9 Notable Management Fads (or Trends)

Last Updated Apr 16, 2009 2:12 PM EDT

I've seen a lot of management concepts in twenty something years of managing. Some were gnarly academic constructs while others came from popular books. Some came and went (fads), while others came and stayed (trends).

Here are nine I think are notable for one reason or another, along with my unsolicited and chronically irreverent opinion of their value.


9 Notable Management Fads (or Trends)
  1. The One Minute Manager. I learned to give employees real-time, honest feedback early in my career; that methodology has stood the test of time surprisingly well.
  2. Core Competency. Focus on what you're good at. Such a fundamental management concept - from Gary Hamel, I think - that it seems almost obvious, in hindsight.
  3. Matrix Management. Brilliant organizational concept that's nearly impossible to execute without creating mass confusion and, ultimately, way more problems than it solves.
  4. Crossing the Chasm. "First there was a mountain, then there was no mountain, then there was." I'm still not sure what that was all about, but Geoffrey Moore's niche marketing discussion was very useful.
  5. The Power of Positive Thinking. There are some pitfalls - like taking it too far - but anything that makes whiners into can-doers is probably a good thing.
  6. Guerrilla Marketing. If nothing else, it got marketers to come up with creative ways to achieve grassroots traction on minimal budgets.
  7. Strategic Planning. Rarely has such a critical concept been so poorly executed by so many consultants, executives and companies. It's almost embarrassing.
  8. Organization Development. Turned straightforward concepts like change management into a nightmare of complexity; OD provided a career path for HR people, aka executive coaches.
  9. Downsizing. Who knew, when we first started downsizing in the 80s to fix the excesses of the previous generation, that it would become a way of life? Sad, but true.
Looking for number 10 -- did I miss any good ones?

Of course, the real point of this is that each of these concepts, with the possible exception of downsizing, was heralded as insightful at the time of its introduction. The only way we can ultimately differentiate fad from trend is by trying them out and seeing what worked. After all, that is the scientific method, isn't it?

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