Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Management Myth by Matthew Stewart

The subject of The Management Myth came up in friendly conversation over lunch. But the aftermath was anything but passive. The Management Myth happens to be one of those books (summarized brilliantly in an article in The Atlantic) that has readers with similar backgrounds disagreeing on almost every aspect of its story. On one hand, it's the story of Stewart himself and his explosive career in management consulting. On the other, it's about how management came to be in the first place. Students of business schools will love (or hate) The Management Myth, but other disciplines will find themselves without enough to hold on.

Over the course of a two-fold narrative, Stewart gives us the low-down on the management consulting industry. According to some fairly convincing evidence, we should be wary of the suit-touting consultant who whispers into the ear of chief executives and heads of political institutions. Throughout the book, Stewart makes some extremely convincing arguments and shows how the "science" of management is not a science at all. For me, this was definitely the right time to read this book. Its great support for a course on the philosophy of science.

But there is some silliness involved as well. Especially, I barely made it through the first few chapters on the management teachings of Taylor and others. Nobody takes Taylorism seriously, and probably hasn't taken it seriously in 50 years. Let's just forget about him. Also, not all of his argumentation is as convincing. Stewart makes management consulting out to be the absolute worst profession, but I would have loved to hear some discussion of even a few possible merits. His case is so convincing that those few caveats would not have spoiled it, on the contrary.

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