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Power Bases and Empowerment

I have always had a soft spot for John French and Bertram Raven’s model of Social Power Bases.  I am pretty certain in my recollection that this was the first management model I learned on my first management course as a new and eager management consultant fresh out of university.

Basic Consulting Skills was the course and, to my sorrow, I never found a slot for it in any of my consulting skills programmes.  Clients will insist on setting requirements that suit them, rather than indulge a trainer’s preferences*.

Social Power Bases

For those who are unfamiliar with the model (and who don’t have your copy of The Management Models Pocketbook to hand), let me recap, briefly.

French and Raven looked at the power within organisations.  They determined that all power originated from social interactions, rather than from the organisations themselves (as earlier researchers like Amitai Etzioni had theorised).

Their work led them to categorise these sources of social power into first five, then later seven power bases.  These are derived from the resources that the holder has at their disposal.

1. Legitimate Power – based on seniority of position

2. Reward Power – based on ability to offer inducements

3. Coercive Power – based on ability to impose sanctions

4. Expert Power – based on skills and expertise

5. Referent Power – based on personal characteristics; charisma

6. Information Power – based on the knowledge you can access

7. Connection Power – based on the people you can access

After French and Raven

This has proved a useful and enduring model, and so has attracted further research and speculation.  Later researchers and theorists have tinkered with names and definitions of the power bases and added more.  I think the strongest of these (which I included in my Pocketbook) is:

8. Resource Power – based on privileged access to valued resources

French and Ravens Social Power Bases

Empowerment

All of the above description is by way of a context to a new speculation.  It concerns one of the zeitgeist concepts of today: empowerment.  By reading dictionaries, looking on the web and drinking tea, I have come to a definition I think satisfactory for this word in the modern organisational context:

‘a socially endorsed management process that
grants people genuine control and authority
within the work place’

I do know that this is a bit of a mouthful.  First the granting of power must be led by more senior managers than the people granted the power.  Second, there is no power unless those people’s peers endorse it.  And third, the meaning of power must be about control and authority.

Empowerment as a Power Base

So here is my speculation.  If empowerment grants me power, then I have a power base.  I cannot make that power base fit neatly into my understanding of any of the eight established bases of power, that have been around since the 1950s.  So I am going to propose a new Social Power Base that, to my knowledge, has never been published before:

9. Empowered Power – based on socially endorsed organisational authority, granted by legitimate power

Management Pocketbooks you might like

The Empowerment Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook (Chapter 8 covers power bases)

The Assertiveness Pocketbook

The Delegation Pocketbook


* Don’t worry, I have fitted it nicely into my ‘Three Hour MBA’ seminar.

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Scientific Management

Scientific Management
Scientific Management
Scientific Management

Scientific Management was the first real revolution in management thinking. And it owes much of its vigour and many of its flaws to its founder, Frederick Winslow Taylor.

In the closing years of the nineteenth century, Taylor was observing inefficiencies in the manufacturing plants of the United States. And he was finding patterns of disincentives, poor work practices, and waste. If only, he thought, the modern workplace could be revolutionised by the Scientific Method. And he was the man to set about it. In so-doing, he created the discipline of Scientific Management.

Continue reading Scientific Management

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Vlatka Hlupic: Humanising Management

I am always interested to learn about a new leadership model, so I give you this week’s Management Thinker, Professor Vlatka Hlupic.

Vlatka Hlupic
Vlatka Hlupic

Short Biography

Vlatka Hlupic was born in 1965 and grew up in Croatia. She studied economics at the University of Zagreb, gaining her BSc in 1988, and continuing her studies there with an MSc in Information Systems. She then moved to the London School of Economics, where she completed her PhD in Information Systems in 1993.

From there, Hlupic took up a lectureship at Brunel University, where she remained until 2005, when she moved to her current academic role as Professor of Business and Management at the University of Westminster.

In 2014, Hlupic published her first non-academic book, The Management Shift, in which she documents her thinking.

Vlatka Hlupic’s Six Box Leadership Model

Models of leadership tend to come in three main flavours:

Characteristics models suggest that to be a good leader, you must cultivate certain characteristics in yourself. These could be anything from assertiveness and decisiveness, to friendliness and charm.

Styles based models suggest that effective leadership is a matter of style. A subset are what are called situational leadership models, which suggest that the right style depends on the situation.

Roles based models set about a number of roles that a leader needs to perform. If you can perform them all, to a high standard, then you will lead well.

Of course, nobody would seriously contend that any one of these is sufficient. Clearly a leader has a range of roles to fulfil. And they will do so best when they deploy the right style at the right time, applying the right character traits.

With that context setting out of the way, we can place Vlatka Hlupic’s leadership model clearly as a role based model. Hlupic sets out six roles for leaders to fulfil. Three of them are focused on people and the way a leader addresses those around them, and three are process roles that are concerned with material and abstract elements of an organisation.

Vlatka Hlupic - 6 Box Leadership Model
Vlatka Hlupic – 6 Box Leadership Model

Humanising Management

Hlupic sees the future for organisational success as being about relinquishing a measure of control and focusing on empowering people. This is hardly original. She sets up a Taylorist paradigm as a straw person to tilt at, declaring that an over-controlling management style is demotivating and stifles staff (as did Douglas McGregor and indeed Mary Parker Follett). She advocates treating people with respect and distributing decision-making throughout the organisation.

However, the fact that her consultancy and keynote speaking business is apparently thriving tells us much about industry and governments’ continued failure to grasp these ideas.

What I think makes Hlupic’s work valuable is the suite of tools she has developed, which help her to diagnose strengths and weaknesses and to prescribe practical interventions. These are backed by her academic research.

Five Shifts to Aim for

For a summary of the shifts she advocates, we can take a look at five dichotomies that appear in her work (in my terminology, not hers):

  1. From command and control to trust and empowerment
  2. From rules to principles
  3. From giving instructions to empowering teams
  4. From transactional relationships to alliances
  5. From short term profit motives to serving stakeholders

To me, all of this seems a little like obvious idealism. And yet some of it is swimming against the tide of international affairs, where many Governments are being formed by transactional, narrow interest politicians.

I’d like to think that Hlupic’s research base will finally tip the scales and make some of the changes become commonplace. Perhaps it will. Her latest initiative is an attempt to harness popular sentiment to drive change in large organisations’ cultures. I am interested to see if she will succeed.

 

 

Vlatka Hlupic talking about how reducing control can increase profit

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Robert Owen: Fair Management

Robert Owen is often referred to as a social reformer. So what is he doing in a blog about management?

In fact, in his espousal of management over pure command and control, we can see in Owen the first shining of the light of humanistic management, that was not to become the norm in his home country of the UK for nearly two centuries.

Robert Owen

Short Biography

Robert Owen was born in 1771, in Newtown, in Wales. After working in several drapery businesses around England, in 1790, he became the joint owner of a textile factory in Manchester. Because he had little experience of manufacturing, he started off wth a rigorous regime of intense observation of how his employees worked. Through this, he said, ‘I maintained order and regularity throughout the establishment’. Could this be an early variant on ‘Management by Walking About’: Management by Observation?

Along with other investors, Owen bought a Mill in New Lanark in 1799. The realities of what was then regarded as enlightened mill ownership were that he inherited a workforce where 5 and 6 year olds were expected to work up to 15 hours a day. His first act was to stop taking children from the local poorhouse, to raise the minimum age of children he employed to 10, and to ban the use of corporal punishment.

This was the start of a series of reforms that led to Owen being labelled variously as a social reformer, a socialist, an educational reformer, and a utopian (by Marx and Engels!) But at this time, certainly, Owen justified all of his changes on purely economic grounds. He used profits to fund social improvements for his workers and found that productivity subsequently increased. Eventually, the New Lanark Mill showed a 50% Return on Investment (ROI).

Eventually, his reforms were to include taking no children into the mill, creating the first night school in the world, for his workers,  starting what became the basis of the British Co-operative movement, and founding the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834 – sadly, it did not survive the year. He also tried in 1815 and failed to introduce new legislation to improve working conditions nationally.

It may shock us now that his aim of increasing the minimum working age to 10, reducing the maximum daily working hours to 10½, and requiring a minimum of half an hour a day of education for all children was seen as a serious risk to the wellbeing of business. Lesser legislation was passed in 1819 and we still hear the same arguments about potential legislation around worker’s rights today.

Consult other sources…

If you want to learn more about his social reforms, educational work, or attempts to create trades unions and co-operatives, there is plenty of good material. I would like to focus on the things Owen did in management, that were almost a century ahead of his time, to only really be formalised by the likes of Mary Parker Follett and George Eastman, and the later humanistic management leaders, like Elton Mayo and Douglas McGregor.

Five Visionary Approaches

Humanistic Management
Owen recognised that, in his rapidly mechanising industry, machines would never attain a greater importance than the people who worked them

Abandoning Command and Control
Owen preferred to manage his workers, rather than issue commands. And to help him, he started selecting his managers on merit and giving them training.

Empowerment
Okay, so he would never have used this modern buzzword, but he firmly believed in the value of giving his managers real autonomy.

Change Management
Not only did Owen understand the value of winning trust from his workers before trying to impose change; he actively sought out influential individuals among them to help build and disseminate his case: what we call ‘change champions’.

Performance Monitoring
Every day, supervisors would assess the work of their workers, and award a colour code (from poor, black to blue to yellow to white – best), which would be displayed on a wooden block (his ‘silent monitor’) for all to see. Peer pressure and pride are powerful motivators!

 

 

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James MacGregor Burns: Transforming Leadership

I first became aware of the ideas of James MacGregor Burns in the late 1990s, and they literally transformed my understanding of Leadership. I am not alone: an earlier generation reading Burns’ 1978 book Leadership was likewise affected. His academic rigour, effortless prose and new approach led directly to the massive growth in leadership courses in business schools, first in the US, and then globally.

James MacGregor Burns

Short Biography

James MacGregor Burns was born in 1918, in Melrose, Massachusetts and grew up in Burlington. He graduated from Williams College in 1939 and went to Washington DC as a congressional intern. During America’s Second World War, he served in the pacific campaign, and documented soldiers’ stories. He was also decorated several times.

After the war, he gained his masters degree and PhD in Government from Harvard, before returning to Williams College to teach. He remained there for his whole career.

Burns was a prolific author, first coming to prominence as author of an influential biography of FD Roosevelt, The Lion and the Fox, in 1956. He was to follow this with a second volume in 1970, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, which won him a Pulitzer Prize the following year. He also engaged in politics directly, standing as a Democrat candidate for Congress in 1958. This is how he came to know JF Kennedy; a relationship which led to his 1960 biography, John Kennedy: A Political Profile.

Politics interested Burns deeply. His first book, Congress on Trial: The Legislative Process and the Administrative State (1949), was widely praised. However, through that medium, he became interested in the nature of leadership. He argued that it was poorly understood and needed to be studied. More than that, he said, we need to educate ourselves to become better leaders.

It was as an historian and political biographer that he first approached the topic of leadership, but his accomplishment was to develop unifying ideas about leadership that were equally valuable in the social and political arena, and in the business and managerial arena. His 1978 book, Leadership, is regarded as a classic and triggered much subsequent research, thinking, and writing.

This is so much so, that the University of Maryland renamed its Academy of Leadership after him and there is an endowed professorial Chair in his name at Harvard (Barbara Kellerman is currently the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership). Of his subsequent writing on leadership (of which there is much), 2003’s Transforming Leadership: A New Pursuit of Happiness is, perhaps, the most important. My copy has an exceptionally high ‘post-it count’ meaning I have found much in it of value.

Burns continued working into his 90s. His last book, Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World, was released in 2013, just a year before his death in July 2014.

Burns on Leadership

Without a doubt, Burns’ main contribution to thinking on leadership was to distinguish two patterns of leadership: transactional and transforming. This distinction is an empirical one, based on his observations. By setting it out clearly, he spurred a generation of researchers to develop the concept of what he called transforming leadership, but which has come to be better known as transformational leadership.

Transactional Leadership

This creates a relationship between leaders and their followers, based on reciprocity – the exchange of support or action by the followers for rewards like recognition, praise, ratings, pay, or status. This kind of leadership works when both sides feel they are getting a fair deal from the other. Much business and managerial leadership takes this form. So too does the run-of-the-mill political leadership, where, in democracies, politicians exchange promises for votes, and in more autocratic systems, these promises and favours are exchanged for support of the powerful and acquiescence of the masses.

Transformational Leadership

This relationship is founded on a drive in the leader to create change. Burns identified two primary sources of that drive: a lust for power, or a sense of vision or values. I suggest our perception of this difference often reflects our sympathy for the vision. Burns assesses Hitler as driven by power, but he may have argued it was a vision.

Setting aside factional arguments, transformational leaders establish their leadership by building trust with their followers that means the transactions can be more one sided: followers act or support the leader through loyalty, rather than exchange. To do this, the leader must engage both the rational and emotional concerns of their followers – hearts and minds. This allows them to link up power bases from many sources, to strengthen their cause.

Burns saw transformational leaders as using their leadership to*:

  1. establish their long-term vision
  2. empower their followers and hand over to them a measure of control
  3. coach and develop their followers to transform their capabilities
  4. challenge the prevailing culture, to catalyse change

Commentators often mis-characterise the distinction as being about change: transformational leaders create change, while transactional leaders work within the status quo. This is not how Burns saw things – certainly not by the new century when he wrote Transforming Leadership. The difference is the type of change. Transactional change substitutes parts, whilst transformational change is a wholesale change at a fundamental, structural level. It is also driven by values, rather than by pragmatism.

Perhaps the most astonishing conclusion that Burns drew was that transformational leadership will have a transforming effect on both the leader and the followers. Done properly, each will raise the others to higher levels of motivation and moral (within the compass of the leader’s vision) action.

This leads to The Burns Paradox: “If leadership and followership are so intertwined and fluid, how do we distinguish conceptually between leaders and followers?”**

The resolution that Burns offers is that we need to start to take a more subtle and complex systems view: leadership creates change, but in the right circumstances, the concepts of leader and follower melt away. Forget the current anti-capitalist overtones. This sounds very much like self-governing, collective-responsibility principle of pure anarchism to me. And I like it.


*  This list was echoed by Bernard Bass who, more than anyone, developed Burns’ ideas on transformational leadership. He was to articulate some important differences (like the possibility for co-existence of transformational and transactional leadership in one leader). He set out four roles for transformational leadership:

  1. Inspirational motivation
  2. Idealised influence
  3. Individualised consideration
  4. Intellectual stimulation

** Transforming Leadership, chapter 10.

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Hiroshi Mikitani: Borderless Bazaar

Many of us in the UK (home of the Pocketblog) and the US may harbour the false belief that online global commercial domination is a purely US-centred phenomenon. After all, Amazon, Google, Facebook and eBay’s only online competitors in revenue terms are the more insular Chinese businesses JD and Tencent. But kicking at their heels, and with equally large ambitions, is a name that I suspect will become more familiar in the coming years: Rakuten. It was founded by Japanese entrepreneur, Hiroshi Mikitani.

Hiroshi Mikitani

Very Short Biography

Hiroshi Mikitani was born in 1965, in Kobe, Japan. His father is an economist (Professor at Yale and Emeritus Professor at Kobe University) and his mother was in business. After graduating from Hitotsubashi University in 1988, Mikitani gained a place with the prestigious Industrial Bank of Japan and there he may have been expected to stay, had he not bucked the trend of Japanese culture. But a posting in the US led him to apply for a Harvard MBA, which he earned in 1993. There he was exposed to more of the entrepreneurial culture he had experienced when his father had moved to Yale and, in 1997, at the start of the internet as commercial platform, he left the bank.

He started the business now trading simply as Rakuten and, whilst it has been acquisitive and so has he personally (acquiring a range two sports teams and more latterly, gaining senior cultural appointments), Rakuten is the platform for his business interests and philosophy of business.

Rakuten

Rakuten is a Japanese-based e-commerce business working in a different model from most of its large US competitors. Currently, with a 2014 revenue of US$5.6 Bn, it is the tenth largest online business in the world by revenue, and fifth largest e-commerce trader. Rakuten’s model is unlike others in that it trades by selling trading space to small and medium businesses – a bazaar model. Unlike Amazon’s market place, however, Rakuten’s traders can customise their stores entirely, allowing them to personalise their shoppers’ experiences. Rakuten’s strapline is ‘Shopping is entertainment!’ Mikitani likes exclamation marks!

Mikitani’s Philosophy

I think Rakuten will continue to grow, so Mikitani’s philosophy is worth studying. Let’s look at a few strands.

Englishization

Mikitani is driving all Rakuten operations globally to work entirely in English – even at home in Japan. Now, a global English speaking culture is not surprising in many of the large global corporates, headquartered in the US, but Rakuten is Japanese owned and managed. So this is a big deal that has attracted criticism and scorn from some of Mikitani’s peers among Japanese business leaders. His response is to say ‘English is not an advantage anymore – it is a requirement.’ He believes the friction in doing business between different Rakuten offices around the world is so reduced that it makes the policy the right one – even at the cost of not promoting non-English speaking corporate staff.

Acquisition

Readers may have barely heard of Rakuten, but you may well know some of the names it has acquired in its rapid global expansion. Mikitani seems bent on globalising his business and dominating online retailing. And one of Rakuten’s five principles for success is ‘Speed!! Speed!! Speed!!’ The double exclamation marks are theirs, not mine.

Empowerment

Mikitani has a real sense of mission about his desire to allow businesses to trade in the way they choose, rather than creating a corporate template for everyone to conform to. His Business-to-Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C) model pre-dates Amazon’s use of its marketplace and FBA trading, and sticks resolutely to his original vision of boutique trading.

The Web as the Bazaar

Perhaps the strongest indication of Mikitani’s commitment to global web commerce is the announcement, in March 2015, that Rakuten will soon accept Bitcoin across all of its global marketplaces. This involves a massive investment in Bitnet, a startup payment system that Rakuten will start by integrating into its U.S. marketplace to allow customers to pay in Bitcoins.

In his own words

Mikitani has written two books, Marketplace 3.0: Rewriting the Rules of Borderless Business (2013) and The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy (2014, written with his father, Ryoichi Mikitani). He is also a LinkedIn Influencer, where his short articles are frequently pithy and insightful.

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Change Master

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is one of the foremost academics working in the management arena. Her academic CV is second to none, and it is the sophistication of her insights and the depth of her research that have earned her the huge respect she has garnered. But hers are not merely incremental ideas – her work has charted some of the biggest issues facing organisations from the 1970s to today.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

 Short Biography

Rosabeth Moss was born in 1943 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She was educated at the elite Bryn Mawr College, where she studied English and Sociology, where she also met her first husband, Stuart Kanter.  She graduated in 1964 and went on to earn an MA and PhD in Sociology, at the University of Michigan.

Following her PhD, Moss Kanter’s first academic appointment was at Brandeis University, as Assistant Professor of Sociology. She stayed there until 1977, during which time her first husband died and she married Barry Stein, with whom she later (1977) founded a management consultancy, called Goodmeasure Inc, to sell her consulting services to many of the largest US corporations.

1977 was a key year for Moss Kanter. She also moved to become a Professor of Sociology and Professor of Organisational Management at Yale, where she remained until 1986, when she moved to Harvard Business School as a Professor of Business Administration. From 1979 to 1986, she was also a Visiting Professor at the Sloane School of Management at MIT.

The centrality of 1977, however, is because it was the year that saw the publication of the first of Moss Kanter’s books – and one that made a huge impact. It was lauded in its own right and has been seen, in retrospect, as the first of a triptych of connected and hugely important works. We will look at them below.

As well as being an academic and consultant, Moss Kanter has a slew of prestigious awards,and is also notable as the last academic to edit the Harvard Business Review (1989-92) and as an advisor to presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

But it is the breadth and depth of Moss Kanter’s work we need to focus on. And there is so much of note that we need to get started right away.

Moss Kanter’s Big-three Works

1977 saw the publication of a revolutionary book; Men and Women of the Corporation. It analyses the distribution of power within a large US corporation and how white men dominated, leaving women and ethnic minorities disempowered. Her research demonstrated that it was not the behaviours of women and minorities that created this power gap, but the very system within which they worked, and the structures of power and opportunity. At the time, this was a revolutionary insight. Moss Kanter showed the importance of creating change to empower everyone.

With the great pressures for change that she identified, we can see a logical progression in Moss Kanter’s next book, 1983’s The Change Masters: Corporate Entrepreneurs at Work. Shockingly, this astonishingly good and important book is out of print; to me, it is her most important. It describes how some companies and some individuals master the process of change through integrating and innovating, moving right to the edge of their capabilities, and benchmarking themselves against their aspirations, rather than against the status quo in their market place.  She refers to ‘New Entrepreneurs’; change masters within a business that radically improve it, rather than leaving and starting afresh somewhere else. They transform vision into reality. Once again, the concept of empowerment features strongly, as does the need for joined up networks of communication, and decentralisation of resources.

The third book in the triptych looks at the changes US corporations needed to make to remain competitive in the global environment of the 1980s and 90s. Published in 1989, ‘When Giants Learn to Dance‘ likens the global economy to a sporting competition. What struck me was her articulation of seven skills that characterise the most successful ‘business athletes’;

  1. ability to get results without authority, through influence alone
  2. competing positively, through co-operation, rather than negatively through aggression
  3. maintaining the highest ethical standards
  4. self confidence tempered by humility
  5. an understanding of the importance of process for getting things done
  6. relationship building, across functions, departments, and organisations
  7. achievement focus – what McClelland would describe as a high nAch

More Recent Work

It is only space, not a critique on the works themselves, that prevents me from detailing Moss Kanter’s works, from 1992’s ‘The Challenge of Organizational Change‘ to ‘Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead‘, published a few months before this blog, in spring of 2015. Along the way, there have been:

A Summary of Moss Kanter’s Themes

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is notable as an academic of business, but her approach has always remained a staunchly sociological one. Her focus on empowerment has followed closely on that of previous thinkers in humanistic management and particularly echoes the work of Mary Parker Follett, whom she admires greatly. Like Follett, she takes a very much integrative attitude, valuing holistic management structures, rather than segmented corporations. This is a theme that comes out strongly in both Change Masters and Giants. She describes these as characteristics of a ‘post-entrepreneurial firm’, where innovation is the principle benefit of combining the the strength of a large organisation with the agility of a small one.

Her writing is characterised by three admirable characteristics that are often not found together: subtle and complex ideas, detailed research evidence, and a highly readable writing style.

The Advanced Leadership Initiative

I want to end with a short reference to Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, which Moss Kanter leads, as Chair and Director. It aims to prepare ‘a leadership force of experienced leaders who can address challenging national and global problems in their next stage of life’. These are men and women who, after their primary income-earning years, want to contribute to community and public service for their next years of life, using the skills they already have, to make an impact on significant social problems, in health, welfare, children, and the environment. I know little more about it than this, but what a wonderful initiative. A kind of lower-key version of The Elders, I guess.

 


 

Moss Kanter talks about leadership as being about leading positive change in this 17 minute TED talk, ‘Six keys to leading positive change‘.

And more…

There is a good selection of short videos and articles by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, on some of her latest thinking, on the Big Think website.

 

 

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Mary Parker Follett: Management Visionary

‘Ahead of her time’ seems to be the most appropriate epiphet to apply to Mary Parker Follett. And many have done so: Peter Drucker described her as a ‘prophet of management’, while Warren Bennis has said:

‘Just about everything written today about
leadership and organizations comes from
Mary Parker Follett’s lectures and writings.’

Mary Parker Follett

 

Brief Biography

Mary Parker Follett was born in 1868, into a wealthy Quaker family in Boston. She was an exceptional scholar and a polymath, attending university at Harvard (the Society for Collegiate Instruction of Women – later Radcliffe College), during which time she also spent a year at Newnham College, at Cambridge University (in England). Although denied a PhD by Harvard, she studied widely in law, economics, politics, philosophy, and history. While at Cambridge University she prepared and delivered a paper that was to become, in 1918, her first book: ‘The New State’. It was about social evolution and group-based democratic government. It was reviewed by former US president, Theodore Roosevelt and remains in print today.

After studying, Follett spent the next thirty or so years (from 1890 to 1924) focusing on voluntary social work in Boston. She innovated, being the first person in the US to use a school as an out-of-hours community centre; a model that was widely reproduced across the country.

However, what interests us most at the Management Pocketblog is her work from 1924, when she turned her focus to industry. She wrote that it is ‘the most important field of human activity’ and that:

‘management is the most fundamental element in industry’

She became an early management consultant and was much in demand by industry leaders and academic institutions. She spent her time advising and lecturing, up until her death, at a relatively young age, in  December 1933.

Sadly, her work is not widely known of in the western world, despite notable figures like Drucker, Bennis and Sir Peter Parker praising her to the rafters. This is despite the fact that she anticipated a wide range of issues and thinking that is still today presented as modern and aspirational for our large organisations.

Follett’s Visionary Thinking

Let’s count the ways that Follett was ahead of her time in the field of management. I get to eight.

1. Humanistic Approach to Organisations

Growing up in the time of FW Taylor, and ahead of the work of Elton Mayo, Follett rejected the functional approach to industry in favour of her emphasis on what we now call humanistic principle. She was a progressive, rational humanist in the management field as well as in the political and social arenas, and puts me very much in mind of George Eastman, whom I also described as a visionary. She very much anticipated the work of Douglas McGregor.

2. Empowerment

Follett rejected the idea that managers and staff have fundamentally different roles and capabilities. Instead, she saw that an organisation’s success would come from recognising the part that each has to play in delivering its services or creating its products. She advocated giving power to where it matters.

3. Joined up Business (… and hence, Re-engineering and Lean?)

This created a need for a joined up organisation, where activities, departments, functions and people are properly co-ordinated – both across the organisation and from the bottom to the top (and vice versa). She referred to the relationships between staff and managers and among functions as ‘reciprocal relating’. A leader’s role is therefore to see the whole organisation and the ‘relation between all the different factors in a situation’. Is it too much of a stretch to see this as anticipating the mission of re-engineering and lean management to close gaps in process flow? I don’t think so.

4. Group Dynamics and Team Working – Participative Leadership

The equal balance of power between management and employees leads to the need for team co-operation and that, she suggested, develops a true sense of responsibility in workers. To me, it also demands a model of leadership that Robert Greenleaf was to call ‘Servant Leadership’. Follett did not herself go as far, but identified ‘Participative Leadership’ as the style that involves a whole team in creating products and delivering services.

5. Personal Responsibility

Tying together empowerment, co-ordination and group working is the sense of responsibility they inculcate in workers. Follett again anticipated McGregor’s Theory Y, by arguing that it is this which most develops people.

6.Management Training

If we are to delegate greater responsibility to our people, we must do so well. Follett was an early advocate of management training, believing when many did not that the leadership aspects can be taught.

7. Transformational Leadership

In a paper called ‘The social construction of leadership: From theory to praxis’, Edith Rusch notes the unacknowledged similarities between James McGregor Burns’ articulation of ‘Transformational Leadership’ and Follett’s writings. She presents a compelling argument that Follett not only anticipated the ideas of transformational leadership, but that she was the first to put them forward and even used the term.

8. Win-Win Negotiation and Conflict Management

One particular interest of Follett’s was conflict. She suggested three approaches of domination, compromise and integration, that  Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann would later refer to as competing, compromising, and collaborating. Her thinking on the benefits and mechanisms of creating integrated ‘win-win’ resolutions is rich and sophisticated. In her suggestion that we uncover the real conflict and get to each party’s deeper aims, and then seek to satisfy those, she anticipated a lot of the thinking in best-selling negotiation book, ‘Getting to Yes’.

My one Favourite concept…

from all of Follett’s writing is this: the idea of ‘circular response’. This is that our behaviour helps to create the situation to which we respond. It is the idea of a feedback loop of self reinforcing interpretations and behaviour. I don’t doubt that the essence of this very modern sounding idea goes back to the ancients and classical writings of many cultures. But her articulation of it (and of the compelling phrase ‘circular response’) is so clear, that it has got me thinking.

Thank you…

to Mary Parker Follett. Before I started researching this blog, I knew nothing of her (unlike almost all other management thinker subjects). I had hoped that, being less known, there would be little to read and writing this would be quick. Far from it. But I have gained a lot from learning about Follett, and I hope you will too.

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Joseph Juran: Quality Management

Joseph Juran is one of the leading thinkers on the route establishing a culture of quality throughout much of Japanese and then western business. He asserted that quality was nothing new or clever. Rather, it is elemental and elementary. That said, he watched as, for 25 years, his adopted homeland of the United States ignored the quality imperative. Then, in his late seventies, he lived to see American businesses wake up to quality. In his eighties and nineties, he was active and, indeed, energetic in consulting and advocating for quality.

Joseph Juran

Brief Biography

Joseph Juran began his long life in 1904, in Romania. His family emigrated to the United States, and from 1912, he grew up in Minnesota.  He gained his first degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota (he later gained a Doctorate in Law at Loyola University) and went straight to working for Western Electric at its Chicago Hawthorn Plant (where Elton Mayo later conducted his famous studies).

In 1928, he wrote his first pamphlet on statistical approaches to manufacturing quality and rose up through the business. Along the way, he ‘invented’ the Pareto Principle (of which more later), but by 1945, he was ready for something else.

In 1945, he joined the faculty of New York University, to allow him time for lecturing, consulting and writing. In 1951, he published his first substantial book, the Quality Control Handbook. This is still in print, much updated, enlarged and revised, in its sixth edition, under the title Juran’s Quality Handbook: The Complete Guide to Performance Excellence. He was becoming well known, although initially, not so much in the US as in Japan. In 1954, he was invited to Japan for a series of lectures, and Japanese companies eagerly took up his ideas on how to increase their manufacturing quality.

In the US, the concept of quality was largely ignored. But in 1979, he founded the Juran Institute in the hope of increasing awareness of and engagement with his ideas. It was in the 1980s that quality started to rise up the agenda of US companies, and he became, in his 80s, a much in demand speaker and consultant. In 1988, he wrote the book that most marks his contribution, Planning for Quality – now out of print. The ideas, however, are all incorporated into later editions of other books.

Juran remained active, undertaking consultancy until the final years of his life. He died in 2008, survived, until the end of the year, by his wife of 81 years, Sadie, who was also born in 1904.

Juran and the Pareto Principle

Juran noticed early on that not all defects were equal. He found that some causes resulted in many defects and others in a few. A small number of causes accounted for a vast number of the defects. This, he recognised, was the same pattern as that which Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto found when looking at the distribution of wealth among Italian citizens. Juran recognised this as a general principle in the way some effects were distributed, and named it the Pareto Principle. It also became known as the 80/20 rule, because Juran found that around 80 per cent of defects were cause by 20 per cent of the underlying problems.

Juran and Deming

The other huge name in quality management was a contemporary of Juran’s, W Edwards Deming. However, where Deming put huge faith in the value of statistics, Juran saw another equally important effect, which his writings are at pains to stress. Possibly influenced by the work of Elton May at the Hawthorn plant, Juran placed huge emphasis on the human aspects of quality management. In so doing, he was an early exponent of employee empowerment.

Juran identified what has become known as his Quality Trilogy:

  1. Quality Planning
  2. Quality Management (or Control)
  3. Quality Implementation (or Improvement)

From these, he identified a nine-step roadmap to achieve the ideal of quality.

Quality Planning

1 Identify your customers
2 Determine their needs
3 Translate their needs into your own language

Quality Management

4 Develop a product that meets their needs
5 Optimise the product to your own needs too
6 Develop a process that can create the product

Quality Implementation

7 Optimise the process
8  Prove the process works under operational conditions
9 Operationalise the process

Company-Wide Quality Management

Perhaps Juran’s biggest contribution was to see quality as a cultural, rather than operational imperative. He argued that senior managers must not just be involved in, but must actively lead the quality processes. They must not delegate them: the impetus must come from the top and accountability and responsibility must remain there. However, he also saw empowerment of workers at all levels as a key to making quality work successfully.

You Might Also Like…

our articles on the leading modern quality methodology, Six Sigma:

  1. Belt up and Reduce Errors
  2. The DMAIC Solution Process
  3. Six Tools from Six Sigma

and also The Efficiency of Order: The 5S Methodology.

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Henri Fayol: Planning and Administration

Henri Fayol is the daddy.

Henri FayolThere is no other way of putting it: so much of what we take for granted in the way modern organisations are run can be attributed to him.

As a highly successful business manager, he turned around the mining company for which he worked in senior roles for 36 years.

In comparison to FW Taylor, a close contemporary, his contribution was huge.  While Taylor saw managers as mere overseers, Fayol raised them to a professional status and gave them an agenda, a curriculum, and a set of guiding principles.


His ‘functional principles’ of management set out the things we take for granted today:

  • making annual and 10-year plans… and implementing them
  • Using organisation charts to communicate an orderly management structure
  • Sticking to the chain of command
  • Co-ordinating management activities through regular meetings of department heads
  • Getting recruitment and training right

‘And what departments?’ you ask.  In his writing, Fayol described six  business functions:

  1. technical – engineering and production
  2. commercial – sales and procurement
  3. financial – capital management
  4. accounting – cost accounting, stock management, reporting
  5. security – protecting people and assets
  6. management – planning, organising, co-ordinating

He also identified six functions of management:

  1. Forecasting
  2. Planning
  3. Organising
  4. Commanding
  5. Co-ordinating
    (commanding and co-ordinating are sometimes conflated to ‘leading’)
  6. Controlling

Short Biography

Born in 1841 in Istanbul (where his father was a civil engineer) to French parents, Fayol trained as a mining engineer and was employed at the French iron and steel business, Comentry-Fourchamboult-Decazeville. In 1872, he was appointed the director of a group of mines and he became managing director of the company in 1888.  He retained the post until he retired in 1918. sadly, it was only in 1949, when his 1909 book, General and Industrial Management, was published in English, that he gained the recognition he deserved.

His Big Idea

As if the three lists at the top of the blogs were not enough, Fayol’s fourteen principles of management set the tone for business administration for over 100 years, to the present day.

  1. Division of work . Work should be divided among individuals and groups to focus effort and attention on each part of a task. Specialisation allows workers to become more expert and thus more productive.
  2. Authority. Managers have the authority to give orders, but that right also implies responsibilities.
  3. Discipline. Employees must obey and respect the rules and their managers, as long as managers respect the need for sound leadership.
  4. Unity of command. A clear chain of command, in which every employee should receive orders from only one superior (oh don’t we just miss that one, in our modern matrix organisations!)
  5. Unity of direction. Every set of organizational activities needs the same objective and to be directed by one manager using one plan (nice if you can get it).
  6. Subordination of individual interests to the general interest. The good of the organisation is paramount – and then workers must work for their team (sounds like the US Marines – god, country, corps, family, self – Hooah).
  7. Remuneration. Workers must be paid a fair wage for their services.
  8. Centralisation. The degree of centralisation or decentralised should be determined for each situation.
  9. Scalar chain. The line of authority runs from top management to the workers.  this is the scalar chain, and communications should follow it. However, if following the chain creates delays, communications across the organisation should be used, providing everyone is kept informed.
  10. Order. This principle is concerned with systematic arrangement of men, machine, material etc. to minimise waste of time and duplication of stock (reminds me of the 5S methodology).
  11. Equity. Managers should be kind and fair to employees (John Stacy Adams would have approved).
  12. Stability of tenure. High employee turnover is inefficient. Management and staffing should be stable, and managers should plan to fill vacancies.
  13. Initiative. Employees who are allowed to originate and carry out plans will exert high levels of effort (this was Theory Y well ahead of McGregor… even employee empowerment and Corporate Kinetics).
  14. Esprit de corps. Promoting team spirit is a role of managers.  It builds harmony and unity within the organisation.

It would be naive to ignore the many critiques of Fayol’s writing, but it would also be churlish not to credit him with massive strides in understanding, documenting and promoting the discipline of management.  If you are a manager, you need at least to acknowledge his contribution to what you do everyday.

Will his ideas last, as we move fully into the 21st century of ad-hocracy and holacracy? Who knows; but I for one am prepared to predict that managers will be working substantially to his agenda for the rest of my working life.

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