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Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Management History, Volume 17, Issue 3
Welcome to this third issue of Volume 17 of the Journal of Management History (JMH), an issue of people and places, of the public and private sectors, and of practices and pragmatics. Before making some observations about the collection of articles in this issue though, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge and thank Therese Yeager for her excellent work on JMH 17(2), which was a special issue looking at dimensions of the work of Douglas McGregor – thanks Therese!
I also need to introduce an exciting new initiative for JMH, to be led by Karl Moore of McGill University in Canada. In this issue, we see the first of an ongoing series of interviews by Karl Moore with thinkers on management who have distinguished themselves in their respective careers and who are still with us to be able to discuss their lives and ideas. Entitled “The life and times of a senior scholar”, the first interview is with Harvard Business School’s Baker Foundation Professor, Joseph Bower, who talks about his four-decade tenure at HBS. As the HBS web site informs us, Professor Bower is “An expert on corporate strategy, organization, and leadership, [who] has devoted much of his teaching and research to challenges confronting corporate leaders in today’s rapidly changing hyper-competitive conditions”. My thanks to Karl for introducing us to this living history contribution.
In the first of the 17(3) articles, Robert C. Ford and Peter B. Petersen, two twenty-first century denizens of Florida, in the USA, introduce us to Henry Plant, a nineteenth century Floridian Entrepreneur (Ford and Petersen, 2011). Ford and Petersen (2011) begin by pointing to the continuing efforts of scholars to try and discern what makes entrepreneurs “tick”, by way of considering the behaviours and personal characteristics of individual, modern day, entrepreneurs and trying to determine which, if any, of these characteristics can be seen to be common to entrepreneurial success. Drawing on recent research suggesting that experience, networks, and geographical location are among some of those characteristics, Ford and Petersen (2011) take the novel approach of returning to the nineteenth century to present the case study of a successful Entrepreneur, Henry B. Plant.
Ford and Petersen (2011) work through the life and times of Plant, showing that he effectively used his experiences with railroad, finance investment and express businesses across his entire career and different activities, effectively leveraged his networks, and was outstanding at finding and hiring great people. Even in regard to the element of “luck”, it seemed that Plant was a lucky man, or at the very least, made his own luck. They conclude by observing that Henry Plant serves as an exemplar that the key success factors for nineteenth entrepreneurs remain unchanged in the twenty-first century.
From nineteenth century Florida, Simone T.A. Phipps (2011) takes readers to the twentieth century and two female “giants” of management thought, on whose shoulders latter day thinkers about the practice of management now stand – Mary Parker Follett and Mary Gilson. Drawing on a range of literary sources, and examining those from a distinctly spiritual perspective, Phipps identifies the contributions that both these Marys have made to the field of management by way of their own spiritual insights. In particular, they appear to draw on the notion that human values and economic values are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, as later research continues to confirm, the more we focus on the human, the more productive organizations become.
Recent writers on the link between leadership and spirituality have noted the extent to which spiritual leadership draws on notions of social reform, individual integrity, and social harmony (Burke, 2006; Dent et al., 2005; Korac-Kakabadse et al., 2002), themes that suffused the work of these “contrary” Marys. Unfortunately, these contemporary works do not make reference to Parker Follett or Gilson to inform their ideas – one wonders how much further our contemporaries might have seen if they had looked for the opportunity to stand on those shoulders. One is also moved to consider the extent to which we might draw on insights about spirituality and leadership from other cultures (Woods and Lamond, 2011).
The next series of three articles look at how different manifestations of “ideology” have informed thinking about management and informed management thinking in the private and public sectors.
In the last decade of the last century, I published a piece regarding what I described as the irrational use of Weber’s ideal types (Lamond, 1990). Irrational referred to the way in which scholars throughout the twentieth century had, for example, misappropriated Weber’s sociohistorical method of ideal typology to claim that Weber had written about bureaucracy as the ideal type of organization, when, in fact, Weber had written with concern about what he saw as the increasing bureaucratisation of everyday life. Now, it seems, we find that Weber himself was not above misinterpretation of the earlier works of others (Smith and Smith, 2011).
Based on a close examination of an extensive set of literary sources related to the concept of the Protestant work ethic (PWE), Smith and Smith (2011) draw attention to three separate but linked elements that could form the basis of bias in the promulgation of, and research about, work and the associated PWE construct, namely:
Most management research is undertaken from the philosophical position of the PWE, even though research on work values has found a variety of perspectives about work.
Again, notwithstanding the variety of perspectives about work, much of the theoretical conceptualization of work values appears to have been informed by a limited philosophical perspective.
Comparison of some of the documents that were key to the intellectual framework of the Protestant reformation with Weber’s characterisation of the PWE shows that the views of the founders of Protestantism regarding work differ significantly from Weber’s representation.
Virgil O. Smith and Yvonne S. Smith (2011) argue that their own conclusions are tentative and should be examined. In the spirit of JMH itself, they call for colleagues to join them in examining the historical context of these basic assumptions in our field.
The second article revisits three sets of events in the history of New Zealand banking: the socio-political environment leading to the nationalisation of the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) in the 1940s; the eventual re-privatization of the BNZ in the 1980s; and, more recently, the establishment of Kiwibank Ltd (Kiwibank) (Cardow et al., 2011). In doing so, Andrew Cardow, David Tripe and William Wilson (2011) seek to show how these three events close a loop created by the various machinations of governments of the day and their constituent politicians. Just as the nationalisation of the BNZ was driven by political “fashion” or political experimentation based upon ideology, so its subsequent re-privatization was driven by a different form of political “fashion” of the day. Finally, the establishment of Kiwibank as the “people’s bank” was a return to the fashion of the 1940s, where a state-owned bank was seen to be more sympathetic to the plight of “ordinary” citizens (Cardow et al., 2011).
The third article in this series, by Bert Spector and Francis C. Spital (2011), examines a different application of ideology to support a particular approach to management thinking, this time in relation to the payment of executive bonuses.
As the impacts of the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2007-2008 receded in 2009, public expressions of concern about the re-emergence of the executive bonus culture that was seen as, at least in part, an underlying cause of the GFC, began to appear (Hartcher, 2009; Walsh et al., 2009). Yet, despite the continuing lack of evidence to support a positive link between executive salaries and company performance (Dalton et al., 2003; Tosi et al., 2000), assertions about the value of executive bonuses continue to be made (Lindsay, 2010). Noting that this is not the first time that the matter of executive bonuses has been the subject of widespread discourse, Spector and Spital (2011) bring an historical perspective to the current debate, by way of consideration of academic literature on executive bonuses published in America (mainly in the Harvard Business Review) since early in the last century.
Over 70 years ago, a Fortune magazine poll in America found that more than half of the respondents thought corporate executives were paid too much for the work they did (Spector and Spital, 2011). At about the same time, Baker (1939) concluded that the absence of a link between executive bonuses and company performance suggested that executive enthusiasm for such bonuses was ideologically driven. Spector and Spital’s (2011) examination of the literature, and the varying sociocultural and political contexts within which it has been published in subsequent decades, appears to confirm that it has been ideology rather than bottom-line considerations that has informed that enthusiasm over a long period of time. Perhaps, as Spector and Spital (2011) quote approvingly, “The problem isn’t that they [executive bonuses] are poorly designed. The problem is that they exist” (Mintzberg, 2009).
While the debate about executive bonuses in the private sector continues, other, perhaps even more significant, events have been unfolding for public sector executives, the “mandarins” referred to in the title of Linda Katurah Colley’s (2011) exploration of recent public sector executive reforms, the final article in this JMH issue. Focussed mainly in the Australian context, Colley’s (2011) is a work in four parts, namely: an introduction to the labour process literature and associated concepts used throughout the article; a section on the traditional organization of work in the public sector; an outline of the public sector management reforms that have affected that organization of work; and a final section arguing that, rather than letting the managers manage, the so-called “new public management” reforms have actually reduced the positional power of public sector executives, with a corresponding transfer of control to the politicians who presided over the changes recommended and implemented by the mandarins themselves. Colley’s (2011) additional contribution is to apply labour process concepts to a quite different group of “workers” undergoing workplace changes over the last 25 years.
Importantly, Colley’s (2011) work also points to the extent to which there may have been a return to the days before the Northcote and Trevelyan (1854) reforms, introduced in the UK and reflected in those countries with a similar, so-called, Westminster system of government. As Colley (2011) points out, the Northcote and Trevelyan inquiry into the British civil service highlighted a series of problems associated with a lack of clear separation between politics and administration, and recommended a career service model of employment that removed personnel decisions from the hands of politicians. In light of the matters raised by Colley (2011), one might ask whether it is time for another Northcote and Trevelyan inquiry?
While JMH readers ponder that question, I trust that they also see themselves as continuing to be exposed to an eclectic and insightful series of articles, highlighting the importance of the historical context to an understanding of management and management thought, and the value of the insights that can be divined by reflection on what has gone before, in business and the public sector alike.
Baker, J.C. (1939), “How should executives be paid?”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 18, Autumn, pp. 94–106
Burke, R. (2006), “Leadership and spirituality”, Foresight, Vol. 8 No. 6, pp. 14–25
Cardow, A., Wilson, W. and Tripe, D. (2011), “Ideology or economics: government banking in New Zealand”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 299–314
Colley, L. (2011), “Applying labour process concepts to public sector executive reforms: peeling and segmenting the mandarins?”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 332–46
Dalton, D.R., Daily, C.M., Certo, S.T. and Roengpitya, R. (2003), “Meta-analysis of financial performance and equity: fusion or confusion?”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 46, pp. 13–26
Dent, E.B., Higgins, M.E. and Wharff, D.M. (2005), “Spirituality and leadership: an empirical review of definitions, distinctions, and embedded assumptions”, The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 16 No. 5, pp. 625–53
Ford, R. and Petersen, P. (2011), “Henry B. Plant (1819-1899): Florida’s west coast entrepreneur”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 254–69
Hartcher, P. (2009), “Greed is God again, and we have learned nothing”, available at: www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/greed-is-god-again-and-we-have-learned-nothing-20090921-fyjr.html (accessed 26 September 2009)
Korac-Kakabadse, N., Kouzmin, A. and Kakabadse, A. (2002), “Spirituality and leadership praxis”, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 165–82
Lamond, D.A. (1990), “The irrational use of Weber’s ideal types”, Australian Journal of Public Administration, Vol. 49, pp. 464–73
Lindsay, R. (2010), “Barclays bosses forgo bonus as profits soar 92%”, Times Online, 16 February, available at: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article7028632.ece (accessed 23 February 2010)
Mintzberg, H. (2009), “No more executive bonuses!”, Wall Street Journal, 30 November, p. A17, cited in Spector, B. and Spital, F. (2011), “The ideology of executive bonuses: a historical perspective”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 3
Northcote, S. and Trevelyan, C. (1854), Report on the Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service, 23 November 1853, Submitted to Both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty in February 1854 (Paper 1713)
Phipps, S. (2011), “Mary, Mary, quite contrary: in a male-dominated field, women contributed by bringing a touch of spirituality to early management theory and practice”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 270–81
Smith, V. and Smith, Y. (2011), “Bias, history and the protestant work ethic”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 282–98
Spector, B. and Spital, F. (2011), “The ideology of executive bonuses: a historical perspective”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 315–31
Tosi, H.L., Werner, S., Katz, J.P. and Gomez-Mejia, L.R. (2000), “How much does performance matter? A meta-analysis of CEO pay studies”, Journal of Management, Vol. 26, pp. 301–39
Walsh, K., Davey, J. and Smith, D. (2009), “City firms scheme to hide bonus boom from HMRC”, Times Online, 5 July, available at: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6638252.ece (accessed 8 July 2009)
Woods, P.R. and Lamond, D.A. (2011), “What would confucius do? – Confucian ethics and self-regulation in management”, Journal of Business Ethics, 6 April, pp. 6–15