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Management science: threat or menace?

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Squeech Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-05 09:31 AM
Original message
Management science: threat or menace?
So Mrs. Squeech, having been laid off last year, is going to school to learn to do the work she's always wanted to do (interior design). The program she's taking gives this certificate after a year, which she says is enough of a credential to work.

Most of it is useful, but there's this requirement to take a management course, which she's doing now. She complained over the weekend that the reading didn't make any sense, and I offered to try and see if I could interpret it.

No, she's right, it's ridiculous. This chapter claimed to be about how management adapts to change, but it didn't explain anything, wasn't rigorous in the least, and basically consisted of a long string of Repuke talking points.

The one thing I can say from personal experience is that the authors don't know squat about technology, especially information technology (which of course doesn't stop them from ascribing humongous benefits to it). For example, there's this picture of a big control panel, with a bunch of monitor screens showing spiffy graphics-- looks to me like the main console of a power plant, showing the turbine and other crucial systems, and other screens running the numbers. But the caption says that the guys sitting in front of it are systems analysts, busily creating value in the new information economy. Huh? They also devote some attention to trying (and failing) to delineate the differences between the Internet and institutional intranets and extranets, and then they print a graph that purports to show how a business progresses in e-commerce-- except that they forgot to label the axes of the graph, so it's impossible to say what the graph really says!

They list a number of corporations as exemplars of contemporary management practices, specifically how adaptable they are in the fast paced modern world. One such, cited with appalling frequency, is Wal-Mart. They never quite say what Wally World, or indeed any of their picks, do to deserve their praise, beyond some generalities about how they use information technology to enhance profitability, which admittedly they do. But this also means they gloss over Wally World's well known anti-competitive practices, abuse of their workers, steamrollering of their suppliers, and contempt for their customers and communities.

There's a meandering discussion of corporate ethics, boilerplate for the most part (did we really need to be told that published ethical standards are most effective when the corporate leadership stands behind them and exemplifies them?), and of civic responsibilities of businesses (couldn't be vaguer). An example of the latter is a case where they claim that a manager hires a new guy and pays him $1.50 above the minimum wage because he's motivated by social justice. It seems to me that there are entirely self-serving reasons to pay more than legally required-- like you want the kid to stick around after you train him, not jump ship once he knows what he's doing and work for a competitor. In fact, the one thing that emerges from all this hogwash is that management doesn't (shouldn't?) value education or work experience. Apparently those systems analysts just dropped out of the sky to sit in front of those brightly colored consoles and create value; you didn't have to train them, or fund the schools where they learned how to do that, and if you downsize them, you can always go back to the well and hire some more. There is in fact a discussion of downsizing that says NOTHING except that it preserves the flexibility of businesses: nothing about how much redundancy was caused by the mergers and acquisitions frenzy of the last 25 years, nothing about how Wall Street rewards downsizers, no reality-based information at all.

Related to that, there's some stuff about globalization, presented only as how your company might want to do business in some other country. The authors list three steps: (1) publishing your catalog in the target country, so customers there can order your product; (2) hiring somebody to represent your company in the target country, so customers have someone to talk to about what your product does; (3) opening a factory to actually produce your product in the target country. (They note that this last could be a joint venture with an already existing business.) They say some guff about being sensitive to local tastes, mores, and legalities, and point out as an example that Frito-Lay's British division makes a flavor of Doritos that they don't market in the States. What they don't say is that the usual way a major corporation gets a presence in another country is to buy it (at least the American-based firms; Toyota and the other foreign automakers actually built new plants in the USA, using the latest technology-- stuff GM and Ford haven't figured out yet). And I bet you anything that those special British Doritos are a recipe from a formerly independent British snack food company bought out by Frito-Lay.

So we talked it out last night, and I think we're both still fuming. And she's going to go to class tonight and argue. Fortunately the professor seems to agree that the book isn't worth a bucket of warm spit, so it should be interesting.
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mhr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-05 09:42 AM
Response to Original message
1. Sounds Very Typical Of A Lot Of Textbooks - Mired In Generalities
In Business School - One focuses on case studies to actually try and apply some of these vague notions.

Even that approach has limitations since the amount of information used for decision making is limited.

Sounds like the authors of this textbook were asked to put some filler in their textbook and complied.

Either that or they were just practicing their Bullshit skills.
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Squeech Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-05 10:18 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. But it's all bullshit
Granted, this was an introductory chapter, and maybe there's some actual meat later in the book.

But really, there was so little specific illustration of anything (e.g. the British Doritos) we basically agreed that the purpose was to introduce all the terms that one would expect to hear in a conversation about management challenges in changing times-- except that it failed to define most of these terms, just sorta highlighted them as buzz words.

Some wag once referred to "A principle so perfectly general that no practical application is possible." That's kinda what this was like, except it wasn't remotely clever or witty, it was just the Stepford School of Management.
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mhr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-05 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Almost All Of The Business Curriculum Is Bullshit
These folks wing it more than most people would believe.

The problem is that one never has enough information or time. Despite this decisions need to be made.

It ain't rocket science.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-05 11:06 AM
Response to Original message
3. Take class. Get passing grade. Forget junk. Reuse neurons.
In that order.

She wants to actually DO things, not be a PHB parasite.

But of course some RW ideology debunking may be fun. Especially if the teacher is on your side. :thumbsup:
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