Monday, May 22, 2006

Parables, case studies and management theory


Some of my friends with an MBA are going to be angry that I am linking to this article by Matthew Stuart. On the other hand some others -- with or without an MBA degree -- will be grateful for it. In any event, this is one article that you must read, just for the vigour with which Stewart debunks critiques management theory -- and has loads of fun while doing it. Here's an extract:

The thing that makes modern management theory so painful to read isn't usually the dearth of reliable empirical data. It's that maddening papal infallibility. Oh sure, there are a few pearls of insight, and one or two stories about hero-CEOs that can hook you like bad popcorn. But the rest is just inane. Those who looked for the true meaning of "business process re-engineering", the most overtly Taylorist of recent management fads, were ultimately rewarded with such gems of vacuity as "BPR is taking a blank sheet of paper to your business!" and "BPR means re-thinking everything, everything!".

Each new fad calls attention to one virtue or another - first it's efficiency, then quality, next it's customer satisfaction, then supplier satisfaction, then self-satisfaction, and finally, at some point, it's efficiency all over again. If it's reminiscent of the kind of toothless wisdom offered in self-help literature, that's because management theory is mostly a subgenre of self-help. Which isn't to say it's completely useless. But just as most people are able to lead fulfilling lives without consulting Deepak Chopra, most managers can probably spare themselves an education in management theory.

4 Comments:

  1. Dilip D'Souza said...

    Wonderful! Much of my thoughts!

  2. WillOTheWisp said...

    Dilip beat me to it...
    :)
    Thank you.

  3. Abi said...

    Dilip, WillOfTheWisp: Thank you for agreeing with my assessment of Stuart's article!

  4. Raj said...

    As one whose occupational hazard is to be constantly bombarded with such vacuous theories, I couldn't agree more with the author.