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Managing Change: Reflections on Equality and Management Learning.

Managing Change aims to make a significant contribution to understanding the psychology and politics of learning and change in organizations. The focus is on public sector organizations but Dr Vince believes the private sector may also benefit from his insights. He draws on ten years' experience of writing, thinking and practice. As a result, parts of the book have been previously published as academic papers or chapters. Change, equality and management learning are the three main themes addressed in the book.

Managing Change is structured as an exercise in management learning and in the first section, Dr Vince develops his own definitions and characteristics of management learning. His methodology is a reflection on the research process, on experiential learning and on organizational change. His thinking is directed by Burgoyne's (1994) view of "naive humanism, based on a simple notion of an individualised self with a true nature which can be the source of personal, interpersonal and organizational purpose". Obviously this ignores the complexities of power and emotion in organizations which is redressed by the author's emphasis on the political and emotional aspects of management learning. By developing Revan's Action Learning approach and Kolb's Learning Cycle and including emotional and political perspectives, Dr Vince broadens the usefulness of these models. He concludes the first section by introducing a psychodynamic model which recognizes the primacy of organizational members' emotions and relations in change management. The resistance to acknowledging certain issues when change is mooted is also ably described and resolved.

The second part of the book concentrates on aspects of equality in organizations and provides an opportunity to develop the themes of the first section and to apply them to an example.

These chapters draw heavily on Dr Vince's personal research experiences into inequalities (and equalities) in local government organizations which are described in detail. Equality is not rigorously defined as the author believes this would lead to errors of omission. From this springboard, he develops the concept of "management by avoidance" and strongly questions the assumptions of received management wisdom with its basis in white, male power. A critique of the idea of "managing diversity", a current technique of equality development is also advanced.

Throughout the second part of the book the author acknowledges the evolution of his theories and the resultant change in perspective. He also views inequality as a metaphor for exploring the rationale and development of management learning which broadens the book's appeal. Interspersed in the second and final section of the book are two chapters which are entitled "reflections". These take the form of personal musing and provide valuable insights into the Dr Vince's background and thought processes.

In conclusion, Dr Vince aspires to "provide the reader with a perspective not only on equality, learning and change but also on the processes that are necessary to ensure that such concepts can develop as an integral part of the everyday life of organizations and an everyday part of management". This claim may appear grandiose but in context, this ambition is realized. As a result this book is a significant contribution to the literature and can be recommended to postgraduate students and public sector managers. Also, there is much to interest the student of race relations and equal opportunities.

Richard E. Hodgson Keele University
COPYRIGHT 1997 Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hodgson, Richard E.
Publication:Leadership & Organization Development Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1997
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