanasy, 2007; Ashworth et al., 2010; Davies et al., 2000; Lawler, 2007; Pfeffer and Sutton, 2006; Reay et al., 2009; Tenbensel, 2004; Tranfield et al., 2003; Walshe and Rundall, 2001; Young et al., 2002).! Their inspiration comes from the success and popularity of evidence-based medicine, ‘the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence’ (Sackett et al., 1996: 71).

The Sackett et al. defmition is often echoed and adapted in management and policy stud¬ies, for instance, ‘evidence-based methods concern research synthesis—looking at a body of lit¬erature or empirical studies [using] systematic review or metaanalysis’ (Shillabeer et al., 2011: 7).

`Using evidence-based medicine as an exemplar’, Rousseau’s 2005 Presidential Address to the Academy of Management, attributed great power to the evidence-based approach, and drew a remarkably close comparison between medicine and management:

If you are wondering what physicians did before [evidence-based medicine], the answer is what managers are doing now, but without medicine’s added advantages from common professional training and malpractice sanctions. (2006a: 258)

Rather than physics envy, Rousseau and other advocates of evidence-based approaches seem to have contracted physician envy (Morrell, 2008). This article explores the relationship between those enchanted by the evidence-based approach and their critics.

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23 Jun 2018

Governance, tax and folk tales

Warwick University; United Kingdom

This paper develops a particular narratological approach to analyse a common category of narratives: individuals' accounts of their organization's context and purpose. In two phases of interview research with 45 senior UK accounting professionals (tax officials, tax advisors to, and tax directors of, multinational companies) we focus on a pivotal period in the gov¬ernance of UK taxation. We advocate analysing what ordinarily could be called 'real world' narratives about this context (tax tales') as if they were folk tales. This approach draws on an influential analysis of folk tales by Propp. Our theoretical contribution is to show how features of strong or dominant plots, of the kind that structure folk tales, also help account¬ing professionals to make sense of this complex governance environment. This helps us understand personal projects of sense making in a context that is technically, legally and morally complex and has implications for governance, for policy, and for accounting as a professional project.

Journal Paper Kevin Morrell, Penelope Tuck

Governance, tax and folk tales

Kevin Morrell, Penelope Tuck
Journal Paper
About The Publication


We use narrative analysis to study a recent, pivotal period in the governance of taxation in the UK. Our contribution is to show how a Formalist approach to narrative (explained in depth below) helps us understand personal projects of sense making in a context that is technically, legally and morally complex. In doing so, we provocatively advocate thinking about what ordinarily could be called `real world’ narratives about the governance of taxation (lax tales’) as folk tales. This leads to novel insights be¬cause by invoking the structure of the folktale we move beyond considering the content of a narrative, the ‘story’, to reflecting on how that content is organised, the ‘plot’ (a distinction that can be traced as far back as Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric; Morrell, 2012). This approach concentrates attention not simply on the component parts of a narrative, such as the events that are related, but on the relationship of these components to one another and on their role within the narrative as a whole.

Our theoretical contribution is to show how features of strong or dominant plots (Czarniawska & Rhodes, 2006); of the kind that structure folktales (Propp, 1928), also help accounting professionals to make sense of this complex governance environment. This has implications for how we understand accounting as a professional project. We extend understanding of narratives as sense making projects by detailing the role emplotment plays; where emplotment is, ‘introducing structure that allows making sense of the events reported in a narrative’ (Czarniawska, 2012a: 758). The paper begins with a brief account of the broad theoretical context of work on narrative in organization studies, moving to a more detailed consideration of Propp’s Formalist framework, and introducing the idea of emplotment (White, 1973). It then moves on to discuss the context for the research – taxation, and the empirical data: two phases of interview research just prior to, and shortly after, the creation of a new body for overseeing the governance of taxation in the UK: Her Majesty’s Reve¬nue & Customs (HMRC). In our analysis we show ways in which interviewees resolve attendant complexities in this context by enacting personal projects of sense making, and we conclude by identifying some implications that fol¬low from treating ‘tax tales’ as folk tales.

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23 Jun 2018

Against Evidence-Based Management, for Management Learning

Warwick & Durham University: United kingdom

Evidence-based management has been widely advocated in management studies. It has great ambition: All manner of organizational problems are held to be amenable to an evidence-based approach. With such ambition, however, has come a certain narrowness that risks restricting our ability to understand the diversity of problems in management studies. Indeed, in the longer term, such narrowness may limit our capacity to engage with many real-life issues in organizations. Having repeatedly heard the case for evidence-based management, we invite readers to weigh the case against. We also set out an alternative direction—one that promotes intellectual pluralism and flexibility, the value of multiple perspectives, openness, dialogue, and the questioning of basic assumptions. These considerations are the antithesis of an evidence-based approach, but central to a fully rounded management education

Journal Paper Kevin Morrell, Mark LearMonth

Against Evidence-Based Management, for Management Learning

Kevin Morrell, Mark LearMonth
Journal Paper
About The Publication


Evidence-based management has been widely advocated in management studies. It has great ambition: All manner of organizational problems are held to be amenable to an evidence-based approach. With such ambition, however, has come a certain narrowness that risks restricting our ability to understand the diversity of problems in management studies. Indeed, in the longer term, such narrowness may limit our capacity to engage with many real-life issues in organizations.

Having repeatedly heard the case for evidence-based management, we invite readers to weigh the case against. We also set out an alternative direction—one that promotes intellectual pluralism and flexibility, the value of multiple perspectives, openness, dialogue, and the questioning of basic assumptions. These considerations are the antithesis of an evidence-based approach, but central to a fully rounded management education 2007), including a Center for Evidence-based Management (CEBMa).

Evidence-based practice in management is re-cently defined as
making decisions through the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of the best available evidence from multiple sources by;

1. Asking: translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
2. Acquiring: systematically searching for and retrieving the evidence
3. Appraising: critically judging the trustwor-thiness and relevance of the evidence
4. Aggregating: weighing and pulling together the evidence
5. Applying: incorporating the evidence into the decision-making process
6. Assessing: evaluating the outcome of the decision taken
to increase the likelihood of a favorable out-come (Barends, Rousseau, & Briner, 2014; em-phases in original).

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01 Jan 2016

Is critical leadership studies ‘critical’?

Warwick & Durham University: United Kingdom

`Leader' and 'follower' are increasingly replacing 'manager' and 'worker' to become the routine way to frame hierarchy within organizations; a practice that obfuscates, even denies, structural antagonisms. Furthermore, given that many workers are indifferent to (and others despise) their bosses, assuming workers are 'followers' of organizational elites seems not only managerialist, but blind to other forms of cultural identity. We feel that critical leadership studies should embrace and include a plurality of perspectives on the relationship between workers and their bosses. However, its impact as a critical project may be limited by the way it has generally adopted this mainstream rhetoric of leader/follower. By not being 'critical' enough about its own discursive practices, critical leadership studies risk reproducing the very kind of leaderism it seeks to condemn.

Journal Paper Kevin Morrell, Mark Learmonth

Is critical leadership studies ‘critical’?

Kevin Morrell, Mark Learmonth
Journal Paper
About The Publication


The terms ‘leader’ and ‘follower’ are increasingly replacing expressions like ‘manager’ and ‘worker’ and becoming routine ways to talk about hierarchical groups within organizations. For example, what was once ‘management development’ has frequently become ‘leadership development’; ‘senior management teams’ have often morphed into ‘senior leadership teams’ and CEOs typically present themselves, apparently unquestioningly, as their institution’s ‘leader’ (and are generally described as such in the media). We have even come across the term ‘middle-leader’ in an advert for a school teacher. As Alvesson and Spicer (2014: 40; italics in original) argue:

In many instances, embracing the idea of leadership does not involve any significant change to practice but merely indicates an interest in relabeling managerial work as ‘‘leadership’’ to make it sound more fashionable and impressive. The term leadership is seductive, has a strong rhetorical appeal, and is therefore heavily overused.

However, this slippage between manager/leader and worker/follower is more than merely rebranding with a more fashionable label. It relies on a logic of equivalence: on understand-ing leadership as equivalent to a role or a kind of work. Because it relies on a logic of equivalence, rather than a subtle interpenetration of meanings or gradual porousness in the terms leader/manager and follower/worker, the shift to leadership represents a significant shift in discursive terrain. Basic categories, fundamental to understanding work and the employment relationship, are disappearing. In their place are labels that implicitly depict a unitarist perspective of the labour process. The manager/worker dyad makes a power imbalance explicit and includes the possibility that interests will diverge. Leader/follower by contrast entails a common goal. It glosses fundamental questions about prerogative because a worker can question managerial prerogative, but it does not quite make sense for ‘followers’ to question their leaders’ basic authority in that way.

This shift to discourse about leaders could be attributed partly to a mushrooming literature on leadership (Alvesson and Spicer, 2014; Grint, 2005; O’Reilly and Reed, 2010; Tourish, 2013). However, and paradoxically, calling someone a leader just because they inhabit a role, or carry out a kind of work goes against the prevailing construction of leadership in the literature. Contemporary leadership scholars tend to understand terms like leader and fol-lower as referencing identities that are in some ways chosen and personal (which could be consistent with the leader/manager slippage), but that are also enacted relationally (which is not). According to most thinking about leadership, to be a leader is not merely to inhabit a role, it is to identify as a leader, and for others to orient towards that identity or to sanction it in some way (Grint, 2010). This is significant because at the same time as editing out terms which potentially signal divergent interests (e.g. manager/worker), popular discourse on leader/follower also airbrushes out any sense of consent or relationality. If a senior executive is axiomatically a leader, those below are axiomatically followers – whether they like it or not.

We have been troubled by the practice of habitually calling people leaders and followers, as if they were synonyms for manager and worker, ever since starting to notice it; not least because of the experiences one of us (Mark) had while working as a manager in the UK National Health Service (NHS) in the 1980s and ‘90s. But even to say NHS ‘manager’ in the context of the early 1980s NHS is not quite correct. When Mark first started in the NHS no one officially had that title; everyone was an administrator. In 1983, however, after a gov-ernment inquiry suggested that management should be introduced into the NHS there was overwhelming enthusiasm for the change. Overwhelming enthusiasm, that is, amongst the newly named managers (i.e. former administrators); but it came about only with strong backing from the Thatcher government, in the teeth of opposition from clinicians (Strong and Robinson, 1990). One thing that did unite the newly up-titled managers with the clin-icians, however, was a shared intuition: that an apparently simple change in job title – from administrator to manager – represented a shift in power dynamics (Bresnen et al., 2014; Learmonth, 2005), one that would serve the interests of some (e.g. the new managers) over others (e.g. the clinicians).

A generation on, we can see a comparable shift occurring across all sectors and industries. Only now we are calling the managers leaders (Ford and Harding, 2007; Martin and Learmonth, 2012; O’Reilly and Reed, 2011). The shift is occurring gradually and informally, though even some 12 years ago Parker (2004: 175) had already detected that ‘management itself [is] beginning to go out of fashion (being discursively articulated as something rather like administration) and leadership [represents] the new panacea’.

Our aim in this paper is to demonstrate the problematic effects that accompany the routine use of a leader/follower rhetoric – what one might call the language of leadership – especially in the context of critical leadership studies (CLS) research. Our intent is not so much to debate what leaders and followers are, but to show what the use of these terms does; par-ticularly when deployed as apparently routine and more-or-less unnoticed generics for hier-archical groups within organizations. What we call things sanctions certain forms of discourse and knowledge, while disqualifying other possible ways of knowing and being in the world. Yet for all its considerable merits in many other ways, much of CLS appears to use the leader/follower dualism just like the mainstream – taking these terms as merely the building blocks of analysis; in and of themselves necessary, natural and unproblematic. Labels are never innocent though. Social scientists do not simply describe the world, we also constitute it. Calling people leaders and followers potentially has a range of effects, which might encourage us to be cautious in the use of these terms. As Alvesson and Ka¨rreman (2016:142) argue, the terms leadership and followership are predominantly used ‘to build and maintain a positive, celebrating, even glamorous view of organizational relations [while] naturalizing and freezing (asymmetrical) social relations’.

The basic point, therefore, is that what we call people matters – and so reflexivity about the effects of our naming practices is necessary. Unfortunately, when it comes to founda-tional terms like leader and follower, such reflexivity appears to be largely absent in CLS. Collinson (2011: 181) describes how CLS has ‘a concern to critique the power relations and identity constructions through which leadership dynamics are reproduced’. We agree; but argue that by routinely adopting the language of leadership, CLS risks being implicated in the very power relations it sets out to critique.

In developing this argument, our article proceeds by providing critical readings of recent leading work in CLS to show that:

(1) In spite of its claims to be distinctive from critical management studies (CMS), often CLS is only definitively about leadership because of its preference for the terms leader and follower. It seems as if more traditional terms like manager and worker have simply been crossed-out by CLS researchers and replaced with leader and follower.

(2) Unfortunately, this preference for the language of leadership affects the tone of CLS work naturalizing the interests of elites while de-radicalizing critique. Indeed, trying to be critical while using the language of leadership can strike some very odd-sounding notes.

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your dissertation

This brand new book is designed to help students at different levels with the major project of their degree. It takes an unconventional approach that still covers the fundamentals, and also collects together for the first time proven tips and hacks developed over 15 years of supervising Dissertations. Each is a practical time saver that will also improve quality. Written as an ebook gave total control over the content and the ability to offer it at a much lower price than any publisher. You can even get it free if you are on kindle unlimited, it is also free if you take out a 30 day trial with kindle unlimited that you can cancel at any time. Or it’s currently just £2.99 (ebook) or £7.99 (paperback).




A YouTube Video Series accompanies the book, links to two videos are below.

Introduction to “Finish Your Thesis Or Dissertation! Tips & Hacks For Success”

Google Scholar Tips – from “Finish Your Thesis or Dissertation! Tips and Hacks for Success”

Remember #1:

What applies in your particular project?

Remember #2:

What does your supervisor say?

Remember #3:

What does your university expect?

This has had over 150,000 views on Slideshare

Quantitative Data – A Basic Introduction

Myths about a PhD...

This summarizes presentations at Doctoral workshops / conferences at the British Academy of Management, the Universities of Warwick, Loughborough, and Hull – where I was featured in an article in The Independent ‘How to make a success of your Doctorate’. The section from the talk about myths is below. This is just one way to look at things – remember what you want from your PhD, and what your supervisor and institution expect.

There are plenty of myths associated with the process of doing a PhD (for example you need to be a ‘genius’, or you have to do something no-one has ever done before, or the PhD will be the best work you ever do). These myths can be unhelpful because although they might have some truth in them, they can be extremely unhelpful if you believe that they are wholly (or even largely) true. If you don’t recognise the dangers of these myths, then you will not have realistic expectations about doing your PhD which will make you less effective and is likely to lead to disappointment.

At best these myths can slow you down, at worst they can even become excuses for not finishing. They slow you down because if you believe in them, then you avoid trying to find constructive explanations that lead to more helpful behaviours (for example forcing yourself to write something, no matter what it looks like at first). In the worst case scenario, they may be a justification for why you ‘can’t’ do a PhD (when maybe you actually can).

Believing in some of these myths is actually convenient at one level, because it means you aren’t responsible for delays, or for failing to finish, but it is a real problem if finishing a PhD is what you really want to do. Everyone who completes a PhD has doubts at some stage: e.g. ‘they must have let me in by mistake’; ‘everyone else doing one is cleverer than me’ etc. Below are listed some unhelpful PhD ‘myths’, as well as some short counterarguments to each of them. You might find it useful to think about whether these or similar myths may be holding you back. Also, I’d suggest reading ‘How to get a PhD’ by Phillips and Pugh (all editions are good).


Myth 1 - You need to be a genius

WHY IS THIS DANGEROUS> It's an impossible standard to live up to!

COUNTER> Many, many people have done PhDs, it is not possible that they are all 'geniuses' (whatever that means anyway). In completing one you follow a fairly systematic procedure applied to many different people and the quality of PhDs varies (look at some).

Myth 2 - You have to do something no-one has ever done before.

WHY IS THIS DANGEROUS> This misunderstands the nature of a 'contribution' to knowledge.

COUNTER> What you do is build on other people's work in a rigorous, precise way - you have to do this or else how are you adding to the existing state of knowledge? If no-one has done anything like what you're studying before then maybe it's not such a great idea! Of course what you do has to be your own work and it is original and new in that sense, but one common problem is overestimating what 'counts' as a contribution to knowledge. Precisely what that means for you and for your PhD is something you need to work on with your supervisor.

Myth 3 - The PhD is going to be your life’s work and a masterpiece OR It will be the best thing you ever do.

WHY IS THIS DANGEROUS> Again, it's an impossible standard to reach.

COUNTER> Remember when you are doing a PhD you are learning (by definition). The idea of a masterpiece may be helpful if you think of the PhD as an 'apprenticeship' - i.e. when you've finished you should be ready to start as a professional researcher. But - if you stop and try to get a longer term perspective - it's actually quite discouraging to think it will be your best work (though it may be your longest). For one thing, one of the things you learn is how you could have done it better and how you would improve in future projects (you are very likely to get asked a version of that question at your viva).

Myth 4 - The PhD will revolutionise or shake the foundations of your discipline.

WHY IS THIS DANGEROUS> Like myth 2 this misunderstands what is required. You need to finish a time-bound project, not win a Nobel prize.

COUNTER> You have to do what a competent PhD student could do in 3-4 years (doesn't sound so bad put like that does it?). As a PhD student it is a nice and noble intellectual dream to think you can change the way the academic community thinks because of your research. The last think I would want to do is discourage anyone from having dreams or from thinking big. However, if you think you have to do that in order to be awarded a PhD you are wrong, plain and simple. Most genuinely groundbreaking research comes after not during people's PhDs.


for Early Career Researchers, PhDs, DBAs
Because Academic life is hard. >

As a former Head of Department, a Director of both DBA and PhD Programmes, and Author of "Finish Your Dissertation!" Kevin offers personal, 1-1 coaching to help Doctoral Level students and Early Career Researchers (in Business and Management). This is not counselling, it involves sharing practical advice and tips based on experience based on being a mentor to several other academics, and a successful supervisor.

To ask about coaching, please use the contact form and provide as much detail as you can - it is in strict confidence. Often people find describing an issue(s) carefully in detail helpful in itself.

Sessions are completely confidential and carried out online via Skype, 50 minutes @£120, paid in advance. If Kevin doesn't feel able to help he will refund this, or if you do not feel the service has helped, you can simply ask for a refund.

Here are examples of some of the topics he has advised people on:

PhD students

What’s a contribution / improving writing / topic choice / methods / problems with your supervisor / motivation / time management / setting goals / finishing / publishing / conferences

Early Career Researchers

Life is unfair / publishing / reviewers / promotion / funding / teaching / CVs / interviews / conferences / influencing / time management / personal effectiveness / goal setting / rejection / why are other people doing better / work-life balance

*Please be aware that some issues require more specialist help than a coaching service. To avoid COI this is not available to colleagues or students at Kevin's institution.




Kevin is intrigued by the role stories play in helping people to translate the complex social world. He has published in many leading peer-reviewed journals on this topic.

The images below illustrate that although stories can vary in terms of their detail and colour, there are often structural similarities to them.

In these examples, the “hero” is being transported to an object they are searching for. Similar story-structures underpin how we make sense of thing like change and leadership. Understanding stories can help to facilitate complicated conversations within organizations.

As well as the more traditional, problem-response consulting, Kevin acts as a knowledge broker: offering bespoke briefings that make “frontier” insights in academic research relevant and accessible. This enables the latest scientific ideas to be applied to address organisational problems in real time.

For individuals, in more of a “whisperer” role, these briefings can help people ensure they have a stream of new ideas and insights.

How it works:

  1. Framing: an interview or series of interviews to design the scope of the briefing
  2. Goal setting: set expectations and agree intended outcomes
  3. Discovering: a review guided by the desired outcomes
  4. Sharing: depending on client needs, an accessible report and/or vodcast

Learn more



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