Dear Business School Deans

Dear Business School Deans:

The 20th century saw the development of two forms of management innovation: one for supply-driven, seller’s market-oriented batch-and-queue material and information processing – which is what all business schools teach – and one for demand-driven, buyers’ market-oriented flow – which business schools now need to teach across all courses.

Batch-and-queue management practice became the norm because it was a better fit for the dominant market type in the early 20th century. Flow (known today as “Lean management”) became a niche management practice because demand-driven buyers’ markets were much less common.

Supply driven, sellers’ market-oriented batch-and-queue became more deeply entrenched as the preferred management practice as computer systems were developed in the 1960s to automate various business transactions. The great effort made by people to learn batch-and-queue management practice and the large financial investments in hardware and software to support batch-and-queue management practice made it very difficult to displace. As a result, Lean remains a niche management practice today – despite the predominance today of demand-driven buyers’ markets.

The pioneers of progressive management have, over the last 100-plus years, laid the groundwork for the exact management system that both company and customer now need. Batch-and-queue management practice will continue to be dominant in the future unless management educators (and managers) recognize the need to align management practice with the type of market served and the importance of flow. The niche 20th century management innovation, Lean management, perfectly suits the need in the 21st century and beyond.

The information processing age requires that management educators teach Lean to undergraduate and graduate students, which means the curriculum must be substantially upgraded and the type of faculty one needs must also change. Management educators must teach demand-driven, buyers’ market-oriented flow. And, they should compare that to supply-driven, seller’s market-oriented batch-and-queue material and information processing (what they know best) to draw sharp contrasts that will highlight the wide-ranging benefits of Lean.

In addition, they must also compare and contrast the leadership characteristics and routines associated with demand-driven Lean and supply-driven batch-and-queue. The two could not be more different. The former will show clear advantages that support the wants and desires of employees, customers, supplier, investors and communities.

Doing this will take you beyond having distinctive degree programs and into the realm of significantly improving management practice in the real world, for the benefit of all.


Prof. Bob Emiliani

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