Professor Christopher Carter

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Professor Carter holds the chair in strategy at the Business School, having joined in September 2011 from the University of St Andrews. He is committed to understanding strategy as a cultural, organisational
and political phenomenon.

Books and recent research

Professor Carter is the co-author of ‘Strategy: Theory and Practice’, published in 2011. A reviewer from Alberta Business School comments: ‘It demonstrates an awareness that firms compete not only in the material world for hard resources but also in the political world for power.’

He is also the co-author of ‘A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Strategy’. The book lives up to its title insofar as it is certainly short and interesting. Paperback versions are available at the price of £13.99 from Amazon (perhaps ‘reasonably cheap’ compared to the £36.99 for his more recent book!).

Trends in the accountancy profession

The rise of user review websites like TripAdvisor is intriguing to Professor Carter, who sees it as providing glimpses of the future for the accountancy profession. Given the spate of audit failures he argues that user review sites offered a fascinating vista into new forms of accountability. While it is clear what audit looked like in the 20th Century, it is very much in a state of reformulation in the 21st. In the future, the clients of accountants may feel they can ‘get the truth’ through user reviews of companies on the web. This will make them less willing to pay a premium for expert labour, which could force major changes in the accountancy profession.

A further research project concerns the globalisation of the Big Four accounting firms with specific reference to the process of becoming a partner and what being a partner entails.

Strategy, organisations and society

Professor Carter has written about the ‘fallacies of strategic planning’ which include: the gap between managerial fantasy and organisational capabilities; the gap between planning and implementing; and
the gap between clearly-stated goals and unpredictable futures. More generally, he views strategy as more than a set of neutral techniques and regards them as centrally concerned with issues of power and politics.

With this in mind he is currently researching the strategic changes that took place in the BBC in the 1990s during the John Birt years. Other important research interests include studying campaigns and in particular how some groups get issues on to the media agenda. Professor Carter believes that strategy is one of the dominant themes of modern times and a strategy academic’s job is to try and understand its formation and its consequences. He believes strongly that strategy research should be engaging with the major issues faced by humanity such as the financial crisis, climate change and global poverty.

One of the hard lessons that need to be drawn from the financial crisis is there needs to be much more critical interrogation of strategy by organisations and civil society alike, says Professor Carter. Perhaps such scrutiny would have saved some of the banks from the hubris and failure that followed. More generally, civil society needs to be equipped to debate, question and comment on the strategies followed by organisations.

Professor Carter holds the chair in strategy at the Business School, having joined in September 2011 from the University of St Andrews. He is committed to understanding strategy as a cultural, organisational
and political phenomenon.

Q&A

How will you be engaging with aspiring business leaders to help them gain an understanding of the language and practice of strategy?

We have a series of events planned at the Business School that will bring ‘academic strategy’ to interested stakeholders and, equally, their experiences to us. In the Business School we need both. Engagement with the public about strategy will be central to the study and research of academic strategy in Newcastle. Within days of taking up my chair, I will be addressing the conference of the British Academy of Management on a ‘Strategy, History, and Politics’ topic, together with Professor Alan McKinlay. This is part of a broader project where we will be engaging with the BBC to tell the story of the changes they have been through in the last three decades. I welcome opportunities like these to engage with the broader business community.

You have written that a strategy of ‘do as before, but more’ can be fatal. In what ways do you think that the Business School is breaking new ground?

Traditionally business schools have organised themselves along purely functional lines – as if they were mimicking a 1960s multi-divisional American corporation. Of course, at one time that seemed to make sense. Now it does not. What is refreshing about the Business School is its willingness to challenge
orthodoxy and the established way of doing things. It offers fresh perspectives on organisational problems – ranging from innovation and entrepreneurship through to human resources and corporate social responsibility. The Business School is the perfect platform for building an exciting group.

published on: 6th December 2011