Research Seminars

Management Techniques: Transient Fads or Trending Fashions?

Speaker: Eric Abrahamson
Professor of Management, Bernstein Faculty Leader, New York University

20 February 2009 - From 14:30 to 17:30

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Room 7

In this theory development case study, we focus on the relations across recurrent waves in the amount and kind of language promoting and diffusing, and then demoting and rejecting, management techniques for transforming the input of organizational labor into organizational outputs. We suggest that rather than manifesting themselves as independent, transitory, and un-cumulative fads, the language of repeated waves cumulates into what we call management fashion trends. These trends are protracted and major transformations in what managers read, think, express, and enact, that result from the accumulation of the language of these consecutive waves. For the language of five waves in employee-management techniques management objective, job enrichment, quality circles, total quality management and business process reengineering we measure rational and normative language suggesting, respectively, that managers can induce labor financially or psychologically. The results reveal a gradual intensification in the ratio of rational to normative language over repeated waves, suggesting the existence of a management fashion trend across these techniques. Lexical shifts over time, however, serve to differentiate a fashion from its predecessor, creating a sense of novelty and progress from the earlier to the later fashions.

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