Paragrafer och Profit. Om kunskapsarbetets oklarhet

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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Knowledge work is often portrayed as hidden or ambiguous: an ambiguous product is sold, ambiguous results are delivered, and work processes are ambiguous. This in turn affects the type of management expected in knowledge-intensive organisations, where emphasis is on managing people rather than work. In this study, the organisation of knowledge work is discussed and problematized through analysis of the knowledge work itself, an approach rarely pursued in studies of knowledge-intensive firms.

The empirical basis of the dissertation is a study of tax consultancy at a major auditing firm. Differing images of tax consultancy work emerge depending on which point of view is emphasised, i.e. whether the work is seen through the eyes of junior or senior consultants. From the perspective of junior consultants, problem solving is emphasised while the senior's view is one of problem construction. This distinction is, among other things, based on the exclusion of juniors from client relations and the problem construction taking place within these relations, while problem solving work is often delegated to juniors. While this leads to differing views on work, there is another aspect connecting the views: chargeable time. Accounting for time spent on specific problems is a way of evaluating the work done, thereby producing an image of what is to be considered as relevant work.

From the empirical observations of problem solving, problem construction, and accounting for time, the organization of knowledge work is discussed in more general terms. Knowledge work is here described as characterized by a "radial" division of labour between junior and senior workers, which simultaneously produces profitability and an image of individual progression. Through studying the organizing of knowledge work the very idea of knowledge work being ambiguous can be discussed. Instead of understanding ambiguity as something inherent in knowledge-intensive work, this study shows how ambiguity and clarity can be understood as something which actors can allocate and manage, for example within relations to clients and within relations to other personnel.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Business Administration
  • Alvesson, Mats, Supervisor
Award date2006 Mar 24
ISBN (Print)91-85113-09-3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2006-03-24
Time: 13:00
Place: Crafoordsalen Holger Crafoords Ekonomicentrum Tycho Brahes väg 1 Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Jönsson, Sten
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Gothenburg Research institute


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration


  • Organisationsteori
  • Organizational science
  • Samhällsvetenskaper
  • Social sciences
  • Tax consultancy
  • Professional service firms
  • Knowledge intensive firms
  • Division of labour
  • Knowledge work
  • Ambiguity
  • Management of enterprises
  • Företagsledning
  • management

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