Abbreviations That Take a While

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The Origins of the Anglo-American Industrial Age Class System


Gantt & Williams

MacGregor and Theories X & Y


Analysis of the Trends

The Hawthorne Effect

General Foods







At the end of the 20th century, in response to a failing economy, mergers, and layoffs, a new breed of management styles came to the forefront.  Usually known by an abbreviation, styles like Management By Objectives, Total Quality Management, and ISO 9000 (9001, 15000) sought to gain control of the growing confusion that merged, international conglomerations had become.

There was one drawback to these styles of management: they frequently didn’t work.  This was not because they were inherently flawed, but because they took an enormous commitment to implement.  It may be noted that TQM, as an example, may take three to five years to implement.41  In addition, changes in management styles are frequently seen as something that middle management should implement in an attempt to enhance worker performance, while true change must be implemented from the top down. 

“A recent survey of Fortune 500 companies [using Management by Objectives] found that less than 10 percent found the technique ‘highly successful.’ For some, failure came because the organization was quickly buried under the mountain of paperwork that its MBO system generated.  For others, the cause of failure was the highly structured review process, which sometimes seemed almost childish.  But for most, MBO’s downfall was caused by something more insidious: the inability to manage distractions, those pesky and ubiquitous events that steal a leader’s attention.”42

Like the principles of Scientific Management, these systems are rarely applied as designed.  Intended to document processes, reduce waste, and enhance accountability, ISO certification has become the butt of jokes in many a Dilbert cartoon.

“Many companies are in the process of ‘installing’ Deming or TQM, but they are putting it in by edict instead of by teaching and demonstrating and, as stated, this is a contradiction of the ideas themselves.”43

At the same time these difficult, comprehensive changes in management are being implemented, a whole new phenomenon has sprung up.  Or perhaps one should say phenomena, as they are plentiful, even if they are part of a single trend.  This trend is quick-fix management styles.  They are sold as books, as audiotapes, as courses, as weekend seminars, and are implemented by middle managers all over the country.  They include Third Wave Management, Fifth Wave Management, Control Theory Management, Management by Walking Around, and others.  They are usually implemented in a matter of days, and last from a few months to a year, until a new policy is implemented.  The funny thing is, for a while, they work.  Productivity, morale, and output improve…for a while.  Finding out why is difficult, as there are so many variables it defies simple analysis.44  There is a clue in the story of the Hawthorne experiments.

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41.  Lewis, Robert; in a personal letter to the author.

42.  Clemens, John K. and Douglas F. Mayer; The Classic Touch: Lessons in Leadership from Homer to Hemingway; Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin; 1987; p. 15.

43.  Glasser, William, M.D.; The Control Theory Manager: Combining the Control Theory of William Glasser with the Wisdom of W. Edwards Deming to Explain Both What Quality Is and What Lead-Managers Do to Achieve It; New York: Harper Business; 1994; p. 50.

44.  Lewis, Bob; op. cit.