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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Management History, Volume 14, Issue 2.
I began the editorial to the Journal of Management History (JMH), 14(1) by observing that there is a certain rhythm to the editorial process. I begin this editorial by making some observations on what it is like to have that rhythm disrupted, from a very personal point of view. It also gives me an opportunity to explore an object lesson in the importance of properly maintaining one's own “historical” databases, while busily examining and analysing the historical documents of others.
Some of the JMH community will already be aware that I “lost” my hard disk over Christmas and had to confess to not being properly backed up. As a consequence, I lost months, and in some cases, years of e-mail data and the associated attachments, including a plethora of JMH-related e-mails, submissions, reviews and so on. I have spent the weeks since then (including Christmas and Boxing day) trying to reconstruct my database, and I have be largely successful (but still missing significant chunks of my e-mail correspondence).
As a management historian, who relies on historical data for so much, I should have known better. Consider this my public mea culpa, together with a statement of my determination to ensure the same does not happen in the future. Notwithstanding this little catastrophe, we are still able to bring you issue 14(2) of JMH, which comprises five articles of the usual high standard, together with a review article that is an experiment in new content for the journal.
The first article in this issue by Wolf et al. (2008), follows a familiar theme in JMH. They examine the 90 year history (from 1850 until the beginning of World War II) of a sociotechnical system constituted on the “socio” side by Cornish miners in California, USA. Wolf et al. (2008) use their findings here as a basis for promoting their central argument that sociotechnical principles of organizing work had been known for at least a century prior to Trist and Bramforth's (1951) seminal work on the subject, and nearly 150 years before Berniker (1992) identified five key characteristics considered to be critical to sociotechnical systems self-regulating work groups; work group responsible autonomy; learning; inducements to work; and experimentation. Indeed, their description of this naturalistic sociotechnical system is shown to have its roots in the practices of the tin mines of Cornwall in the UK many centuries before. As such, their work also serves as a reminder of the extent to which management theorists are perhaps not so much discoverers as they are formalisers of understandings of organisational praxis.
The insights drawn from Wolf et al. (2008) stand in contrast the reasons Shen (2008) derives for the causes of the rising incidence of, and escalation of intensity of, labour disputes in China since 1978 non-payment or delayed payment, job losses and industrial accidents resulting from poor labour protection, overlaid by management corruption and mismanagement. Shen's (2008) analysis of the historical development and characteristics of labour disputes in China contributes to a better understanding of their genesis and, in turn, provides a basis for their resolution, today and in the future.
The four decades old Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Mr Jinks, might have “hated meeces [mice] to pieces” but Ford (2008) shows that, in other contexts, the meeting, incentive, convention and event (MICE) industry has developed from an idea of a Detroit writer in the mid-1890s to become an economically important business for many cities, states and regions of the world. Less than two weeks after, an article appeared in a Detroit newspaper arguing that the city leaders should hire someone to sell Detroit to the many conventions that were springing up at that time, a person was hired to do so, and the first convention and visitor bureau (CVB) profession was created. Ford's (2008) paper tells the story of how the CVB profession began and how the early leaders of this business organized themselves in order to help develop the convention industry into the multi billion dollar industry it is today.
One of the more popular (and, in many cases, necessary) modes of transport to the sites of the various MICE happenings is by air. Durepos et al. (2008) present the results of their examination of the archives of one of the early icons of the commercial airline industry, Pan American Airways (PAA). Their findings, that PAA's effective monopoly during the period 1927-1941 was established by way of the creation of a myth of “German threat” are based on a critical hermeneutical exploration of PAA's extensive archive collection and various written histories of the company. As well as demonstrating the mythical nature of the so-called German threat, Durepos et al. (2008) also highlight for management theorists and historians the several needs to be cognisant of history as multiple socially constructed interpretations of the past, to appreciate and make explicit the contexts and conditions within which these histories are produced, and for undertaking the (re)writing of those histories parading as authoritative monoliths.
Grattan's (2008) paper also addresses the issue of historiography, with a focus on the writing of management history. He likens this process to crafting, much as the potter works, rather than debating whether history is an art or science. He suggests that the crafting process takes the form of collection, selection, interpretation and narration, although in practice it is an iterative rather than straight-line process. Grattan (2008) goes on to discuss the model and the particular issues in relation to management history, viz the problem of access to data, the legal and economic setting and contextual factors. His discussion concludes with consideration of the special issue of the underpinning of management studies by a considerable body of theory. That is, the company history can be compared to the predictions of the management theories, but with the possibility that the new evidence may lead to a modification of the previously-held view of how business works.
The final paper in this issue, “Management history in other places” (Lamond, 2008) is proffered as JMH's attempt at encouraging a greater degree of interdisciplinarity in our scholarly exchanges. As regular readers of JMH will know, our approach to the subjects of “management” and “management history” is to consider them as forming part of a broad church of ideas and considerations. Even a simple definition of management such as “getting things done through other people” implies that the things done by others (operations, marketing, accounting and finance, human resource management, and so on) require an appreciation by the manager of that subject matter This is no less true of an historical appreciation of management.
Accordingly, from time to time, unless the JMH community of scholars suggests that this is a feature that should appear more regularly (or not at all), it is our intention to consider articles published in other discipline-based journals that appear to be relevant to the various agendas that we are exploring in our own context. More than just a simple review, the aim is to consider these articles explicitly in relation to the works published in JMH, drawing appropriate insights from each. Admittedly, this first is only my own humble attempt, and I'm sure others would be much more capable, so bear that in mind when you're responding. In any event, please contact me on email@example.com and let me know what you think of the idea.
Berniker, E. (1992), Some Principles of Sociotechnical Systems Analysis and Design, Pacific Lutheran University School of Business, Tacoma, WA.
Durepos, G., Mills, J.H. and Mills, A.J. (2008), “Flights of fancy: myth, monopoly and the making of pan American airways”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 116-27.
Ford, R. (2008), “Chasing MICE and fellow travelers: a history of the convention and visitor bureau industry”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 128-43.
Grattan, R. (2008), “Crafting management history”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 174-83.
Lamond, D. (2008), “Management history in other places”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 184-93.
Shen, J. (2008), “The characteristics and historical development of labour disputes in China”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 161-73.
Trist, E.L. and Bramforth, K.W. (1951), “Some social and psychological consequences of the longwall method of coal-getting”, Human Relations, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 3-38.
Wolf, F., Finnie, B. and Gibson, L. (2008), “Cornish miners in California: 150 years of a unique sociotechnical system”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 144-60.