Dismantling Classical Management

Ship Breaking
Dismantling large ships.

Since publishing my latest book, The Triumph of Classical Management Over Lean Management (February 2018), I’ve spent the last 10 months thinking a lot about how Toyota’s management method (TMM) and Lean management are taught to people. The principal methods are via training and education. The former typically takes place in industry and consists of on-the-job training and classroom training. The latter typically takes place in higher education and is classroom- and project-based (i.e. working with local companies to improve a specific processes). These learning methods are, of course, accompanied by books, webinars, conferences, and so on.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the effectiveness of these methods. If we face the truth, we realize that these conventional methods, training and education, have had far less impact than expected. After 30 years, Classical management remains dominant, and Progressive management (TMM, Lean, and variants) has amounted to nothing more than a niche practice by a small number of leaders who are willing to go against “the system.” While we should be thankful for their efforts to further prove the effectiveness of Progressive management, their common approach to getting other leaders to follow their lead is both uninspired and largely ineffective. We must aim higher and try new things (“trystorm”) based upon new information and the advancement of knowledge (see the reading list at the end of this blog post).

We have learned several important things, including:

  • Leaders don’t adopt good ideas based solely on their merit
  • Logical arguments for change are far less effective than imagined
  • Proof is only occasionally convincing
  • Leaders ignore that which they view as disruptive (across economic, social, political, historical, business, and philosophical dimensions)
  • We vastly underestimated the power of social learning among executives (which perpetuates the status quo)
  • We did not understand the depth and breadth of executive prerogative
  • Business is not all about money (if it were, CEOs would readily adopt Lean management)

This led me to think how change comes about, or not, and why the methods commonly used for influencing change has been so ineffective. So I started to think about how change could be forced, particularly under circumstances where leaders refuse to change in light of irrefutable evidence and the existence of a real need for change.

Over the last 10 months, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research focused on how change happens. Specifically, identify methods that can force change and are both within the realm of reason and achievable. The thought I had in mind as I pursued my work was whether it was possible to dismantle archaic Classical management and open the door widely for its replacement by modern progressive management. So here is the research question I pursued: If Classical management could be dismantled, how would you do it?

Early this month, I started to write up my findings, resulting in a research paper titled: “Dismantling Classical Management.” The paper examines four novel approaches to dismantling Classical management based on the following grounds:

  • Public health policy
  • Duty of care
  • Antitrust
  • Constitutionality

Click here to read the paper. Comments are welcome. Please let me know what you think of it.

Update (15 January 2019): The paper has now been incorporated into the book The Triumph of Classical Management Over Lean Management. Click here to buy the book.

Comments from readers:

“Brilliant and giv[es] hope for the future.” – JL
“You have done a fine job of pulling together many strands from a wickedly complex reality – nice contribution!” – JM

New information and the advancement of knowledge:

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