How and Why Management Has Not Become a Profession

  • Haldor Byrkjeflot
  • Pål Nygaard


Although many promote the professionalization of business management, most scholars seem to agree that management currently cannot be labelled a profession, despite disagreement over explanations and the contested nature of what constitutes a profession. Our contention is that management does not qualify as a profession, regardless of the various definitions that exist. In general, managerial elites have not succeeded either to achieve closure over, or institutionalize, management as an occupational field with distinct knowledge and qualification criteria. We illustrate these challenges through a historical case study on three waves of attempts to professionalize top management in Norway. These trends indicate how difficult it is to create an integrated management profession, and justify authority by pointing to the skills and knowledge related to general management.


Management Profession Authority Knowledge General management 


  1. Abbott, Andrew. 1988. The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, Tracey L. 2015. “Sociology of Professions: International Divergences and Research Directions.” Work, Employment & Society 29:154–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amdam, Rolv P., and Ragnhild Kvålshaugen. 2016. “Ledelse som Profesjon i Norge: Fagkompetanse Versus Ledelseskompetanse.” In Profesjon og Ledelse, edited by Erik Døving, Beate Elstad, and Aagoth Storvik, 233–54. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.Google Scholar
  4. Bendix, Reinhard. 1956/1974. Work and Authority in Industry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brante, Thomas. 2011. “Professions as Science-Based Occupations.” Professions & Professionalism 1(1):4–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brante, Thomas. 2013. “The Professional Landscape: The Historical Development of Professions in Sweden.” Professions and Professionalism 3(2):1–18.Google Scholar
  7. Brocklehurst, Michael, Chris Grey, and Andrew Sturdy. 2010. “Management: The Work that Dares Not Speak Its Name.” Management Learning 41:7–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burrage, Michael, and Rolf Torstendahl. 1990. Professions in Theory and History: Rethinking the Study of the Professions. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Byrkjeflot, Haldor. 1998. “Management as a System of Knowledge and Authority.” In The Diffusion and Consumption of Business Knowledge, edited by José L. Alvarez, 58–80. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Byrkjeflot, Haldor. 2002. “The Americanization of Scandinavian Management 1945–1990: The Impact of the Social Responsibility Ideology and Kenningism.” In Americanisation in 20th Century Europe: Business, Culture, Politics, edited by Matthias Kipping and Nick Tiratsoo, 112–27. Lille, France: Centre d’Histoire de l’Euroepe du Nord-Ouest.Google Scholar
  11. Byrkjeflot, Haldor, Paul du Gay, and Carsten Greve. 2018. “What Is the ‘Neo-Weberian State’ as a Regime of Public Administration?” In The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management in Europe, edited by Edoardo Ongaro and Sandra Van Thiel. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.Google Scholar
  12. Byrkjeflot, Haldor, and Tor Halvorsen. 1996. “The Institutionalization of Industrial Administration in Norway.” In Management, Education and Competitivenes, edited by Rolv P. Amdam, 171–93. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Byrkjeflot, Haldor, and Tor Halvorsen. 1997. “Institusjonelle Forutsetninger for Faglig og Profesjonell Ledelse: Industriledelse i Tyskland og USA.” In Fra Styring til Ledelse, edited by Haldor Byrkjeflot, 85–122. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.Google Scholar
  14. Carew, Anthony. 1989. Labour Under the Marshall Plan: The Politics of Productivity and the Marketing of Management Science. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Conze, Werner, and Jürgen Kocka. 1985. “Einleitung.” In Bildungsbürgertum im 19. Jahrhundert. Teil I: Bildungssystem und Professionalisierung in internationalen Vergleichen, edited by Werner Conze and Jürgen Kocka, 9–26. Stuttgart, Germany: Klett-Cotta.Google Scholar
  16. Djelic, Marie L. 1998. Exporting the American Model: The Post-War Transformation of European Business. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Djelic, Marie L. 2016. “History of Management: What Is the Future for Research on the Past?” In A Research Agenda for Management and Organization Studies, edited by Barbara Czarniawska, Torsten Söderberg, and Ragnar Söderberg, 1–10. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Drucker, Peter. 1974. Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  19. Drucker, Peter. 1986. “Management as a Liberal Art.” In Frontiers of Management, edited by Peter Drucker, 220–30. New York: Truman Talley.Google Scholar
  20. Engwall, Lars, Matthias Kipping, and Behlül Üsdiken. 2016. Defining Management: Business Schools, Consultants, Media. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Enteman, Willard F. 1993. Managerialism: The Emergence of a New Ideology. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  22. Evetts, Julia. 2010. “Reconnecting Professional Occupations with Professional Organizations: Risks and Opportunities.” In Sociology of Professions: Continental and Anglo-Saxon Traditions, edited by Julia Evetts and Lennart Svensson, 123–44. Göteborg: Daidalos.Google Scholar
  23. Freidson, Eliot. 1970. Professional Dominance: The Social Structure of Medical Care. New York: Atherton Press.Google Scholar
  24. Grey, Cristopher. 1997. “Management as a Technical Practice: Professionalization or Responsibilization?” Systemic Practice and Action Research 10:703–25.Google Scholar
  25. Grey, Christopher. 2017. A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Organizations. London: SageGoogle Scholar
  26. Guillén, Mauro F. 1994. Models of Management. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Halvorsen, Tor. 1982. Profesjonalisering—Taylorisering: Ingeniører Mellom Leiing og Arbeidarmotstand. Bergen: Universitetet i Bergen, Institutt for Offentlig Administrasjon og Organisasjonskunnskap.Google Scholar
  28. Hodgson, Damien, Steve Paton, and Daniel Muzio. 2015. “Something Old, Something New? Competing Logics and the Hybrid Nature of New Corporate Professions.” British Journal of Management 26:745–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Holter, Peter A. 1961. Ingeniøren og Hans Stilling: Om Profesjon, Arbeid, Personlighet. Trondheim, Norway: NTH, Institutt for Industriell Miljøforskning.Google Scholar
  30. Kalleberg, Ragnvald. 1991. “Kenning-tradisjonen i Norsk Ledelse.” Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift (3):218–44.Google Scholar
  31. Khurana, Rakesh. 2007. From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Khurana, Rakesh, and Nitin Nohria. 2008. “It’s Time to Make Management a True Profession.” Harvard Business Review 86(10):70–77.Google Scholar
  33. Klikauer, Thomas. 2015. “What Is Managerialism?” Critical Sociology 41:1103–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leicht, Kevin T. 2016. “The Professionalization of Management.” In The Routledge Companion to the Professions and Professionalism, edited by Mike Dent, Ivy L. Bourgeault, Jean-Louis Denis, and Ellen Kuhlmann, 188–99. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Locke, Robert R. 1989. Management and Higher Education Since 1940: The Influence of America and Japan on West Germany, Great Britain, and France. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Locke, Robert R. 1996. The Collapse of the American Management Mystique. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mizruchi, Mark S., and Linroy J. Marshall. 2016. “Corporate CEOs, 1890–2015: Titans, Bureaucrats, and Saviors.” Annual Review of Sociology 42:143–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Noordegraaf, Mirko. 2015. “Hybrid Professionalism and Beyond: (New) Forms of Public Professionalism in Changing Organizational and Societal Contexts.” Journal of Professions and Organization 2:1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Noordegraaf, Mirko, and Martijn Van der Meulen. 2008. “Professional Power Play: Organizing Management in Health Care.” Public Administration 86:1055–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nygaard, Pål. 2013. Ingeniørenes Gullalder: De Norske Ingeniørenes Historie. Oslo: Dreyer.Google Scholar
  41. Owe, Aage W., Tor Eika, Rudolf Lindboe, Leif Sølsnæs, Kjell Ullring, and Bjørn Slungaard. 1952. Innstilling av 25de Oktober 1952 fra Studieplankomiteen for N.T.H.: Oppnevnt 1949 av N.T.H., N.I.F., N.A.L. og Studentsamskipnaden i Trondheim. Trondheim, Norway: NTH.Google Scholar
  42. Parsons, Talcott. 1937. “Remarks on Education and the Professions.” International Journal of Ethics 48:365–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pollitt, Cristopher, and Geert Bouckaert. 2011. Public Management Reform: A Comparative Analysis—New Public Management, Governance, and the Neo-Weberian State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Reed, Michael I. 2016. “Leadership and ‘Leaderism’: The Discourse of Professional Leadership and the Practice of Management Control in Public Services.” In The Routledge Companion to the Professions and Professionalism, edited by Mike Dent, Ivy L. Bourgeault, Jean-Louis Denis, and Ellen Kuhlmann, 200–14. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Reed, Michael, and Peter Anthony. 1992. “Professionalizing Management and Managing Professionalization: British Management in the 1980s.” Journal of Management Studies 29:591–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Romme, Georges. 2017. “Management as a Science-Based Profession: A Grand Societal Challenge.” Management Research Review 40(1):5–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sarfatti-Larson, Margali. 1977. The Rise of Professionalism. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Scott, W. Richard. 2008. “Lords of the Dance: Professionals as Institutional Agents.” Organization Studies 29:219–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shenhav, Yehouda A. 1999. Manufacturing Rationality: The Engineering Foundations of the Managerial Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  50. Slagstad, Rune. 1998. De Nasjonale Strateger. Oslo: Pax Forlag.Google Scholar
  51. Sørhaug, Tian. 1996. Om Ledelse: Makt og Tillit i Moderne Organisering. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  52. Thorsrud, Einar, and Fred E. Emery. 1969. Mot en ny Bedriftsorganisasjon: Eksperimenter i Industrielt Demokrati. Oslo: Tanum.Google Scholar
  53. Utnes, Georg. 1955. “Momenter til en Innføring i Mr Kennings Ideer om Norsk Produktivitetsøkning Gjennom Bedre Personaladministrasjon.” Unpublished memo used in Kenning’s management training program in Norway.Google Scholar
  54. Whitley, Richard. 1984. “The Scientific Status of Management Research as a Practically-Oriented Social Science.” Journal of Management Studies 21:369–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Whitley, Richard. 1995. “Academic Knowledge and Work Jurisdiction in Management.” Organization Studies 16:81–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Haldor Byrkjeflot
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pål Nygaard
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of HumanitiesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Professions (SPS)Oslo Metropolitan UniversityOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Law and GovernanceBI Norwegian Business SchoolOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations