Long time readers of my posts here know that I’m reviewing the books that most influenced my thinking about data and data quality management. Today’s book is Mary Parker Follett Prophet of Management.
My first job out of graduate school was at Bell Labs. At that time, Labbers were expected to have deep expertise in their fields, take individual initiative, cultivate a network of others with related expertise, and work together for the common good. Not everyone did, of course, but by and large that was the way it was. The best management “hired the best people, gave them the tools they needed, pointed them in the right direction, and stayed out of the way.”
There were re-organizations of course. One wag commented that “it gave managers something to do so the rest of us could do real work.” I never saw the re-orgs having any impact whatsoever.
I guess I assumed every company pretty much worked the same. Boy, was I wrong!
I first read Mary Parker Follett Prophet of Management (the book consists of a series of her most important lectures and book chapters. Pauline Graham served as Editor, Peter Drucker wrote the Introduction and Rosabeth Moss Kanter the Foreword) just as I was awakening to the importance of organization, leadership, management, and people. Some of my favorite chapters are titled “Power,” “The Basis of Authority,” “Essentials of Leadership,” and “The Process of Control.”
Really heady stuff, explained through a deep understanding of the way people and organizations really are (not “should be, in a perfect world”). For me personally, Prophet of Management made clear that nothing, repeat, nothing happens without people, management, leadership and organization!
Most amazing of all, most Chapters and lectures are from the 1920s – a full generation before Douglas McGregor wrote The Human Side of Enterprise. Mark that well. She was a full generation ahead of everyone else!
Parker Follett did not, of course, focus on data quality. But we are well-advised to pay great heed to her thinking. We’ll get through the technical issues. It’s the softer issues that hold us back!
Next week: The Trouble with Computers