Scientification, immune responses, and reflection: The changing relationship between management studies and consulting

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Scientification, immune responses, and reflection: The changing relationship between management studies and consulting

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1) Management By Objectives (MBO)

  • MBO= a technique that encourages participative decision making through shared goal setting at all levels of the organization and performance assessment based on the achievement of stated objectives.  process of goal setting and selfcontrol

  • Criticism: too much emphasis on bottom-line aspects of the organization

  • Wider recognition in Japan than in USA emergence of large numbers of white-collar and administrative positions helped popularize MBO in the USA as well

  • In 1992 it was reported that MBO was standard operating procedure in 80 percent of US firms2 (stage 2)

  • By 1996 MBO was a fad that was long gone (stage 5). But the practice continues to thrive in new fad terminology e.g. self-managed work teams, total quality mgm

2) Sensitivity Training (ST)

  • ST traces its beginnings to an intergroup relations workshop held conducted by Kurt Lewin, the father of social psychology (stage 1). Shortly after Lewin died in early 1947, his 3 colleagues organized the National Training Laboratories. At the same time similar studies were held in Japan

  • An ST session/T-group/laboratory training consisted of 10-12 stranger-participants and 1 or 2 trained facilitators. Over the 1- to 3-week training period, a laboratory experience was derived from the interpersonal dynamics exhibited by the attendees
     focus on interpersonal dynamics between group members
     unstructured learning (no appointed leader, no assigned topic)
     goal: to develop self-insight and awareness, to increase sensitivity to one's effect on others, and to bring to the surface data on one's blind spots and hidden areas
     participants can then take new ways of behaving and working with others to their work

  • Coming out of the lab and into organizations, T-groups attained considerable popularity all through the 1960s (stage 2)

  • Criticism (stage 3):
    - poorly trained facilitators to lead the sessions
    - the interdependency of coworkers gave the T-groups a very personal nature… ↔ originally T-groups were voluntary and participants were strangers to eachother
    - little/no proof of sufficient carry-over of training results back to the job

  • Influence of ST in personal-development movements (e.g. encounter groups) and in other mgm fads (e.g. team building)

  • T-groups proved to be an ineffective technique but…  the concept of ST surged in popularity in the 90s as workplace-diversity and harassment-prevention programs

3) Quality Circles (QCs)

  • QCs were part of a Japanese strategy to improve quality and build market share after World War II. The first use of QCs in the USA was documented in the early 70s (stage 1)

  • QCs consisted of volunteer groups of workers who met on company time and considered ways in which the quality of products and/or processes could be improved
     a way to increase worker participation
     but if carefully planned and inaugurated, QCs improved attitudes and behavior among employees (cost ↓ and human-relations benefits ↑)

  • By the middle of the 1980s, QCs were used in over 90% of US firms3 (stage 2)

  • However a survey in 1988 showed that more than 80% of these companies that had tried QCs had already abandoned them (stage 5). QCs didn’t really last long in the US because of lack of central support and guidance (↔ Japan)

  • QCs not very effective, but… the philosophical grounds of participation and focus on quality have become the foundation for other techniques, such as TQM and self-managed work teams

4) Total Quality Mgm (TQM)

  • The decline of QCs in the early 80s lead to a surge in the popularity of TQM for the remainder of the decade and into the 90s. Western managers were still eager to apply Japanese quality-movement methodologies in their organizations (stage 1)

  • TQM emphasized quantitative measures, continuous improvement, customer-defined standards, individual empowerment, situational analysis, and top-mgm support

  • Criticism (stage 3):
    - high costs
    - too much bureaucracy
    - difficult processes
    - for managers: a shift away from the philosophical roots into standardized procedures less understanding by workers so they did not embrace TQM as part of the culture (which was essential to the TQM philosophy!)
     quality experts then convinced organizational managers to buy in to the quality journey and to accept that there would be no immediate financial return
     which in turn lead to large quality fees, little earnings in their reports and a lot of disappointment in TQM initiatives in Western organizations
     new consultants emerged in the early 90s who specialized in turning around failed TQM programs but during 1993 TQM moved to stage 4

  • By 1996, only the staunch supporters of quality initiatives appeared to be in favor of TQM initiatives (stage 5), though there were notable exceptions (e.g. Ford) which launched major TQM programs in the late 90s

5) Self-Managed Teams (SMT)

  • SMT/Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWT)/ Self-Determined Teams (SDT)= non-hierarchical work groups that are responsible and accountable for outcomes in the organization were created, utilizing rotating team leadership. Each work group was autonomous and provided maximum group control of work-related variables improved results & member satisfaction↑. Other studies suggested that small work groups (8-12 members) intrinsic motivation↑, performance↑, job satisfaction↑ and turnover↓

  • Criticism:
    - improvements in performance were overstated in the literature
    - individual resistance to team participation
    - the techniques did not prove to be beneficial to many organizations

Significance of the 5 fads for mgm today

  • What lessons can be learned from looking at these 5 fads and what is their significance to managers today? Each has had some lasting significance on mgm today:

  1. MBO goal setting

  2. ST various types of communication training and group-development activities (teambuilding, diversity training, harassment prevention)

  3. QC structured employee participation (different terminology, but worker commitment to quality is the same by any name)

  4. TQM continues as the philosophy of ongoing quality improvement (now often a different name in organizations)

  5. SMT seem to be a natural outgrowth of QC’s and TQM. They are also a natural extension of other popular fads like empowerment and 380-degree evaluations. Because of this integration of fads, they can be expected to have a fairly long life cycle

Implications for managers
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