Like every other sub-species, managers evolved--a product of an environment they themselves constantly shape, mould and recreate at the behest of owners and the dictates of the marketplace. Their ancestry dates back several thousand years, but 'modern managers' really only emerged from the grime of the Industrial Revolution in the 20th century.
Despite this fast-tracked evolution, some experts believe management's organisational habitat is changing so rapidly that managers will not adapt in time to survive. When Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith, authors of the book The End of Management, told one of managements founding theorists Peter Drucker of their plans to write the book, he simply responded: "It's about time."
But is it really likely that managers have had their day? Doubtful, although there is a pronounced global swing toward greatly modified behaviour. Managers at the top end of the corporate feeding chain all too frequently show signs of excessive behaviour and abuse of their environment. Over-grazing can lead to extinction.
The first age of management
For their first 50 or so years, modern managers were masters and commanders--not much removed from their feudal ancestors. Command-and-control management survives to this day. It consists of a set of policies and procedures designed to provide managers with the tools to demand employee compliance, a form of minimalist individuality.
The first half of the 20th century was the scientific management age. Working life and enterprise was dominated by the assembly line and systematisers like Frederick Taylor, who introduced discipline and task analysis to "previously ad-hoe" operations. Schools of business, like Harvard, appeared and in 1922 Harvard began publishing the Harvard Business Review, a magazine committed to publishing the new genre of academic management literature. The first comprehensive account of executive management was written in 1916 by a Frenchman, Henri Fayol. But, according to HBR, "Taylor's influence was so great" that it took several decades before the Frenchman's ideas on formal management responsibilities became widely known.
The 1930s' depression and its ultimate solution, increased government regulation, changed the marketplace and, before long, the managers' world. America's New Deal and Europe's Welfare State emerged. Unions challenged management control while some American business writers argued that stockholders had lost influence over their managers. By war's end the first age of managers was over, though a good many old practices remain.
"We have been told for years that we are moving away from hierarchical organisations and command-and-control structures," says Auckland-based knowledge management consultant and author Carl Davidson. "Everywhere I work I still see hierarchical organisations and command-and-control structures."
After 1945 marketing and diversification took hold. A decade later and just as this magazine hit the desks of Kiwi managers, Drucker wrote his Practice of Management--a comprehensive guide that emphasised management objectives rather than social relations. America's W Edwards Deming, a neglected prophet in his homeland, began converting war-spawned Japanese industries to his teachings on "quality management". And the surge in corporate growth and confidence--particularly in America--took off and continued unabated for the rest of the century, increasingly assisted by at first a fledgling, then a soaring information technology industry.
The New Zealand Institute of Management was formed in 1945. It was, says former NZIM national president Doug Matheson, a response to understanding the importance of "training for supervisors and managers". New Zealand industry realised that managers "needed to be trained in the knowledge and skills of management. Employers recognised that good managers make a difference. …