Pharmacists managing capably: A grounded exploration and reconceptualisation of managerial capability

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Gapp, Rodney

King, Michelle

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Successful business enterprises require capable managers who readily learn and adapt so as to respond with sensible actions to meet increasing business environment changes. Capability as a concept is generally understood to be the ability of a manager to
identify and act to solve unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar situations. Managerial capability is characterised by adaptability and flexibility. However, understandings of the concept ‘capability’ and what it means to be ‘capable’ are indirect and incomplete. Theoretical explanations concerning capability have arisen from the dominant functionalist philosophical paradigm, that is, dual (or realist) ontology and a positivistic epistemology. This perspective has delivered explanations of capability as a collection of attributes such as skills, abilities, and particular knowledge. The meanings of these attributes are taken for granted
and are believed to objectively exist, or not, within individuals or organisations.
Little is understood about how supposedly crucial attributes or capabilities are enacted. Explanations of capability are disconnected from the social context and temporal dimension through which the management performance takes place. The ‘how and why’ of previous explanations of managerial capability has remained indirect and under-theorised. In response to calls for philosophical approaches to theorising that enable closer explanations
of ‘the how’ of human endeavour, this study has utilised a social constructionist
mode of the grounded theory methodology to explore managerial capability not as something that a manager has, but rather something a manager does. Social constructionist research relies upon philosophical tenets that eschew ontological dualisms and the notion of objects or
entities, but preserves relationality, temporality, situatedness and interpretive open-endedness (Tsoukas, 2016). The context for the study is the community pharmacy industry in Australia, which is presently undergoing serious disruptive changes through a range of regulatory, competitive and
other pressures. The focus of this thesis is upon how capable management is
accomplished by top Australian managers of community pharmacies who are attempting to
find their way while experiencing unprecedented business environment change. The purpose of the research is captured in the thesis-response to the research question: How can we understand managerial capability as it relates to effective community pharmacy management? The aim of the research was to reconceptualise the phenomenon of
managerial capability as an ongoing accomplishment in the given emergent context, getting to the heart of how managerial capability is performed through time. Following the grounded theory methodology as explained by Corbin and Strauss (2008), and utilising the wisdom of the Pragmatist philosophers as the bedrock of the methodology, the study engaged an in-depth exploration of pharmacists’ experiences as managers. Interpreting these experiences
through the Pragmatist philosophical lens revealed how managers enacted meaningful social processes through emergent context and time. The emerging world of managers was interpreted as a social arena (Strauss, 1993), which is constituted by relational trans-actions: a dynamic nexus of comings and goings, doings and sayings, in time. Trans-actions across individuals rather
than interactions between individuals formed the relevant level of analysis, and trans-actions are shown as being either divergent or convergent in character. Three Sub-core categories are offered as constructed but grounded findings, which
together represent the foundations of a substantive grounded theory of managerial capability. The Sub-core categories are titled “Experiencing uncertainty, change and
complexity”, “Re-orienting meaningfully” and “Inquiring”. The Core category, “Wayfinding – Knowing as you go” emerged as the central explanation which binds the three Sub-core categories into the grounded theory of managerial capability in this research context. The Core category
reconceptualises how pharmacist managers ‘find-their-way’ through engaging in a range of iterative (mostly) social processes that produce incremental knowledge-in-action, or
‘knowing-as-they-go’. “Wayfinding” occurs as an effect of patterned relationality, involving relationships that unfold within an emergent and continuously changing social arena. Managers learn as an effect of a variety of specified social and experimental processes, which result in
the continuous acquisition of more varied predispositions to act. A range of exploratory interpretations and implications resulting from this research are
discussed. Interpretations involve both theoretical and practice related assertions and
useful implications are elucidated for research methodology, management theory
and pharmacy management practice and education. The central theoretical contribution is represented by the grounded theory “Wayfinding – Knowing as you go”, as a new and insightful reconceptualisation of managerial capability in the context of the Australian community pharmacy sector. The theory illuminates a closer logic of managerial practice by including i) the meaningful totality in which individuals are immersed within a life-world, ii) the situational uniqueness of context as it relates to individuals and what they do, iii) time as experienced by individuals within their unfolding life-world, and therefore iv) relationality and dynamism within the resultant theory (Sandberg & Tsoukas, 2011). The grounded theory “Wayfinding – Knowing as you go” bridges the theory/practice gap by presenting a clear and direct understanding of the enactment of
managerial capability within the chosen managerial group. Limitations of this
research and suggestions for future research are discussed at the conclusion of this dissertation.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dept Intnl Bus&Asian Studies

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Managerial capability

Pharmacy management

Social processes

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