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Meet the editor of... the Baltic Journal of Management


An interview with: Asta Pundziene
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

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Photo: Dr Asta Pundziene.Dr Asta Pundziene is associate professor and head of the Intellectual Capital and Business Competence research department at ISM University of Management and Economics, Lithuania.

Asta gained her doctorate in social sciences (organizational psychology) at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania. Since 1997, she has developed her academic competence at Amsterdam Free University, The Netherlands; Uppsala University, Sweden; Heidelberg University, Germany and Sheffield University, UK.

She began her career at Vytautas Magnus University in 1993 as administrator of the pedagogical studies programmes, becoming project manager in the Centre for Vocational Education and Research at the same university in 1996. From 1999-2003 she was vice-director of the Centre for Vocational Education and Research at Vytautas Magnus University and from 2003-2004, National Seconded Expert (END) at the European Training Foundation (ETF) in Turin, Italy. Since 2004 she has been employed by ISM University of Management and Economics.

She has been editor of the Baltic Journal of Management (BJM) since 2005, and has published more then 20 research articles in international and national scientific journals. Her research interests are in employees’ reactions to organizational change, competence development and its impact on employees’ reactions to change, organizational life-cycle development and organizational culture.

About the journal

The Baltic region is situated at a crossroads between Eastern and Western Europe. For that reason, it is well equipped to understand two different traditions of management, in practice and research – the more centralized system of the former communist states and the dynamic, competitive markets of the EC countries. When you put this fact together with the unprecedented growth of countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltic becomes an area of great significance to management research.

With this in mind, Emerald acquired BJM in January 2006. The BJM was developed in partnership with the Baltic Management Development Association (BMDA), and not only publishes research about the Baltic States and by Baltic researchers, but also promotes dialogue between researchers from East and West by not limiting itself to articles by just one of these groups and encouraging comparative studies. It welcomes articles with an interdisciplinary and international focus, and aims at a readership of both researcher and practitioner.

Mission and background

Just to be clear first of all – which countries constitute the Baltic States? You have quite a lot about the Scandinavian countries; you also refer to the Finno-Ugric countries (presumably including Hungary).

Traditionally the Baltic States comprise Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, however Lithuanians and Latvians are Balts in origin and Estonians are Finno-Ugric like Finns and Hungarians. So the term "Baltic States" is more related to geographical positioning than to the origins of the three countries’ inhabitants. Of course living together for centuries has meant that we share many of the same habits and characteristics.

However I would like to introduce the term "Baltic Sea Region", comprising all countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, which is traditionally considered to be a specific socio-economic zone with common interests.

I would also emphasize that the journal’s name indicates its origins while not limiting researchers geographically, much in the same way as the titles of British Journal of Management and Scandinavian Journal of Management don’t confine themselves to research in the area of the title. BJM’s mission is to create a dialogue between East and West, focusing on management innovations rather than purely at Baltic culture. Half the papers are comparative research between two or more countries. Most frequently the comparison is between the USA or Canada and the Baltic States, as well as between Finland, Estonia and Russia.

What are the particular challenges for the Baltic States in terms of economic development, and are there similarities between post-communist states and Scandinavian countries?

Currently "Baltic States" economies are experiencing the most rapid growth (6-10 per cent per year), with all the typical implications. One of the biggest challenges for the first quarter of 2008 is leveraging inflation and avoiding possible burn out of the economy. The prognosis is quite optimistic, although banks have already taken measures for higher security – they have increased interest rates by nearly double as a way of controlling the risks caused by potential economic burn out.

Management of economic growth is a key difference between the Baltic States, currently growing very fast (up to 10 per cent), and Western countries, including Scandinavia, which are growing more slowly, on average around 1 or 2 per cent. Baltic States have to control growth in order not to burn out and Western states need to stimulate it.

Neither task is easy, especially given the effect of national culture and social expectations towards the economy. Sometimes people can expect too much of growth, for example that their salaries will continue to rise by 20-30 per cent each year, so they keep on taking out loans on the expectation that things will continue as before. But there is no guarantee that these high rates of growth will continue; you could have a situation like that in the USA where expectancy of standard of living was higher than the real situation and people are not able to pay back their loans. So expectations influence economic growth and sometimes certain things are predicted that do not materialize, and the economy collapses.

You are keen to encourage dialogue between Western and Eastern management researchers. What are the main differences between the research cultures of Eastern and Western Europe, and does the former tend to follow the American functionalist model?

There are several differences with regard to research methodology and theoretical orientation. On the former, we are much more oriented towards quantitative research. On the latter – background theories – most of us grew up with different authorities in science, as during the "cold war" access to scientific literature was limited. In other words there was (I say "was" because during 15 years of intensive effort, the differences are no longer very visible) a different culture in the scientific community, with different behavioural norms.

These norms showed themselves in a number of ways. Communication between junior and senior researchers was much more formal than in the West. Career pathways were also very different: western countries saw much greater mobility than communist countries. In the latter, your career was dependent on the party, which protected you. There was also a lot more ideology: people used to cite communist political papers in order to show as much communist dogma as possible. And it was difficult to trust colleagues because any one of them could have been a spy, and if you expressed yourself not relevantly to the situation you could be banished. This caused much mistrust among colleagues and so there was limited scientific dialogue or development of ideas.

Can you describe the "Baltic management" that the journal aims to promote?

The journal is not promoting “Baltic management” as such, but rather its objective is to promote dialogue between Baltic, Eastern and Western researchers. That means we listen to each others’ research findings and encourage comparative studies. However I would be very happy if we succeeded in developing an innovative management style or management research methodology which could be termed "Baltic style"!

Editorial focus

How does the link with the Baltic Management Development Association work?

BMDA is a co-founder of the BJM along with Emerald, and brings together management development and business institutions around the Baltic Sea and beyond, forming a network of scientists, researchers, trainers and consultants that could benefit from BJM. BJM highly appreciates the network as well.

The CEE countries have tended to import the quantitative research outlook of the natural sciences. Is the quantitative paradigm still the dominant one for the journal or do you equally welcome qualitative approaches?

The journal seeks to promote quantitative as well as qualitative research approaches. It is not possible to limit ourselves to just one approach, as we would lose valuable data. On the whole I believe that triangulation contributes to the validity and reliability of the research findings. Also, in the context of dialogue and networking, qualitative research could become an inspiration for quantitative research and vice versa. The joint efforts of quantitative and qualitative researchers could be a nice way to start a research project.

What kind of people write for BJM?

Our authors are all acknowledged scholars at a national and regional level.

What plans do you have for the journal over the next 18 months?

As the journal is quite young (launched in 2006) the most appropriate thing for our readers and authors would be to continue working on its core competence. We are also seeking to be listed in the ISI database as well as other acknowledged scientific databases at a national and international level.

During the next year and a half, at least three special issues are planned: on organizational culture, the Baltic service sector, and change management. We would really appreciate articles on these topics.

Your background and role as editor

How did you come to be editor of the journal?

It is not my first journal. My first journal was Vocational Education: Research and Reality, published by Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. It was the first Lithuanian bilingual (Lithuanian and English or German) international scientific journal, and I was managing editor. So that’s how my career as a journal editor began!

What are your other research interests?

My research interests lie in the interaction of the disciplines of organizational psychology, andragogy and change management. For now, change management slightly predominates over the other two disciplines.

Academics everywhere face a tough challenge coping with research, administration and teaching, but you are also a new mother. Do you think that women researchers face particular difficulties juggling academic life with family commitments, and how can things be made easier for them?

I think it is not easy and sometimes not fair, but having an internal locus of control helps a lot. This is a psychological term which refers to your ability to control your circumstances. People with an internal locus of control believe that everything depends on them, "It’s up to me to change the situation and to improve certain things". People with an external locus of control interpret their surroundings as dependent on external factors, for example, "I can’t do anything because circumstances are not helpful, because somebody hasn’t done something or because there are certain obstacles".

So, if you think that you control the situation or what is happening around you depends on yourself, then you just adopt certain solutions, decide to do something and then do it. Of course it’s not easy.

What do you most, and least, like about being an editor?

What I like most is networking – publishing a research article is a way of introducing yourself to the broader scientific community. The act of publishing is a very responsible moment and you become visible. To be fully effective as an editor you need competences in research, developing an article, and sustaining new contacts. But editorship is about much more than just taking a manuscript and publishing; it’s about networking and forming a community. You need to know reviewers, schools, new developments, and sometimes you can act as a catalyst, putting together two scholars to do something and a research project results. I have a core of authors and a core of reviewers that keep coming back to the journal, so we have a community, a membership.

What I like least is that some people, when they have been successful, are very difficult to reach. Some are just very busy and if you do reach them they are happy to write for the journal. But some people are "big stars" as the result of public relations, they are not concerned with the research community but just with their own egos. Both parties lose out here.

And finally…

In your first editorial, you asked, “What can 'WE' offer to the states that were continuously and consecutively developing for last 50 years and by now have solid basis for competitive economy and mature society?”. Two years on, how would you answer this question?

This question is more often asked by Western researchers, at least implicitly! My response would be the spirit of entrepreneurship! WE are still in an age of aspirations and visions, energy and commitment, in our economic development and also in research. What can be more important?

If you were granted, by some magical being, three requests for a healthy management environment, but told that at least one must come from the old centralized communist system, what would you say?

You know in the Soviet Union that magic being was a golden fish – maybe it was the best thing from the old centralized communist system?

But seriously, if I could answer a question like that, I would have already been awarded the Nobel Prize! However some more important factors facilitating a healthy management environment are, vision and the right strategy, commitment and communication.

Of course all three factors could be found in “the old centralized communist system”, as in all systems, however under communism there was one ideology without any possibility for debate.

Publisher's note

Dr Pundziene was interviewed in February 2008.

Visit the information page for: Baltic Journal of Management