Culture, Change and the Management of London's Taxi Drivers
This research has been based on my experiences of London taxi drivers, both before I entered the London Taxi Industry, whilst studying to be a London taxi driver and during the thirty years I spent within the industry in a number of roles. My research has been undertaken in an inductive, broadly ideographic style. The study has been developed through initially narrating my experiences and observations in the industry and then analysing this account reflexively. The material that formed the basis of my narrative account was collected in an ethnographic style. In addition to my narrative account I also referenced the small amount of published material concerning the London taxi industry and interviewed a number of taxi drivers. A significant constraint was the lack of peer reviewed literature concerning taxi drivers and the taxi industry. Once I had developed my narrative account I then interpreted it in order to better understand the experiences and observations, the institutions and the people within the industry to understand and relate how they react and behave within their environment. The analysis involved deconstruction and interpretation against a framework of relevant literature to facilitate my understanding and assist sense making. I also interpreted the interactions with those outside of the taxi drivers’ environment and analysed the persona that journalists and others have constructed that is meant to represent the London Taxi Driver. I considered the identity and characteristics implied by journalists with the prevailing culture and the identity that taxi drivers and the industry sought to portray. The qualification to become a taxi driver is known as the Knowledge of London. The Knowledge, as it is known in the industry, is recognised as an onerous task and has developed according to many in the industry into a rite of passage. I found that this process, with its rituals and arcane practices, which are accepted consensually by the industry, had a significant effect on the taxi drivers’ identity and their status amongst non-taxi driver peers. Taxi driving is considered in working class circles to be at the upper end of a hierarchy of professional driving roles largely due to the achievement of passing the Knowledge of London together with the earning opportunity, perceived job security and flexibility afforded by being one’s own boss. Knowledge of London students and taxi drivers appear to demonstrate common behavioural traits which I have explored in my research. London’s taxi drivers appear to fear an assimilation of their role with other lower status driving roles and this fear has a significant effect on any attempts at change within the industry or within its institutions. The institutions within the industry provided much material for me to consider in the context of their alignment or clash with the culture of the industry. Changes in business processes and some of the institutions’ relationships with their taxi driver stakeholders and the challenges to the industry’s culture are considered as case studies within my reflexive account. The contribution to original knowledge is the insight into the culture and identity of London’s Taxi Drivers, the behaviours and relationships within the industry both between drivers and the institutions that regulate, represent and benefit from the industry. Taxi drivers’ responses to organisational and business process change. Further contributions to original knowledge are provided from the realisation that much of the structure developed within conventional organisations by management has developed organically without management intervention in the taxi industry. Many of the traits of life in offices and factories are likewise present in the London Taxi Industry despite the disparate and virtual nature of the industry and its reliance on consensual adoption of rules and practice rather than managerial influence and formal processes and procedures.