Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings

Numbers may speak louder than words, but is anyone listening? The rhythmscape and sales pipeline management

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Abstract

In this paper I explore the often fleeting, seemingly constrained arts of expression performed through participation in everyday, routinized actions and practices. The vehicle I use for this exploration is the tools, processes and practices sales professionals use to manage the list of possible sales opportunities, or sales pipeline. I give particular attention to the meetings in which sales professionals and their managers discuss the pipeline. The element of talk, with its potential for unruliness, plays a central role in this otherwise hyper-rationalized activity focused around numbers, accounting and calculability. I suggest that to understand such signification processes and the forms of meaning that emerge through them we must look beyond the content of enunciated statements to consider the forms they take over time. I propose that participation in the sales pipeline process, particularly the meetings, forms a part of sales-people's rhythmscape of work. By situating sites of expression in the notion of a rhythmscape, I point to the broader performance landscape in which employees participate in and experience their organization and in the market more broadly. By doing so, we are reminded to recognize the multiple levels of meaning and signification embedded in ordinary workplace tools and practices, including those intended for other uses, when considering recommendations to and designs for tools, processes and interventions that support them. The paper also suggests the need for a theory of sensation of late capitalist market production.

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