The Aberdeen Business School Working Papers Series features work in progress by staff and students.

You are welcome to reference the working papers in your own work and they are available to download in PDF (Portable Document Format) using Adobe Reader.

Note that for copyright reasons previous working papers which have subsequently been published in journals or as book chapters will not be available to download. In these cases the relevant publication information is provided instead.

Current Working Papers

Benchmarking information management services in the Oil and Gas Sector

Laura Muir, Fionnuala Cousins & Audrey Laing

Abstract - Benchmarking is typically quantitative analysis applied to measure business performance for quality improvement. Information Management (IM) services (including library functions, information retrieval, document control and records management activities) are not easily quantified. Quantifiable metrics may not fully represent the value of the IM function and its impact on an organisation’s operational efficiency and so a new approach is required which makes use of qualitative service data. We present a novel approach to benchmarking: a qualitative approach to measuring IM services in Oil and Gas sector organisations, based on the application of an annual benchmarking study conducted in a small group of companies from 2010 – 2012. The main contribution of the research presented in this paper is the development of a new benchmarking tool for collaborative and individual performance benchmarking. This paper also highlights the need for service definitions, measures and measurement, the need to make a strong ‘business case' for resourcing IM and the value of qualitative data and independent analysis of service quality.

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Benevolent gang leaders, commercial escapees and sleepers: a conceptual framework for Scottish social enterprise leadership & engaging with the ‘new society’.

Mary Brown, Heather Fulford, Abi Grist & Seonaidh McDonald

Abstract - This exploratory research study examines the experiences of a purposive sample of leaders of Social Enterprises (SEs) in Scotland to discover how leaders deal with the challenges of running this type of organisation at a period of financial constraint, yet where SE is proposed by politicians as a panacea for dealing with social and community development. The method consists of semi-structured interviews undertaken with a purposive sample of leaders from a range of SEs. Findings suggest that respondents are aware of, and seeking to address, threats to their existence from funding cuts. There are differences regarding approach or emphasis, and the challenge of balancing philanthropy with commercial health seems significantly to impact on the design and purpose of organisations. The best leadership practice combines ideological fervour with commercial acumen. The ability of SEs to survive depends not only on the quality of their outputs, but also on flexibility of structure and culture and stakeholder commitment. Good leaders are aware of these complexities and seek to respond to them. Recommendations are made for development interventions to support SEs as they deal with the challenges described above. If the future of SE in Britain relies on its ability to operate commercially, this study offers original and useful insights into some of the challenges for leaders in achieving their aims, not least that of securing survival. At an early stage of the Conservative administration, and its promotion of the so-called Big Society theme, this study sheds unique light on the perceptions of those who might carry this vision forward, and the challenges they face. Further research with a wider sample is proposed to extend understanding of the issues.

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Reflections of career, perceptions of maternity leave: a pilot study using narrative analysis.

Basia McDougall

Abstract - Maternity leave is linked to role-conflict and gender discrimination in the workplace. Decisions on working life at this time are unavoidable; it is a natural time for self reflection. It is a time when work and career are perceived to be suspended. A pilot study using narrative analysis, adopting an inductive approach, privileged women’s voices and uncovered a common theme of ‘conflict’, reinforcing findings of previous research. However, in contrast to the negative interpretations presented in the literature, women also told stories of positive skills development during their maternity leave. Secondly, women did not adhere to the strict organisational and legal parameters of maternity leave. The conclusion considers the incongruence of ‘career breaks’ and the positive development showcased by these women during their maternity leave. The value of narrative analysis lies in its ability to explore the juxtaposition between the notion of ‘career’ from an employer’s perspective and the value of maternity leave from a woman’s perspective.

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Writing and publishing qualitative research: Some basic advice for early career scholars

Robert Smith

Abstract - Qualitative writing is increasing within entrepreneurship research circles. However, writing up qualitative research for publication can be a daunting prospect particularly for early career researchers and PhD candidates coming to grips with researching, writing up complex methodologies and concepts. It takes time and confidence to learn how to write up such research to a standard where publication is a realistic possibility. It also takes time to find ones self in writing and to develop a personalised writing style. This working paper based on the authors experiences in writing and publishing offers some strategies and techniques which early career researchers can utilise to develop their own writing and publishing strategy. The advice is couched in practical terms.

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‘The Prayer Factory’: Spirituality at work, and the paradoxes of performativity, monoculturalism and dissent

Dennish Tourish & Naheed Tourish

Abstract  - Recent years have witnessed a significant growth of academic and practitioner interest in ‘spirituality’ within the workplace, and in particular in spirituality management and leadership development. This paper argues that the literature in the area is replete with unresolved paradoxes. These revolve around how spirituality is defined, with advocates variously stressing its religious dimensions, usually from a Christian perspective,and others articulating a more secular approach focusing on nondenominational humanistic values. Additionally, much of the literature stresses the value of spirituality as an aid to increasing productivity and profits. Thus, spiritual means are attached to performative ends, even as its advocates stress its emancipatory intent. In exploring these& contradictions, this paper argues that, despite asserting the opposite& intention, spirituality management approaches seek to abolish the distinction between people’s work based lives on the one hand, and their personal lives and value systems on the other. Influence is conceived in unidirectional terms: it flows from ‘spiritual’ managers to more or less compliant staff, deemed to be in need of enlightenment, rather than vice versa. It is therefore argued that, despite the emancipatory rhetoric in which much spirituality discourse is couched, it promotes constricting cultural and behavioural norms, and thereby seeks to reinforce managerial power at the expense of individual autonomy. The implications for the management of culture, and such issues as conformity and dissent, are considered.

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The moral space in entrepreneurship: Ethical imperatives and moral legitimacy

Alistair R Anderson and Robert Smith

Abstract - This paper explores the morality associated with entrepreneurship. It has been argued that there is no moral space in entrepreneurship, but such instrumental views may the miss out much of the nature of enterprise and how it is understood. Consequently we propose that a social constructed perspective, based upon the meanings of entrepreneurship, may help to understand the morality of entrepreneurship. By applying such a lens, we find that the narratives and discourses of the meanings of entrepreneurship are ideological and clearly present a moral space. This space lies between the individual and society and is normatively articulated in entrepreneurial discourses. We develop a framework which links values and outcomes that shows how “authentic” entrepreneurship is legitimised by comparisons with the socially constructed view. The empirical part of the paper is two theoretical cases. The first is a local garage owner who has a reputation as a decent man; the second is a notorious, but entrepreneurial London gangster. Our analysis shows that to be judged “entrepreneurial”, it is not enough to act entrepreneurially; the social constructs of public perceptions entail examining both moral means and moral ends. We conclude that there is a moral imperative in entrepreneurship.

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Staff and students wishing to contribute to the Working Papers Series should read the material on Moodle.