Management is serious business. The seriousness of this enterprise is demonstrated by the way decisions made by individuals entrusted to run large and small organizations affect our world, our nation, our cities, and our lives. When managers make good decisions, or get lucky as some believe, the environment is protected, jobs are created, corporate profits soar, and employees are satisfied with their jobs and their pay. When managers make bad decisions, or get unlucky as others believe, the environment suffers, downsizing takes place, corporate profits drop, and labor strikes occur. Indeed, management is serious business.
Unfortunately, for those who do it and those who study and write about this complex field, managers and management seem almost irrelevant in the minds of the general public. Except for the attention given to a relatively few high-profile executives and consulting gurus, little attention is given to the people who ensure that plans are made for the future, goals are set to focus our behavior, team members are recruited, payrolls are met, and the "wheels of industry" keep turning. Indeed, management is a worthy occupation that seems to never quite get "what it is due." Management is one of our best kept secrets.
Many people, if they think about management at all, think about fads and fashions. People jokingly say this or that program is "our CEO's management flavor of the month or year" and attempt to become as immune as possible to the latest management virus infecting their organizational world. Indeed, organizations are full of management fashions—those "relatively transitory collective beliefs, disseminated by management fashion setters, that a management technique leads to rational management progress" (Abrahamson, 1996, p. 257). This book, or any other single book, will not eliminate management fads, fashions, folklore, and myths. In fact, one could argue that banishing fads, fashions, and folklore might not be a good idea since they perform positive functions such as building culture and improving teamwork.
It is important to recognize, however, that many of the most successful "fashions" in management are "new spins on old ideas." The fact is that the contingency theory of management and leadership, management by objectives, organizational culture, employee empowerment, and so on are not revolutionary ideas that have emerged in the past half-century. It is safe to say that much of what is true in modern management theory is not new, and much of what is new is not true! The roots of the most successful contemporary management ideas run deep into the history of administrative thought.
The primary goal of this book is to demonstrate this fact. Even experienced managers will likely encounter individuals and ideas in this book that have escaped their diligent search. One might hear a mention of Frederick Taylor and maybe even Elton Mayo. Almost certainly there will be enthusiastic exchanges about Peter Drucker, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Tom Peters, Michael Porter, and Peter Senge in boardroom musings, but the ideas of Ordway Tead, Henry Dennison, and Harrington Emerson will likely escape the discussion. My intent is not to diminish the value and importance of modern management thought but to frame it—to put it in its proper perspective. Why is this important? Because origins and evolutions add something of importance to our understanding of management concepts.
Throughout the revision of this book, knowledgeable and conscientious reviewers have provided exceptionally useful insights and suggestions. I am extremely grateful for the recommendations of the following reviewers: Richard Hodgetts, Ken Eastman, David J. Lemak, Arthur G. Bedeian, Robert Gephart, and David Jamieson.
For more than two and a half decades I have been fortunate to receive support and encouragement from the administration, faculty, and students at the Graduate School of Management and the School of Pubic Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In fact, the support has been so available that I hesitate to acknowledge individuals for fear of overlooking someone of particular importance. The risk, however, must be assumed.
In the Graduate School of Management, former dean M. Gene Newport has supported every project with enthusiasm and resources. Associate Dean Robert A. Scott has relentlessly tested materials in the classroom and provided regular and insightful feedback. Students in the MBA, MPH and Ph.D. programs have allowed me incredible freedom to test materials and have been unbelievably tolerant of all attempts to improve the manuscript at their expense.
In the School of Public Health, my colleagues in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy and the Lister Hill Center for Health Policy have been unusually supportive. Peter M. Ginter, chair of the department, coauthor on many other projects, and partner in consulting ventures, has provided support, constructive criticisms, and sage advice. Stuart A. Capper, former chair of the department, provided encouragement for more years than either of us care to remember. Michael A. Mor-risey, professor and director of the Lister Hill Center of Health Policy, continues to make my presence in the school and the center both a rewarding and an enjoyable experience, as do my other colleagues Janet M. Bronstein and Stephen T. Mennemeyer. Finally, Dean Eli I. Capilouto continues his unqualified support. On this project there was even a new supporter—Provost Peter V. O'Neil, who agreed to be patient as this project took precedence over other demands and responsibilities.
The support of colleagues and friends can never be underestimated, even though writing a book is ultimately a solitary endeavor. Perhaps the only ones who really understand the time and energy required are family members who pay in terms of opportunities foregone and good times wasted. This has been particularly true of this project. For this reason and many others too numerous to count, I dedicate this book to my wife and friend, Judy, who has shared yet another publishing experience faithfully and with a good sense of humor.
Birmingham, AL W. J. D.