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Rosemary Stewart: Practical Management

Rosemary Stewart studied management extensively, in the UK. Rather than revolutionary, her ideas serve to underpin the day-to-day challenges real managers face in the real world.

Rosemary Stewart
Rosemary Stewart

Short Biography

Rosemary Stewart was born in London, England, in 1924, and grew up first in Sussex, and then moved to Saskatoon, Canada, where she finished her secondary education. She studied economics at the University of British Columbia and then returned to England in 1945, after graduation (and after the war), to study Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, where she also won her doctorate in Management Studies.

She joined the Acton Society Trust as a researcher, and rose to become its director. There, she researched the challenges of large organisations and, in particular, of the newly nationalised British industries. Her interest persisted and she is best known for her studies into and analysis of Britain’s National Health Service. While at the Acton Society Trust, she worked with Joan Woodward, and Reg Revans was also a researcher there.

After seven years, she joined the new Oxford Centre for Management Studies, which became Templeton College, where she was made a Fellow and then, in 1992, upon her retirement, an Emeritus Fellow. Her long-time interest in healthcare management matured when, in 1996, she became the first Director of the newly founded Oxford Health Care Management Institute.

Rosemary Stewart died in 2015.

The Reality of Management

Rosemary Stewart was a prolific author, although most of her books have fallen out of print. Her three most notable books are still available:

All of her books have a focus on real, day-to-day management challenges, pitched firmly at middle managers. They help managers navigate the choices they need to make and the structures within which they work.

They are neither heavy-weight academic tomes, nor lightweight populist handbooks, and so are ideal for the interested, thinking manager, who wants ideas to help her or him to be effective at work.

Choices for the Manager

In the latest of Stewart’s three classic books, she fully articulates the model with which she is most closely associated. She suggested that management effectiveness arises from dealing well with demands and constraints, and, as a result, making good choices.

Demands, Constraints, & Choices - Rosemary Stewart
Demands, Constraints, & Choices – Rosemary Stewart

The diagram sums up 15 years of Stewart’s research.

Demands

Demands on a manager set out what they must do; their responsibilities or duties. But they also  include the demands we make upon ourselves, alongside those imposed by your organisation, manager, peers, and external players, like customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Constraints

These are the factors that will also limit a manager’s scope for choices. If anything, they have grown in number since Stewart originally wrote her list. Whilst we arguably have more technology choices, and more choices of where to outsource work to, she did not account these as constraints. Rather, using the one technology available, in the one location it was sited was something she took as a given.

Choices

What everyone in a creative role knows is that constraints don’t just limit choices, they make them clear and give us scope for innovation. But managers do have a lot of freedom about how they work with the resources they have. How well you exercise these choices will dictate your performance as a manager.

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