Editor’s Letter 50 Years of Management

Welcome to 2004. Management magazine is now in its 50th year of reporting and writing about New Zealand managers and their experiences. We should be doing it still in another 50 years. The publication and its content will, no doubt, be as different then as it is today from the pint-sized, A5 booklet it was when launched at the start of 1955. But compelling stories about effective managers, leaders and directors will be just as relevant in 2054, as they are now, and as they were back then.
Some prophets, like American consultants and authors Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith, last year predicted “the end of management” in their book by the same name. Organisational hierarchy, bureaucracy and autocracy, which still prevail, are “antiquated” and unsustainable, they wrote. Management guru Tom Peters seems to agree in his latest book Imagine! because, he says, “workplace revolution” is under way. “No sensible person expects to spend lifetime in single corporation any more. Some call this shift the ‘end of corporate responsibility’. I call it the beginning of renewed individual responsibility,” offers Peters. Other even more radical thinkers like William Greider, author of The Soul of Capitalism, suggest management and leadership will change because the prevailing capitalist structure is “unsustainable” – thought in large measure shared by London School of Economics professor and author John Gray in his powerful new book Straw Dogs.
Yes, there is plethora of international reading on the future of management and enterprise but there is always place for homegrown interpretation. Management magazine will continue to contribute to New Zealand’s management and leadership literature, for as long as it remains relevant. This issue takes look at developments in the relatively short evolutionary life of contemporary management, and speculates little on the consequences of the quickening pace of change. We pick up on the trends and tap into the thoughts of some of this country’s management thinkers – wise people like former New Zealand Institute of Management president Doug Matheson.
Tom Peters, from the dubious security of California, advocates organisational “destruction”. He rants (his word): “We pursue preservation. But the old order is doomed. We value permanence. But ‘permanence’ is the last refuge of those with shrivelled imaginations.” He may be right, but managers should also understand the great value that resides in lasting relationships. Management magazine, for instance, owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the New Zealand Institute of Management with whom it has had successful working partnership for the entire 50 years of the magazine’s history. It is imperative to grasp the future. But there are still many useful lessons to be learned from the past.

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