Management is Much More Than a Science

Management is Much More Than a Science – is the title of the HBR piece tweeted by Tom Peters.

The 2001 version of my own Manifesto here on Psybertron contained this passage:

Real human enterprises succeed or fail through subjective, chaotic and seemingly irrational behaviour. Management gurus have been emphasising this whilst proclaiming revolution, paradigm shifts and the like, ever since management mistook itself for a science. Enterprise information models, which continue to rely solely on positivist objective rationale and logic of mis-applied science, conspire to misinform.

Doubly interesting is the fact that TP shares it with his own urging “Why Management Needs Philosophers” – which is where I had got to within a year of starting out on this (originally business-focussed) research project. There is a lot to be learned from philosophy and philosophical fiction. Scientism – reducing all rational considerations to science – expecting all problems and decisions to be best addressed by applying more logic to more factual data is so misguided. So-called Management Science – eg Taylorism – is just one small part of management.

And particularly coincidental to me is that TP’s seminal “In Search of Excellence” was the first place I was aware of a reference to one of my original forays into philosophy: Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“. What goes round comes around. My Pirsig conference paper contains:

“ZMM turned up [in 1988!] (and remained un-read) as a quality management reference on a reading list, and indirectly in books by fashionable management “airport bookstall” writers, and others like Charles Handy and Tom Peters.”

Sad however is that TP’s glowing must-read in 2017 is set against the fact that I was already referring to this lesson being given (and learned by me) in the past tense in 2001.

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[Post Note: some more detailed allusions to this journey into the management of human motivation in this post, and the fact that I already considered it “old news”!]


Also published on Medium.

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