The Management Century: A book review by Bob Morris

Management CenturyThe Management Century
Stuart Crainer
Jossey-Bass/Wiley Imprint (2000)

A brilliant survey of cutting-edge business thinking in the 20th century

Note: I reviewed this book when it was published in 2000 and recently re-read it in preparation to read and then review the first volumes in the Thinkers50 Series, co-edited by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. I am astonished, frankly, by how relevant Crainer’s insights in The Mangement Century remain fifteen years later.

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This is one in a series of “Strategy & Business” books from Booz-Allen & Hamilton, published by Jossey-Bass. All are first-rate and well-worth checking out. In this book, Crainer devotes a separate chapter to each of the 20th century’s ten decades, concluding each chapter with a timeline. In the final chapter, he provides an insightful analysis of “The State of Management” that is well-worth checking out.

In his Preface, Crainer observes that “the historical and theoretical strands that go to make up management are many and varied. The great management thinkers are drawn from a bewildering variety of disciplines and professions.” He then explains that his book “aims to gather together many of these gloriously varied strands and provide a concise and insightful guide to the major developments in thinking and practice during the twentieth century.” Here in the proverbial “nutshell” is what this book is all about. Given the wealth of rock-solid content contained within a single-volume, presented with a crisp writing style, Crainer’s is indeed a brilliant achievement. Here are the ten periods and some of the “great management thinkers and practitioners” discussed in each:

1900-1910: Stopwatch Science (e.g. Elihu Root, Henri Fayol, and Frederick Winslow Taylor)

1911-1920: Modern Times (e.g. Henry Ford, Frank & Lilian Gilbreth)

1921-1930: Discovering the Organization [e.g. Max Weber, Chester Barnard, Billy Durant, and Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr.]

NOTE: Throughout the book, Crainer inserts his comments. For example: “Taylor discovered work. Ford discovered work on a massive scale. Sloan organized work. And no one discovered the people doing the work.” That is, until the 1930s….

1931-1940: Discovering People (e.g. Mary Parker Follett, Bill Hewlett & David Packard)

1941-1950: Lessons in War (e.g. William S. Knudsen, Walter Shewhart, Akio Morita, Konosuke Matsushita)

NOTE: In 1950, Peter Drucker becomes professor of management at New York University. “The first person anywhere in the world to have such a title and to teach such a subject,” he later said.

1951-1960: Living the Dream (e.g. Ralph Cordiner, Thomas Watson, Sr. and Jr., Peter Drucker’s The Practice of Management, Theodore Leavitt, Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzberg, Douglas McGregor)

1961-1970: Understanding Strategy (e.g. Drucker, rediscovery of Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz, Alfred Chandler, Igor Ansoff, Henry Mintzberg, Harold Geneen, Robert Townsend)

1971-1980: Organized Paralysis (e.g. Alvin Toffler, Thomas J. Peters, Elliott Jaques, Reg Revans, E.F. Schumacher, Meredith Belbin)

1981-1990: An Excellent Adventure (e.g. Robert Hayes & Bill Abernathy, rediscovery of W. Edwards Deming, William Ouchi, Kenichi Ohmae, Joseph Juran, Michael Porter, Gary Hamel, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Warren Bennis)

1991-2000: The New Balance of Power (e.g. Michael Hammer, Percy Barnevik, John Francis Welch Jr., Michael Dell)

As indicated previously, in the final chapter Crainer provides his own analysis of “The State of Management.” It is very well-done. Obviously, this is more of an overview than a traditional book review. My purpose is to suggest the cope of the material covered, and, to suggest also how valuable I consider that coverage to be. I wish a higher rating were available.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Walter Kiechel’s The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World, published by Harvard Business School Press (2010) and Henry Mintzberg’s Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management, published by Free Press/Perseus Book Group (2005).

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