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C. Bertrand Thompson and management consulting in Europe, 1917-1934

Daniel A. Wren (Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA)
Regina A. Greenwood (Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA)
Julia Teahen (Baker College, Flint, MI, USA)
Arthur G. Bedeian (Department of Management, Ourso College of Business Administration, Louisiana State University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, LA, USA)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 12 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to highlight myriad accomplishments of C. Bertrand Thompson, who is perhaps most well known as a scientific-management bibliographer and a Taylor disciple, in the belief that his contributions as a pioneer management theorist and consultant in Europe deserve to be more widely known and more deeply appreciated.

Design/methodology/approach

Archival, primary and secondary sources were used in the research.

Findings

Thompson was among the first to bring management consulting to Europe. He understood the importance of adapting scientific-management principles to meet the diverse needs of each client for whom he consulted. Thompson’s strong belief and value system remained constant throughout his life.

Practical implications

Understanding the needs of customers or clients and adapting systems to meet those needs is essential in achieving success as a consultant.

Originality/value

By drawing on rarely accessed published and unpublished materials, this paper discusses Thompson’s many contributions to management thought and practice, most of which previously have not been highlighted in the referent literature.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors extend appreciation to Heather Leavell and the late Barbara P. Doucette, Peabody (MA) Historical Society & Museum; Elizabeth M. Wilkinson, Karnes Archives & Special Collections, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Collection, Purdue University Libraries; Robert Bogorff and Cathy Elios, Ronald G. Greenwood Collection, NSU Archives, Alvin Sherman Library, Nova Southeastern University; and Rachel Wise, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard University, for their generous archival assistance; to Odile Henry, Université Paris-Dauphine, for research in the Haut enseignement commercial pour le jeunes filles (HEC-JF) archives; to Cameron Guthrie, Université de Toulouse and Jean-Louis Peaucelle, formerly University of the Reunion Island, for further assistance in locating information pertaining HEC-JF; and to Ms Kelsey B. Madsen, Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, University of Oklahoma, for her kindness in translating various documents from French to English, and, especially, to Rev. John A. Buehrens, Unitarian Universalist Church, Needham, MA, for sharing materials relating to C. Bertrand Thompson’s tenure as minister of the Unitarian Church of Peabody, MA. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the Seventy-third Annual Meeting, Academy of Management, Lake Buena Vista, FL, August 12, 2012.

Citation

Wren, D.A., Greenwood, R.A., Teahen, J. and Bedeian, A.G. (2015), "C. Bertrand Thompson and management consulting in Europe, 1917-1934", Journal of Management History, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 15-39. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-12-2013-0126

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited