Management Gurus and Management Fashions: A Dramatistic Inquiry

Management Gurus and Management Fashions: A Dramatistic Inquiry

Management Gurus and Management Fashions: A Dramatistic Inquiry

Management Gurus and Management Fashions: A Dramatistic Inquiry


Why do just a few management ideas become hugely popular, while many others remain virtually ignored? What distinguishes a management guru from just another consultant? Why are we such dedicated followers of management fashion?

Since the 1980s, popular management thinkers, or management gurus, have promoted a number of performance improvement programs or management fashions that have greatly influenced both the everyday conduct of organizational life and the preoccupations of academic researchers. This book provides a rhetorical critique of the management guru and management fashion phenomenon with a view to building on the important theoretical progress that has recently been made by a small, but growing, band of management researchers.


Chris Argyris

In this book Jackson describes the dramatic increase in consulting activities during the 1990s and argues that these have had an important impact on managing human thoughts and actions, especially in organizations in the private, public, and voluntary sectors of society. He recommends that the consulting practices should be studied more thoroughly and with a scholarly perspective. He also argues that scholars have much to learn from the practitioners, and practitioners from the scholars.

The book represents a fine example of striving to achieve a more fundamental understanding of management consultants and their clients. Jackson begins with a thoughtful examination of the historical and cultural roots of guru behaviour. He helps us to see that however we may wish to evaluate guru behaviour, it has important historical and cultural roots.

Jackson digs deeper into these roots by using a methodology entitled Fantasy Theme Analysis which is derived from symbolic convergence theory. He shows that the gurus’ actions contain certain basic rhetorical elements that are crucial for their implementation. For example, Hammer and Champy are pragmatists: You must do what we advise because you have no choice. Covey takes a righteous stance: Do as I advise because it is right. Senge’s stance is more about effectiveness: You must think about learning because it enhances human and organizational effectiveness. Although these claims may appear to be oversimplified Jackson crafts his argument in ways that show that the core elements are valid descriptions of the gurus actions.

For example, Jackson examines the action themes that are embedded in each perspective. They include preservation of the self, redemption of the self, and getting control without being controlling. It is action themes such as these that galvanize management actions and hence the initial success of the gurus.

We now come to a puzzle. If these action themes are valued by management, if they have deep historical and cultural roots, why is their life span so short? Why do they become fads that inevitably fade away?

I should like to suggest two explanations. Action themes such as self preservation and redemption, as well as to be in control without controlling,

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