Reviewing the third edition of a book requires complacency to be kept in check, as surely this publication has proven its worth by celebrating the tenth anniversary of its debut. As such, many readers will already be familiar with its contents, so for them the question is whether it has maintained its currency. However, rapid staff turnover and increased global movement have secured a new potential audience. So, have the authors adapted their work sufficiently to satisfy future need? Understanding the organisations within which we work is essential to effective social work, but is rarely a key driver for practitioners; so, delivering a literary work on this subject that is engaging and accessible is challenging. It may be their ability to achieve this that underpins the authors’ success. Without diminishing the complexity of external and organisational factors impacting on social work practice, they explain and help to make sense of them. While this book is a gift for those on management courses, the wider audience is social work practitioners who traverse the milieu of organisational behaviour and politics on a daily basis. The structure and format of delivery is recognisably safe, as expected from a text book, with chapters on: social work in organisations; theorising organisations; change; communication; decision making and risk; leadership; accountability, experiencing organisations and ethical practice. While the authors state the importance of macro, mezzo and micro practices, the layout of the book gently leads the reader from macro to micro so that, by the final chapter, readers are able to reflect on the knowledge gained in the earlier chapters, as they consider their own responsibilities and spheres of influence. A range of perspectives are presented about each topic but, as this is an introductory text, these are not debated at length. This book provides the scaffolding from which to explore foundational concepts and theories of organisational behaviour but, once hooked, the reader will need to look elsewhere to develop a deeper critical appreciation of organisational forces. Practice examples and reflective questions are carefully placed to encourage readers to apply their knowledge to service delivery. The examples are diverse and attention has been paid to maintaining sufficient obscurity so as to generate thought and discussion. Within organisations, tensions are frequently generated between professional social work practice and expected organisational behaviour. From within an organisation, these can be difficult to identify and to manage. An aspect of this book that I find to be particularly helpful is the opportunity presented by Hughes and Wearing to consider such dilemmas away from the workplace. They encourage the reader to ‘guard against the de-politicisation that organisational analysis can potentially encourage’ (p. 5)—a process that requires us to connect with our social work values as we think about these issues. It is these conflicts that make the management of social work so very different from the management of many other services and this book illustrates this with clarity. A slight disappointment is the absence of any new chapters or significant restructuring in the presentation of this edition. The difference between the first and second editions of this book were more obvious than those between the second and third editions. However, this version offers a serious update, with almost a quarter of the references post-dating the last edition. Arguments have been further developed and, while some of the revisions are subtle, they are significant. If you already possess a second-edition copy, you may want to think carefully before updating but, otherwise, it will be a valuable addition to your bookcase. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The British Journal of Social Work – Oxford University Press
Published: Sep 1, 2018
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