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Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Management History, Volume 16, Issue 1
Welcome to the first issue of the 16th volume of the Journal of Management History (JMH). This issue follows two excellent special issues on Alfred Chandler (15/3) and Peter Drucker (15/4). My appreciation and thanks go to Shawn Carraher and John Humphreys, for their editorial work on the Chandler issue, and to Roberta Cowan, who brought together an important collection of papers about, and inspired by, Peter Drucker. The latter issue was launched to a most receptive audience at the 1st Global Peter Drucker Forum, held in Vienna on 18-19 November 2009, marking the centenary of Drucker's birth.
Issue 16/1 also marks beginning of the fifth year since the re-launch of JMH as a stand-alone journal and my seventh year as the journal's Editor. During this time, it has been most gratifying to get uniformly positive feedback from authors, reviewers, Editorial Advisory Board members, and, of course, the readers of JMH. The papers in this issue continue in the tradition of the journal to examine the historical development of management concepts and practices, with a view to how they inform the present and “shape what we are and what we do” (Deane, 1996).
In issue 14/4, I was pleased to proffer Adcroft and Willis' (2008) analysis of nearly 4,000 articles on strategy in 23 journals between 2002 and 2006. Adcroft and Willis (2008) demonstrated a clear relationship between journal ranking and positivist focus, such that the so-called “top tier” journals are almost exclusively positivist/quantitative in their ontological and epistemological underpinnings, while the lesser ranked the journal, the more likely it is to be phenomenological/qualitative in approach. The corollary of their analysis was that it appears to be the case that the key to getting one's work published in top ranked strategy journals appears to be based on making a conceptually minor but mathematically difficult addition to a familiar model. I observed in the attendant editorial that it may seem to be an odd contribution to a JMH, but as Adcroft and Willis (2008) pointed out, with reference to Carr's (1961) What is History?, to truly understand history, and why things are as they are, it is necessary to examine the philosophical and ideological discourses which underpin them.
In the first paper of this issue, Bort (2010) presents what can be seen to be a related extension of Adcroft's and Willis' (2008), in the form of the results of her examination of the emergence and diffusion of concepts within the field of organisation studies. She examined 1,784 articles published in 39 journals between 1960 and 2005 for the diffusion of 44 identified organisational concepts such as “absorptive capacity,” “dynamic capability,” and “organizational slack.” Her findings show that more and more organisational scholars are working with already established concepts in ways that ensure they do not run the risk of the research being too far from the mainstream and, hence, constituting what (McMullen and Shepherd, 2006) have referred to as excessive “consensus-challenging.” In other words, Bort's (2010) findings are strikingly similar to those of Adcroft and Willis (2008) – the key to getting published in top tier journals in the field of organisation studies appears to be based on working with familiar models and presenting the findings of associated quantitative research. Thus, Bort (2010) provides another important complementary touchstone in truly understanding history, and why things are as they are.
Maixé-Altés (2010) examines how regulatory changes and corporate strategies have affected the nature of competition between Spanish savings banks and commercial banks, not over the last two or three years, or the last economic cycle, but from their roots in the second half of the nineteenth century. He traces the development over this period by way of re-examination of the existing literature, in combination with analysis of surviving records from the Bank of Spain and the Spanish Confederation of Savings Banks. His analysis highlights the role of the various institutional agents, i.e. the banks, savings banks, cooperative banks and mutual banks, and the impact that these diverse organisational forms have had on the evolution of competitive forces, as well as pointing to value of diversification rather than scale and the role of competitive collaboration in a banking market under an otherwise tight regulatory regime.
From Maixé-Altés' (2010) Spanish organisational forms, we move to Sato's (2010) exposition of a case study in Japanese organisational identity, provided by the history of Tokyo-based urban developer/media organisation, Parco Co., Ltd, which emerged from a department store bankruptcy in 1969. Using McLuhan's (1964, p. 9) famous dictum, “The medium is the message”, as her point of departure, Sato (2010) explores the process of how a bankrupted department store is transformed into Parco. This examination draws attention to the reflexive dynamism that exists between an organisational identity and the organisational strategies, as Sato (2010) demonstrates how Parco's strategies are defined and articulated by its organisational identity (the medium), which is in turn influenced by its organisational strategies. Sato's (2010) analysis also provides the basis for the development of a new construct – organisational symbioticity – the mutually reinforcing nature of discrete organisational components that are embedded in the organisation identity.
Moving from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s, from private sector to the public sector, and from across the Pacific to the USA, Whitford (2010) outlines the hierarchical consequences of organisational transformation in a public agency (what Whitford refers to as “reinvention”) – the US Department of Health and Human Services. Whitford (2010) reports that removing layers of hierarchy in organisational structure, as required by the National Performance Review, increased the probability of coordination failures and the likelihood of conflicts among subordinates, as well as increasing the pressures on and for supervisory control.
A variant of the following quote is often mis-attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter, a Roman notable in the first century CE. It is, in fact, Ogburn's (1957, pp. 32-3) observation, writing about his World War II experiences in Burma:
We trained hard but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that perhaps because we are so good at organising we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization. During our reorganisations, several commanding officers were tried out on us which added to the discontinuity.
In writing to correct the record regarding Petronius and Ogburn, Brown (1978, p. 296) takes the opportunity to point out that success in organising is not necessarily followed by success in reorganising. He also speculates that “the Roman Empire might have ended a couple of centuries earlier if its leaders had indulged a penchant for reorganising along with their other sins.” Clearly, whether “transformation,” “reinvention,” or “reorganization,” these are not strategies to be implemented lightly.
Still in the USA, Arndt (2010) explores the transformation (masculinisation) of hospital administration in that country and the contribution of university programs in hospital administration to the change. Arndt (2010) draws on materials from the American Hospital Association's Guide to Hospitals, from journals published during the study period, and on archival material from universities and hospitals, as well as the American College of Healthcare Executives. She proceeds to show how normative and mimetic pressures resulted in many hospitals switching to male administrators, at the same time as educational programs were functioning as portals into the occupation, admitting virtually no female students. The subsequent appearance of mostly male graduates reinforced the change in the occupation's social identity – hospitals wanting to retain an appropriately qualified executive had no choice but to hire a man. In light of the works of Bort (2010) and Adcroft and Willis (2008) we can understand Arndt's (2010) exposition as another of example of understanding how things are as they are, of how and why what was a female dominated occupation in the first half of the twentieth century became masculinised as the century progressed, and some of the philosophical and ideological discourses which underpinned the changes.
Much moment is being made in the media at the present time about the “bonus” culture underlying reward systems in the financial services sector and its role in the high risk loans and other commercial decision-making that presaged the recent global financial crisis (Alford, 2009). This culture is informed fundamentally by the application of agency theory, which argues that the interests of the organisational principals/owners and their agents (CEOs/senior executives) can be aligned by way of the incentives paid by the principals to the agents (Jensen and Meckling, 1976; Jensen and Murphy, 1990a, b). Recent evidence though, suggests that the reality has not matched the theory.
Rost et al. (2010) argue that new insights to solve the agency problems of modern corporations can be gained from the governance structures of Benedictine abbeys. Using a dataset of all Benedictine abbeys that have existed in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and German-speaking Switzerland, Rost et al. (2010) determine their respective lifespans (an average of almost 500 years), and analyze their governance mechanisms and the reasons for closures (only a quarter of them were dissolved as a result of agency problems). They maintain that this success in longevity and functioning is due to an appropriate governance structure that relies strongly on a combination of internal behavioral incentives and external control mechanisms in corporate governance (Rost et al., 2010).
This issue concludes with the work of Emiliani (2010), who proffers a series of historical lessons in purchasing and supplier relationships, based on a review of the recommendations concerning supplier relationships contained in a series of book on purchasing published in first half of the twentieth century and comparison with common purchasing practices currently used by large corporations. Noting the gap between early recommendations and today's practices, Emiliani (2010) points to how contemporary common purchasing performance metrics and the zero-sum policies and practices used to obtain lower unit prices have degraded buyer-seller relationships and, in turn, the practice of purchasing and supply chain management overall. He argues that practitioners will benefit by their being reacquainted with practices long known to result in more favourable outcomes (Emiliani, 2010).
Adcroft, A. and Willis, R. (2008), “A snapshot of strategy research 2002-2006”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 313–33
Alford, S. (2009), “George Osborne attacks City bonuses”, Times, August 15, available at: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6797512.ece (accessed August 18, 2009)
Arndt, M. (2010), “Education and the masculinization of hospital administration”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 16 No. 1
Bort, S. (2010), “The favored “logic-in-use” research: the mentoring of concepts in organization studies publications”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 16 No. 1
Brown, D.S. (1978), “Petronius or Ogburn?”, Public Administration Review, Vol. 38 No. 3, p. 296
Carr, E.H. (1961), What is History?, Random House, New York, NY
Deane, W. (1996), “The inaugural lingiari lecture”, available at: www.gg.gov.au/speeches/textonly/speeches/1996/960822.html (accessed October 13, 2005)
Emiliani, M. (2010), “Historical lessons in purchasing and supplier relationship management”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 16 No. 1
Jensen, M.C. and Meckling, W.H. (1976), “Theory of the firm: managerial behavior, agency costs, and ownership structure”, Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 3, pp. 305–60
Jensen, M.C. and Murphy, K.J. (1990a), “CEO incentives: it's not how much you pay, but how”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 68, pp. 138–53
Jensen, M.C. and Murphy, K.J. (1990b), “Performance, pay and top-management incentives”, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 98, pp. 25–264
McLuhan, M. (1964), Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, Signet, New York, NY
McMullen, J. and Shepherd, D. (2006), “Encouraging consensus-challenging research in universities”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 43 No. 8, pp. 1643–69
Maixé-Altés, J.C. (2010), “Competition and choice: banks and savings banks in Spain”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 16 No. 1
Ogburn, C. (1957), “Merrill's Marauders: the truth about an incredible adventure”, Harper's Magazine, January, pp. 29–44
Rost, K., Inauen, E., Osterloh, M. and Frey, B. (2010), “The corporate governance of Benedictine abbeys – what can stock corporations learn from monasteries?”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 16 No. 1
Sato, T. (2010), “Organizational identity and symbioticity: Parco as an urban medium”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 16 No. 1
Whitford, A. (2010), “The hierarchical consequences of reinvention: evidence from the American bureaucracy”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 16 No. 1