Ashly H. Pinnington on Competence Regimes in Professional Organizations

[We’re pleased to welcome Ashly H. Pinnington of the British University in Dubai. Dr. Pinnington and Jörgen Sandberg of UQ Business School at the University of Queensland recently published “Competence Regimes in Professional Service Firm Internationalization and Professional Careers” in Group and Organization Management.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

I developed an interest in professional’s careers when studying different promotion systems in law firms (e.g., Morris & Pinnington, Human Relations, 1998). The GOM 39(6)_Covers.inddinterpretive approach adopted by my co-author, Jörgen Sandberg, examining the management of competence in Volvo (Sandberg, Academy of Management Journal, 2000), seemed promising for examining how professionals, such as lawyers, understand their professional work and their careers. Moving from living in the UK to Australia, I was struck by the very different ways that senior lawyers described their firms’ business plans and sense of commercial opportunities in relation to the internationalization of business. Therefore, I felt it would be interesting to examine a group of high performing lawyers’ understanding of their competence in their professional work and their views on how the firm manages them and seeks to gain their commitment to organizational strategies, particularly the internationalization of business.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

On reflection, I am surprised by the areas of commonality in the findings in this study and my co-author’s highly cited AMJ (2000) paper. The two studies both reveal a higher proportion of the longer tenured group of professional workers having more sophisticated and integrated approaches to competence. The findings in both studies reveal a hierarchy of competence, where the higher levels subsume the lower levels. I was also surprised that we could not identify more unique and distinctive approaches relating to business knowledge and skills in the area of international legal work. These commercial approaches appear to be directly associated with professional work identities.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

I hope that our study encourages researchers to design research which successfully reveals more instances of discontinuity and dissimilarity in professional self-understanding and commercial competence. I anticipate that this study will contribute to others which theorize and evaluate ways that the professional institutes and associations have had a number of their roles in career induction, training and development supplanted by the global field of competing professional organizations. Also, it may encourage other researchers and practitioners to think more insightfully into ways that competing organizations contribute positively to the collective group of professionals and their competences.

You can read “Competence Regimes in Professional Service Firm Internationalization and Professional Careers” from Group and Organization Management for free by clicking here. Want to keep up on all the latest research from Group and Organization Management? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

ashlyAshly H. Pinnington is a Professor of Human Resource Management and Dean – Faculty of Business at the British University in Dubai. Pinnington received his PhD in Management from Brunel University in 1991. His current research interests include Professional Service Firms, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Ethics and HRM.

jorgen-sandbergJörgen Sandberg is Professor in Management and Organisation at UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Australia. Sandberg received his PhD in 1994 from Gothenburg School of Economics, Sweden. His research interests include competence and learning in organizations, leadership, practice-based research, qualitative research methods and philosophy of science.

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