Fashionable Management

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Store front in Bruges, Belgium, during a sale.

360-Degree Feedback.
Lean Management.
Management by Wandering Around.
Organizational Learning.
 Reengineering.
Six Sigma.
Total Quality Management.

One business best seller after another touts a new management philosophy, urging executives to stay current by implementing a new, sure-fire method for company success.  Many of the ideas gradually trickle their way into the library literature, conferences, and our own organizations. Why do these new ideas come into vogue? How are they implemented? And, does it hurt organizations to jump on one new management idea bandwagon after another?

A recent article, “Are Management Fashions Dangerous for Organizations?” by Gerald Lang & Marc Ohana in International Journal of Business and Management, answers those questions with an academic, approachable, and interesting read about the regular cycle of management fashions. The article considers how moving a company through one management fashion after another could harm a company but, in fact, is more likely to produce incremental improvements over time.

Intriguing points made by Lang and Ohana include:

  • Leaders can use fashions to change an organization—by presenting a new idea to move toward rather than criticizing old ideas
  • Even as one idea gives way to the next one, each fashion is not completely abandoned. Ideas that worked particularly well for the company tends to stay in place, and new ideas that contradict those winning ideas are not adopted.
  • Fashions tend to be general rather than specific to maximize popularity. Each company modifies the fashion to fit their own needs.
  • A company might only adopt the rhetoric of the trend rather than the organizational change itself.

If you are sighing over yet another management fad making the rounds at your library–or are at the top and considering introduce something new at your library–read this article for an objective and reasoned view of why the fads might not be so bad after all.

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