Management Advice Failures

Management Advice: Which 90% is Crap? [the broken link was removed] by Bob Sutton, Stanford University:

At first, I couldn’t believe that someone as well-read as Hamel claimed an old idea was new and that he had invented it. But I eventually realized the problem wasn’t Gary Hamel, or any other individual making claims of originality. Rather, his column reflected a prevailing practice in the business knowledge business. I asked two former Fortune columnists why “Hamel’s Law” and similar claims that old ideas are brand new appear so often in the business press.Both emphasized that you couldn’t blame Hamel – that was just how things were done. Both writers even speculated that some Fortune editor probably had inserted the phrase, “Hamel’s Law,” to create the impression that the magazine publishes exciting new ideas. After all old news doesn’t sell magazines!

I share this frustration with declaring old ideas new: Management Improvement, Better and Different, Quality, SPC and Your Career, Deming and Six Sigma, Management Lessons from Terry Ryan, Everybody Wants It, Toyota’s Got It, Fashion-Incubator on Deming’s Ideas and on and on.

Why does this matter? Two reasons, most importantly to me is that when we fail to value the best ideas, instead valuing the new ideas, we are not as effective as we could be. We often accept pale copies of good old ideas instead of going to the good old ideas – which will often lead to a much richer source of knowledge. When I compare copyrighted versions of management thinking to ideas from people like Ackoff, Deming, Ohno, Scholtes, McGreggor the depth and richness of those I admire is much greater than the packaged solutions, as I see it (and they are often more concerned with furthering the practice of management than further their brand). Second, it is often dishonest, or at least sloppy thinkers, that don’t acknowledge the history of management ideas.

There is a huge body of research that shows they are ineffective, yet no one seems to remember these policies have failed over and over in the past.

Sloppy (or dishonest) thinking feeds this condition. Either people fail to learn (PDSA is a great way to encourage learning – predict the results of the improvement strategy, then measure the results and then study the results) or they just want to accept some easy fix today that they know won’t work (which puts off trying to find a real fix until later). It is amazing to me how often we accept non-solutions. If someone objects that we have tried that “solution” and it didn’t work they are often shut down with a version of: “don’t be negative” or “I don’t want to hear we tried that before and it didn’t work” (we are different now) or “we need team players” or “if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem”

read the acceptance speeches given by Nobel Prize winners. I did this a few years ago. All the winners in economics, for example, carefully went through the ideas they borrowed, listed the scores of people who inspired them, and emphasized that their contribution was a logical extension and blend of existing work. Something is wrong with this picture the gurus claim breakthroughs, but the Nobel laureates do not.

Great point. Dr. Deming was constantly citing the sources of ideas he discussed. Maintaining academic and scientific integrity is not just a sign of honesty but I believe leads to better performance. When one markets that they are the source of new wisdom they have to try and separate themselves from the past and others. Over time they will do so not just in marketing but in their own thoughts. When one is trying to bring together great ideas they can continually learn from the past and present.

Some of my thoughts on good sources for management ideas: Management Improvement Leaders,
Management Improvement Thought Leaders

This entry was posted in Management, Management Articles, Popular, quote and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.