In his column in today’s issue of The Observer Simon Caulkin, draws his readers attention to The Puritan Gift by brothers Will and Kenneth Hopper in which theyargue that up to the 1970s, US management was living “on the strength of its Puritan inheritance, part of which (with idealism, mechanical aptitudes and unparalleled ability to galvanise energy behind a single aim) was a belief that the coherence of the collective was more important than any individual”
But from the seventies onwards, America, forgetting what had served it well in the past, went in altogether different direction.
Managers abandoned true north in favour of “neo-Taylorism” – quantitative techniques, “the cult of the expert”, of which the temples were business schools, and heroic CEOs. Raging self-interest and the malign influence of shareholder value did the rest;
Managers in the UK were all too easily persuaded, or could persuade themselves all to easily, to follow suit:
….. lacking their own tradition and burdened by inferiority complex, UK managers were all too easy to drag in the same direction.
Caulkin ends his piece by saying that that the Hoppers’ book does end on a note of “qualified optimism”
Just as the French had to go to the US to reintroduce resistant vines after their own had been wiped out by phylloxera, so the most thoughtful Anglo-US firms are relearning what they once knew from Japan, inheritor of the human-centred US tradition via Deming and others after the war.
For those who may have never heard of Deming, a good place to start learning about him and his work is The W. Edwards Deming Institute.