CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

October 24, 2002 Appelbaum honoured with major research chair



Steven Appelbaum

Photo by Christian Fleury


by Brad Hunter

Steven Appelbaum will be honoured Feb. 27 for his recent appointment as Concordia University Research Chair in Organizational Development.

Appelbaum, a professor of management in the John Molson School of Business, will use this five-year appointment to continue studying client-consultant relationships, an area he said has renewed significance in light of recent downsizing and merger trends.

“There’s nothing more enigmatic than the relationships between organizations and their consultants,” he said. “The whole area of client-consultant relationships is very significant today, because as organizations are downsizing, they are contracting out more and more for professional help, so the consultant becomes a critical component.”

Another reason to continue studying client-consultant relationships is that little literature exists on the subject. “This, for me, was the stimulus to continue working on this issue, because much more needs to be done.”

Appelbaum was dean of Concordia’s Faculty of Commerce and Administration, as it was then called, from 1983 to 1990, a period in which the number of faculty members nearly doubled, and several innovative programs were launched.

He has written 18 textbooks and instructors’ manuals, and over 100 articles for major publications and journals, and investigated topics as various as team-building, the survivor syndrome, managing stress and conflict, mentoring and downsizing.

In 1998, Appelbaum was awarded the Leaders in Management Education Award, sponsored by The Financial Post and Bell Canada, one of only four Canadian academics so recognized each year. He is also a two-time winner of the Outstanding Teaching Award presented by the John Molson School of Business, in 1994 and 1999.

Appelbaum not only brings his extensive academic background in organizational development to the study, but also considerable work experience, having served as a consultant to many large organizations over the past 30 years.

He explained that the study will examine 13 components of the client-consultant relationship, covering everything from when and at what level a consultant’s expertise is needed in an organization, to when the consultant should end a relationship and let an organization manage itself .

The study will also investigate ethical standards used in organizational development, an area that has come under increased scrutiny because of recent scandals at companies such as Enron, Nortel and WorldCom.

“All these organizations used consultants, and I think the consultants all helped to exacerbate the problem,” Appelbaum said. “If they’re good, they should be smart enough to look around and say, ‘These organizations aren’t being managed properly. When do I blow the whistle?’”

One of the goals of the study will be to establish an organizational development centre. Appel-baum said that this centre will enable graduate students and faculty to simulate what goes on when an organization undergoes change.

“Those of us out there doing consulting can bring in actual cases and the actual problems we worked on, and have the students work on solutions after the fact, or even during an intervention, to see what they come up with,” he explained. “It becomes sort of an applied laboratory where all of this can be tested.

“We can look at problems and have students role-play and look at the types of outcomes that are expected. We can then go back to an organization and with some ideas of what the organization should be doing.”

A research paper series based on the work being done in the centre will also be launched. Appelbaum said the series will enable faculty to receive feedback before papers are submitted to journals, feedback he hopes will improve a paper’s chances of being accepted.

Appelbaum believes that the series of business research chairs established over the past two years are good ways of recognizing those with proven research records who can use their experiences to assist other faculty.

“As research chair, I would like to serve as a mentor for some of the younger faculty members who could use some of the work I’m doing in order to get more funded projects from government funding agencies, and also possibly pursue external contracts,” he said.

“I think this research chair is recognition for something I started over 30 years ago,” he continued. “With this position, I’ve really returned to my roots in organizational development after all this time.”