Hoyle: Ambiguity, Serendipity, and Playfulness

  • David Johnson
  • Rupert Maclean

Hoyle’s interest in the nature of management arises from his interest in the nature of organisations. But his work is best defined by his focus on a theory for understanding organisations rather than management theory, or a so-call theory for action. For Hoyle, it is more useful to answer the question how leaders or managers can best support and develop teachers as professionals, hence the notion of ‘temperate’ leadership (Hoyle and Wallace, 2005), as opposed to putting into practice much of the prevailing rhetoric of ‘transformational’ or ‘my way’ leadership. His reference point on this is the organisational theorist James March (1999). March adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the study of organisations which draws on sociology, politics, economics and various meta-theories, such as decision-theory, game theory, and choice theory. Like March, Hoyle insists on seeking to understand how organisations actually function. But, as we have said before, it is not the grand theories of organisation that interest him. Hoyle prefers a conceptual playfulness in making sense of the complexity of organisations. Little wonder then, his affinity for the counterintuitive perspectives of March, such as, organisations ‘running backwards’, or the notion of managerialism as a ‘solution in search of a problem’ (March and Olsen, 1976). Hoyle and Wallace (2005) show how some of the metaphors generated by March to capture the complexity of organisations, such as the ‘garbage can’ theory, or the description of universities as ‘organized anarchies’ (March and Olsen, 1976), are at once simple and profound. But the lowly metaphor has the power to be insightfully playful (as are those used by March) or to become dangerous, almost fundamentalist gospel; sadly, such metaphors as the ‘learning organisation’ or the ‘transformational school’, examples of the latter. For Hoyle, perhaps the central challenge for professionals is to read the metaphor more as a playful heuristic that unlocks our capacity to understand and appreciate the nature of organisations, rather than as a rubric for doing management.


Private Tutoring Educational Leadership Grand Theory Educational Management Mass High Education 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Johnson
    • 1
  • Rupert Maclean
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of OxfordUK
  2. 2.UNESCO-UNEVOCInternational Centre for EducationGermany

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