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The Management Myth

Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting frm. If you
want to succeed in business, dont get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead
MATTHEW STEWART JUN 1 2006, 12:00 PM ET
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During the seven years that I worked as a management consultant, I spent a lot
of ti me trying to look older than I was. I became prett y good at furrowing my
brow and putting on somber expressions. Those who saw through my disguise
assumed I made up for my youth with a fabulous education in management. They
were wrong about that. I dont have an M. . !. I have a doctoral degree in
philosophy"nineteenth#century $erman philosophy, to be precise. efore I took
a %ob telling managers of large corporations things that they arguably should
have known already, my work experience was limited to part#time gigs tutoring
surly undergraduates in the ways of &egel and 'iet(sche and to a handful of
summer %obs, mostl y in the less appeti(ing ends of the fast#food industry.
The strange thing about my utter lack of education in management was that it
didnt seem to matt er. !s a principal and founding partner of a consulting firm
that eventuall y grew to )** employees, I interviewed, hired, and worked
alongside hundreds of business#school graduates, and the i mpression I formed of
the M. .!. experience was that it involved taking two years out of your life and
going deeply into debt, all for the sake of learning how to keep a straight face
while using phrases like +out#of#the#box thinking, , +win#win situation, , and
+core competencies. , -hen it came to picking teammat es, I generall y held out
higher hopes for those individuals who had used their universit y years to learn
about something other than business administration.
!fter I left the consulting business, in a reversal of the usual order of things, I
decided to check out the management literature. .artl y, I wanted to +process,
my own experience and find out what I had missed in skipping business school.
.artl y, I had a lot of ti me on my hands. !s I plowed through tomes on
competi tive strategy, business process re#engineering, and the like, not once did
I catch myself thinking, Damn! If only I had known this sooner! Instead, I found
myself thinking things I never thought Id think, like, Id rather be reading
Heidegger! It was a disturbing experience. It thickened the mystery around the
/uestion that had nagged me from the start of my business career0 -hy does
management education exist1
Management theory came to life in 2344 with a simple /uestion0 +&ow many
tons of pig iron bars can a worker load onto a rail car in the course of a working
day1, The man behind this /uestion was 5rederick -inslow Taylor, the author of
The Principles of Scienti fic Management and, by most accounts, the founding
father of the whole management business.
Tayl or was fort y# three years old and on contract with the ethlehem 6teel
7ompany when the pig iron /uestion hit him. 6taring out over an industrial yard
that covered several s/uare mil es of the .ennsyl vani a landscape, he watched as
laborers loaded ninet y# two#pound bars onto rail cars. There were 3*, *** tons
worth of iron bars, which were to be carted off as fast as possible to meet new
demand sparked by the 6panish#!merican -ar. Taylor narrowed his eyes0 there
was waste there, he was certain. !fter hastil y reviewing the books at company
head/uarters, he esti mated that the men were currentl y loading iron at the rate
of twelve and a half tons per man per day.
Tayl or stormed down to the yard with his assistants 8+college men, , he called
them9 and rounded up a group of top#notch lifters 8+first#class men,9, who in
this case happened to be ten +large, powerful &ungarians. , &e offered to double
the workers wages in exchange for their participation in an experi ment. The
&ungarians, eager to impress their apparent benefactor, put on a spirited show.
&uffing up and down the rail car ramps, they loaded sixteen and a half tons in
something under fourteen minutes. Tayl or did the math0 over a ten#hour day, it
worked out to seventy#five tons per day per man. 'aturall y, he had to allow ti me
for bathroom breaks, lunch, and rest periods, so he ad% usted the figure
approxi mat el y :* percent downward. &enceforth, each laborer in the yard was
assigned to load fort y# seven and a half pig tons per day, with bonus pay for
reaching the target and penalties for failing.
-hen the &ungarians reali(ed that they were being asked to /uadruple their
previous daily workload, they howled and refused to work. 6o Taylor found a
+high#priced man, , a lean .ennsyl vania Dutchman whose intelligence he
compared to that of an ox. ;ured by the promise of a )* percent increase in
wages, from <2. 2= to a whopping <2. 3= a day, Taylors high#priced man loaded
fort y# five and three#/uarters tons over the course of a grueling day"close
enough, in Taylors mind, to count as the first victory for the methods of modern
management.
Tayl or went on to tackle the noble science of shoveling and a host of other
topics of concern to his industrial clients. &e declared that his new and unusual
approach to solving business problems amount ed to a +compl ete mental
revolution. , >ventuall y, at the urging of his disciples, he called his method
+scientific management. , Thus was born the idea that management is a science"
a body of knowledge collect ed and nurtured by experts according to neutral,
ob% ective, and universal standards.
!t the same moment was born the notion that management is a distinct function
best handled by a distinct group of people"people characteri(ed by a particular
kind of education, way of speaking, and fashion sensibilit y. Tayl or, who favored
a manl y kind of prose, expressed it best in passages like this0
? the science of handling pig iron is so great and amounts to so much that it is
impossibl e for the man who is best suited to this type of work to understand the
principles of this science, or even to work in accordance with these principles,
without the aid of a man better educated than he is.
5rom a metaphysi cal perspective, one could say that Tayl or was a +dualist,0
there is brain, there is brawn, and the two, he believed, very rarel y meet.
Tayl or went around the country repeating his pig iron story and other tales from
his days in the yard, and these narratives formed something like a set of
scriptures for a new and highl y motivated cult of management experts. This
vanguard ultimatel y vaulted into the citadel of the >stablishment with the
creation of business schools. In the spring of 24*3, Taylor met with several
&arvard professors, and later that year &arvard opened the first graduate school
in the country to offer a masters degree in business. It based its first#year
curriculum on Taylors scientifi c management. 5rom 24*4 to 242:, Tayl or
visited 7ambridge every winter to deliver a series of lectures"inspirational
discourses marred only by the habit hed picked up on the shop floor of
swearing at inappropriate moments.
@et even as Taylors idea of management began to catch on, a number of flaws in
his approach were evident. The first thing many observers noted about scientifi c
management was that there was al most no science to it. The most significant
variable in Taylors pig iron calculation was the :* percent +ad% ust ment, he
made in extrapolating from a fourteen#minut e sampl e to a full workday. -hy
ti me a bunch of &ungarians down to the second if youre going to daub the
results with such a great blob of fudge1 -hen he was grilled before 7ongress on
the mat ter, Tayl or casuall y ment ioned that in other experi ments these
+ad% ustments, ranged from A* percent to AA= percent. &e defended these
unsightl y +wags, 8wild#ass guesses, in M. . !. #speak9 as the product of his
+%udgment , and +experience,"but, of course, the whole point of scientifi c
management was to eli minate the reliance on such inscrutable variables.
Bne of the distinguishing features of anything that aspires to the name of
science is the reproducibili t y of experi ment al results. @et Tayl or never published
the data on which his pig iron or other conclusions were based. -hen 7arl
arth, one of his devotees, took over the work at ethlehem 6teel, he found
Tayl or s data to be unusable. !nother, even more fundament al feature of science
"here I invoke the ghost of Carl .opper"is that it must produce falsifiable
propositions. Insofar as Tayl or limi ted his concern to prosaic activit ies such as
lifting bars onto rail cars, he did produce propositions that were falsifiabl e"
and, indeed, were often falsified. ut whenever he raised his sights to
management in general, he seemed capable onl y of soaring platitudes. !t the end
of the day his +method, amounted to a set of exhortations0 Think harderD -ork
smart erD uy a stopwatchD
The trouble with such claims isnt that they are all wrong. Its that they are too
true. -hen a congressman asked him if his methods were open to misuse, Tayl or
replied, 'o. If management has the right state of mind, his methods will always
lead to the correct result. Enfortunatel y, Taylor was right about that. Taylorism,
like much of management theory to come, is at its core a collect ion of /uasi#
religious dicta on the virtue of being good at what you do, ensconced in a
protective bubble of parables 8otherwise known as case studies9.
7uriousl y, Taylor and his college men often appeared to float free from the kind
of accountabi lit y that they demanded from everybody else. Bthers might have
been asked, for example0 Did ethlehems profits increase as a result of their
work1 Taylor, however, rarel y addressed the /uestion head#on. -ith good
reason. ethlehem fired him in 24*2 and threw out his various systems. @et this
evident vacuum of concrete results did not stop Tayl or from repeating his
parables as he preached the doctrine of efficiency to countless audiences across
the country.
In the management literature these days, Tayl orism is presented, if at all, as a
chapter of ancient history, a weird episode about an odd man with a stopwatch
who appeared on the scene someti me after 7olumbus discovered the 'ew -orld.
Bver the past century Taylors successors have developed a powerful battery of
statistical methods and anal yti cal approaches to business problems. !nd yet the
world of management remains deepl y Taylorist in its foundations.
!t its best, management theory is part of the democratic promise of !merica. It
ai ms to replace the despotism of the old bosses with the rule of scientifi c law. It
offers economic power to all who have the talent and energy to attain it. The
managerial revolution must be counted as part of the great widening of economic
opportunit y that has contributed so much to our prosperit y. ut, insofar as it
pretends to a kind of esoteric certitude to which it is not entitled, management
theory betrays the ideals on which it was founded.
That Taylorism and its modern variants are often %ust a way of putting labor in
its place need hardl y be stated0 from the &ungarians point of view, the pig iron
experi ment was an infuriatingl y obtuse way of demanding more work for less
pay. That management theory represents a covert assault on capital, however, is
e/uall y true. 8The 6oviet five#year planning process took its inspiration directl y
from one of Taylors more ardent followers, the engineer &. ;. $antt. 9 Much of
management theory today is in fact the consecration of class interest"not of the
capitalist class, nor of labor, but of a new social group0 the management class.
I can confirm on the basis of personal experience that management consulting
continues to worship at the shrine of numerology where Tayl or made his first
offering of blobs of fudge. In many of my own pro% ects, I found myself
compell ed to pacify recalci trant data with entirel y confected numbers. ut I
cede the place of honor to a certain colleague, a gruff and street#smart elgian
whose hobby was to amass hunting trophies. The huntsman achieved some
celebri t y for having invented a new mathemat ical techni/ue dubbed +the Two#
&anded Fegression. , -hen the data on the correlation between two variables
revealed only a shapeless cloud"even though we knew damn well there had to
be a correlation"he would simpl y place a pair of meat y hands on the offending
bits of the cloud and reveal the straight line hiding from conventional
mathemat ics.
The thing that makes modern management theory so painful to read isnt usuall y
the dearth of reliable empirical data. Its that maddening papal infallibil it y. Bh
sure, there are a few pearls of insight, and one or two stories about hero#7>Bs
that can hook you like bad popcorn. ut the rest is % ust inane. Those who looked
for the true meaning of +business process re#engineering, , the most overtl y
Tayl orist of recent management fads, were ulti matel y rewarded with such gems
of vacuit y as +.F is taking a blank sheet of paper to your businessD, and +.F
means re#thinking everyt hi ng, everyt hi ngD,
>ach new fad calls attention to one virtue or another"first its efficiency, then
/ualit y, next its customer satisfaction, then supplier satisfaction, then self#
satisfaction, and finall y, at some point, its efficiency all over again. If its
reminiscent of the kind of toothless wisdom offered in self#help literature, thats
because management theory is mostl y a subgenre of self#help. -hich isnt to say
its compl etel y useless. ut % ust as most people are able to lead fulfilling lives
without consulting Deepak 7hopra, most managers can probabl y spare
themselves an education in management theory.
The world of management theorists remains exempt from accountabil it y. In my
experience, for what its worth, consultants monitored the progress of former
clients about as diligentl y as they checked up on ex#spouses 8of which there
were many9. Enless there was some hope of renewing the relationship 8or dating
a sister company9, it was Hasta la vista, baby. !nd why should they have cared1
7onsultants recommendat ions have the same semantic properties as campaign
promises0 its al most freakish if they are remembered in the following year.
In one episode, when I got involved in winding up the failed subsidiary of a
large >uropean bank, I noticed on the expense ledger that a rival consulting firm
had racked up <= mi llion in fees from the same subsidiary. +They were supposed
to save the business, , said one client manager, rolling his eyes. +!ctuall y,, he
corrected himself, +they were supposed to keep the illusion going long enough
for the boss to find a new % ob. , -as my competi tor held to account for failing to
turn around the business andGor violating the rock#solid ethical standards of
consulting firms1 Bn the contrary, it was ringing up even higher fees over in
another wing of the same organi(ation.
!nd so was I. In fact, we kind of liked failing businesses0 there was usuall y
plent y of money to be made in propping them up before they finall y went under.
!fter >nron, true enough, !rthur !ndersen sank. ut what happened to such
stalwarts as McCinsey, which generated mi llions in fees from >nron and
supplied it with its 7>B1 The >nron story wasnt %ust about bad deeds or false
accountsH it was about confusing sound business practices with faddish
management ideas, celebrated with gusto by the leading lights of the
management world all the way to the end of the part y.
If you believed our chief of recruiting, the consulting firm I helped to found
represented a complete revolution from the Tayl orist practices of conventional
organi(ations. Bur firm wasnt about bureaucrati c control and robotic efficiency
in the pursuit of profit. It was about love.
-e were very much of the moment. In the 244*s, the gurus were unanimous in
their conviction that the world was about to bring forth an entirel y new mode of
human cooperation, which they identified variousl y as the +information#based
organi(ation, , the +intellectual holding company,, the +learning organi(ation, ,
and the +perpetuall y creative organi(ation. , +F#I#.. Fip, shred, tear, mutil ate,
destroy that hierarchy,, said Iber#guru Tom .eters, with charact eristic
understatement. The +end of bureaucracy, is nigh, wrote $ifford .inchot of
+intrapreneuring, fame. !ccording to all the experts, the enemy of the +new,
organi(ation was lurking in every episode of Leave It to eaver.
Many good things can be said about the +new, organi(ation of the 244*s. !nd
who would want to take a stand against creativit y, freedom, empowerment, and
"yes, lets call it by its name"love1 Bne thing that cannot be said of the +new,
organi(ation, however, is that it is new.
In 243J, a &arvard usiness 6chool professor, Fosabeth Moss Canter, beat the
would#be revolutionaries of the nineties to the punch when she argued that rigid
+segmental ist, corporate bureaucracies were in the process of giving way to new
+integrative, organi(ations, which were +informal, and +change#oriented. , ut
Canter was % ust summari(ing a view that had currency at least as earl y as 24)2,
when Tom urns and $. M. 6talker published an influential book critici(ing the
old, +mechanistic, organi(ation and championing the new, +organic, one. In
language that eeril y anticipated many a dot#com prospectus, they described how
innovative firms benefited from +lateral , versus +vertical, information flows,
the use of +ad hoc, centers of coordination, and the continuous redefinit ion of
% obs. The +flat, organi(ation was first explicitl y celebrated by Kames 7. -orthy,
in his study of 6ears in the 24:*s, and -. . $iven coined the term +bottom#up
management, in 24:4. !nd then there was Mary .arker 5ollett, who in the 24A*s
attacked +depart ment ali (ed, thinking, praised change#oriented and informal
structures, and"Fosabeth Moss Canter fans please take note"advocated the
+integrative, organi(ation.
If there was a defining moment in this long and strangel y forgetful tradition of
+humanist, organi(ation theory"a single case that best explains the meaning of
the infinitel y repeating whole"it was arguably the work of .rofessor >lton
Mayo of the &arvard usiness 6chool in the 24A*s. Mayo, an !ustralian, was
everyt hi ng Tayl or was not0 sophisticated, educated at the finest institut ions, a
littl e distant and effete, and perhaps too fami liar with 5reudian psychoanal ysi s
for his own good.
! researcher named &omer &ibarger had been testing theories about the effect of
workplace illumination on worker productivit y. &is work, not surprisingly, had
been sponsored by a maker of electric lightbulbs. -hile a group of femal e
workers assembled telephone relays and receiver coils, &omer turned the lights
up. .roductivit y went up. Then he turned the lights down. .roductivit y still went
upD .u((led, &omer tried a new series of interventions. 5irst, he told the +girls,
that they would be entitled to two five#minut e breaks every day. .roductivit y
went up. 'ext it was six breaks a day. .roductivit y went up again. Then he let
them leave an hour early every day. Ep again. 5ree lunches and refreshments.
EpD Then &omer cut the breaks, reinstated the old workday, and scrapped the
free food. ut productivit y barel y dipped at all.
Mayo, who was brought in to make sense of this, was exultant. &is theory0 the
various interventions in workplace routine were as nothing compared with the
new interpersonal dynami cs generated by the experi mental situation itself.
+-hat actual l y happened, , he wrote, +was that six individuals became a team
and the team gave itself wholeheart edl y and spontaneousl y to cooperation ?
They felt themselves to be participating, freel y and without afterthought, and
were happy in the knowledge that they were working without coercion. , The
lessons Mayo drew from the experiment are in fact indistinguishable from those
championed by the gurus of the nineties0 vertical hierarchies based on concepts
of rational it y and control are badH flat organi(at ions based on freedom,
teamwork, and fluid % ob definit ions are good.
Bn further scrutiny, however, it turned out that two workers who were deemed
earl y on to be +uncooperative, had been replaced with friendlier women. >ven
more disturbing, these exceptionall y cooperative individuals earned significantl y
higher wages for their participat ion in the experiment. ;ater, in response to his
critics, Mayo insisted that something so crude as financial incentives could not
possibly explain the miracles he witnessed. That didnt make his method any
more +scientific. ,
Mayos work sheds light on the dark side of the +humanist, tradit ion in
management theory. There is something undeniabl y creepy about a clipboard#
bearing man hovering around a group of factory women, flicking the lights on
and off and dishing out candy bars. !ll of that humanit y"as anyone in my old
firm could have told you"was % ust a more subtle form of bureaucrat ic control.
It was a way of harnessing the workers sense of identi t y and well#being to the
goals of the organi(ation, an effort to get each worker to participate in an ever
more refined form of her own enslavement.
6o why is Mayos message constantl y recycled and presented as something
radical l y new and liberat ing1 -hy does every new management theorist seem to
want to outdo 7hairman Mao in calling for perpetual havoc on the old order1
Lery simpl y, because all economic organi(ations involve at least some degree of
power, and power always pisses people off. That is the human condition. !t the
end of the day, it isnt a new world order that the management theorists are
afterH its the sensation of the revolutionary moment. They long for that
exhilarating instant when theyre fighting the good fight and i magining a future
utopia. -hat happens after the revolution"civil war and 6talinism being good
bets"could not be of less concern.
etween them, Taylor and Mayo carved up the world of management theory.
!ccording to my scientifi c sampl ing, you can save yourself from reading about
44 percent of all the management literature once you master this dialectic
between rationalists and humanists. The Taylorite rationalist says0 e efficientD
The Mayo#ist humanist replies0 &ey, these are people were talking aboutD !nd
the debate goes on. Eltimatel y, its %ust another install ment in the ongoing saga
of reason and passion, of the individual and the group.
The tragedy, for those who value their reading ti me, is that Fousseau and
6hakespeare said it all much, much better. In the =, A** years since the
6umeri ans first etched their pictograms on clay tablets, come to think of it,
human beings have produced an astonishing wealth of creative expression on the
topics of reason, passion, and living with other people. In books, poems, plays,
music, works of art, and plain old graffiti, they have explored what it means to
struggle against adversit y, to appl y their extraordinary facult y of reason to the
world, and to confront the naked truth about what mot ivates their fellow human
ani mals. These works are every bit as relevant to the dilemmas faced by
managers in their /uest to make the world a more productive place as any of the
management literature.
In the case of my old firm, incidental l y, the endgame was civil war. Those who
talked loudest about the ideals of the +new, organi(ation, as it turned out, had
the least love in their hearts. y a strange twist of fate, I owe the long# evit y of
my own consulting career to this circumstance. -hen I first announced my
intention to withdraw from the firm in order to pursue my vocation as an
unpublishable philosopher at large, my partners let me know that they would
gladl y regard my investment in the firm as a selfless contribut ion to their
financial well#being. y the time I managed to extricate myself from their
loving embrace, nearl y three years later, the partnership had for other reasons
descended into the kind of &obbesian war of all against all from which only the
lawyers emerge smi ling. The firm was temporaril y rescued by a dot#com
company, but within a year both the savior and the saved collapsed in a richl y
deserved bankruptcy. Bf course, your experience in a +new, organi(ation may be
different.
My colleagues usuall y spoke fondly of their years at business school. Most made
great friends there, and /uite a few found love. !ll were certain that their degree
was useful in advancing their careers. ut what does an M. .!. do for you that a
doctorate in philosophy cant do better1
The first point to note is that management education confers some benefits that
have little to do with either management or education. ;ike an elaborate tattoo
on an aboriginal warrior, an M. . !. is a way of signaling % ust how deepl y and
irrevocabl y commit ted you are to a career in management. The degree also
provides a tidy hoard of what sociologists call +social capital,"or what the rest
of us, notwithstanding the invention of the .alm.ilot, call a +Folodex. ,
5or companies, M. .!. programs can be a way to outsource recruiting. Marvin
ower, McCinseys managing director from 24=* to 24)M, was the first to
understand this fact, and he built a legendary company around it. Through
careful cultivation of the deans and %udicious philanthropy, ower secured a
/uasi#monopol y on aker 6cholars 8the handful of top students at the &arvard
usiness 6chool9. ower was not so foolish as to imagine that these scholars
were of interest on account of the education they received. Father, they were
valuable because they were among the smart est, most ambit ious, and best#
connected individuals of their generation. &arvard had done him the favor of
scouring the landscape, attract ing and screening vast numbers of applicants,
further testing those who matri culated, and then serving up the best and the
brightest for owers delect ation.
Bf course, management education does involve the transfer of weight y bodies of
technical knowledge that have accumulated since Taylor first put the
management#industrial complex in mot ion"accounting, statistical analysi s,
decision modeling, and so forth"and these can prove /uite useful to students,
depending on their career tra% ectories. ut the +value#add, here is far more
li mit ed than Mom or Dad tend to think. In most managerial %obs, almost
everyt hi ng you need to know to succeed must be learned on the % obH for the rest,
you should consider whether it might have been ac/uired with less ti me and at
less expense.
The best business schools will tell you that management education is mainl y
about building skills"one of the most i mportant of which is the abilit y to think
8or what the M. .!. s call +problem solving,9. ut do they manage to teach such
skills1
I once sat through a presentation in which a consultant, a &arvard M. . !. ,
showed a client, the manager of a large financial institution in a developing
country, how the client companys +compet itive advantage, could be analy(ed in
terms of +the five forces. , &e even used a graphic borrowed directl y from guru#
of#the#moment Michael .orters best# selling work on +competit ive strategy.,
'ot for the first ti me, I was embarrassed to call myself a consultant. !s it
happens, the client, too, had a &arvard M. . !. +'o, , he said, shaking his head
with feigned chagrin. +There are only three forces in this case. !nd two of them
are in the 5inance Ministry.,
-hat they dont seem to teach you in business school is that +the five forces,
and +the seven 7s, and every other generic framework for problem solving are
heuristics0 they can lead you to solutions, but they cannot make you think. 7ase
studies may provide an effective way to think business problems through, but
the point is rather lost if students come away imagining that you can go home
once youve put all of your eggs into a two#by#two growth#share matrix.
'ext to anal ysis, communication skills must count among the most important for
future masters of the universe. To their credit, business schools do stress these
skills, and force their students to engage in make#believe presentations to one
another. Bn the whole, however, management education has been less than a
boon for those who value free and meaningful speech. M. . !. s have taken
obfuscatory %argon"otherwise known as bullshit"to a level that would have
made even the 6cholastics blanch. !s students of philosophy know, Descartes
dismantled the edifice of medieval thought by writing clearl y and showing that
knowledge, by its nature, is intelligible, not obscure.
eyond building skills, business training must be about values. !s I write this, I
know that my M. . !. friends are s/uirming in their seats. Theyve all been
forced to sit through an +ethics, course, in which they learned to toss around yet
more fancy phrases like +the categorical imperat ive, and discuss borderline
cri minal behavior, such as whats a legiti mate hotel bill and whats % ust plain
stealing from the expense account, how to tell the difference between a pat on
the shoulder and sexual harassment, and so on. ut, as anyone who has studied
!ristotle will know, +values, arent something you bump into from time to ti me
during the course of a business career. !ll of business is about values, all of the
ti me. 'otwithstanding the ostentatious use of stopwatches, Tayl or s pig iron
case was not a description of some aspect of physi cal realit y"how many
tons can a worker lift1 It was a prescription"how many tons sho!ld a worker
lift1 The real issue at stake in Mayos telephone factory was not fact!al "how
can we best establish a sense of teamwork1 It was moral "how much of a
workers sense of identit y and well#being does a business have a right to harness
for its purposes1
The recognition that management theory is a sadly neglected subdiscipline of
philosophy began with an experience of dN% O vu. !s I plowed through my
shelfload of bad management books, I beheld a discipline that consists mainl y of
unverifiabl e propositions and crypt ic anecdotes, is rarel y if ever held
accountabl e, and produces an inordinate number of catastrophicall y bad writers.
It was all too famil iar. There are, however, at least two crucial differences
between philosophers and their wayward cousins. The first and most i mportant is
that philosophers are much better at knowing what they dont know. The second
is money. In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when
you pay them too much.
The idea that philosophy is an inherentl y academic pursuit is a recent and
diabolical invention. >picurus, Descartes, 6pino(a, ;ocke, &ume, 'iet(sche, and
most of the other great philosophers of history were not professors of
philosophy. If any were to come to life and witness what has happened to their
discipline, I think theyd run for the hills. 6till, you go to war with the
philosophers you have, as they say, not the ones in the hills. !nd since Im
counting on them to sei(e the commanding heights of the global economy, let me
indulge in some management advice for todays academi c philosophers0
PExpand the domain of your analysis! -hy so many studies of -it tgenstein
and none of Taylor, the man who invented the social class that now rules the
world1
PHire people with greater diversity of experi ence! !nd no, that does not mean
taking someone from the Eniversit y of &awaii. @ou are building a network"a
team of like#minded individuals who together can change the world.
PRemember the three Cs: Communication, Communication,
Communication! .hilosophers 8other than those who have succumbed to the
&eideggerian virus9 start with a substantial competit ive advantage over the
.ower.oint crowd. ut thats no reason to slack off. Femember .lato0 its all
about dialogueD
-ith this simple three#point program 8or was it four19 philosophers will soon
reclai m their rightful place as the educators of management. Bf course, I will be
charging for impl ementat ion.