MANAGEMENT HISTORY Origins – Management in New Zealand

In the way things were put in those days, Management magazine began its publishing life as “the official organ” of the New Zealand Institute of Management in April 1955. NZIM National president Thomas said in 1955: “Those responsible for its control will try to make it readable, reliable guide and stimulant for all who have the responsibility of controlling the money, men, machines, materials and methods which are the stuff of management.”
It was, in 1955, as serviceable definition of management as any other. Management was published independently by S M Niblock’s Modern Productions, but there was close association with NZIM, which had been promoting the management concept since 1945. By 1955 New Zealand had recovered strongly from the wartime years of anxiety and austerity, the economy boosted by the Korean War wool boom of the early 1950s. There was confidence and consumer demand and the baby boom was pushing suburbs further out from the centre of cities.
Management organisations and publications were not new idea – the American Management Association began in the early 1920s and the Harvard Business Review in October 1922 – but half century ago there was considerable time lag before new ideas reached the South Pacific and it was not until Labour came to power in 1935 that there was much enthusiasm for large-scale industrialisation. This, and the predominance of family-owned businesses, meant there was only small professional managerial class.
In the early 1950s management theory focused narrowly on what managers did. George Terry, in his Principles of Management (1953) emphasised planning, organising, directing, coordination, and controlling. And Koontz and O’Donnell stressed management’s social character – “the function of getting things done through others” – in Principles of Management: An Analysis of Managerial Functions (1955).
Peter Drucker was one of the first to describe management as an economic activity. “It [management] has failed if it does not improve or at least maintain the wealth-producing capacity of the economic resources entrusted to it,” he wrote in The Practice of Management (1954). This book, with its management-by-objectives tenets, would profoundly influence generation of managers.
Management as calling of almost mystical qualities was bolstered by the 1956 publication of William H Whyte’s The Organization Man. He wrote: “They are the ones of our middle class who have left home, spiritually as well as physically, to take the vows of organization life, and it is they who are the mind and soul of our great self-perpetuating institutions.”
Management’s role and ambitions were altogether more prosaic. Articles in the first and subsequent, monthly A5 issues dealt with issues like factory layout, cost control, time and motion study, distribution costs, productivity, safety in factories, the use of research, and how well the accountancy department measured up. Local articles and overseas reprints were interspersed with the cut and paste of topical newspaper and magazine clippings.
There was strong advertising support for the new publication, edited by Denis McClure, an industrial consultant with close links to NZIM. Readers were considered likely buyers of Burroughs accounting machines, Roneo duplicators, Sonophone sound systems, the magical qualities of microfilming, Cambridge sports coats and, when socialising, Pimm’s No 1 Cup. The NZ Towel Supply, an early advertiser, is still promoting its services to Management readers almost half century later.
The books reviewed in Management were as earnest and worthy as the articles: Financial Control for the Small Manufacturer, The Training of Supervisors, The Handbook of Advanced Time-Motion Study, Foremanship, Big Business Methods for the Small Business.
In the September 1955 issue, Clive Tidmarsh, pioneering PR practitioner in New Zealand, wrote that business leaders must become more publicity minded. half century later, his commentary on contemporary attitudes might be from faraway planet: “Some of the more conservative and old-fashioned businesses still consider it’s rather bad form to be mentioned anywhere in print. Others are so scared about their competitors (or the Commissioner of Taxes) finding out what they are doing that they automatically regard all publicity as detrimental.”
Early in 1956, Management readers were generally contented, but ‘L P’, correspondent, was concerned that the niceties were not being observed when mailing the magazine to subscribers. “If you look at the envelope which I enclose, you will notice that I (and no doubt all other subscribers) are simply addressed by the name without being given any recognition in terms of compliment.” The editor responded, with impressive restraint, that “the practice of our distributors is in accordance with modern trends”. The point at issue was the honorific ‘Mr’; that it might have been ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’ or even ‘Ms’ would not have yet occurred to anyone.
There were editorial musings – in early 1956 – after 12 months of successful publication, about the changing role of management in New Zealand. “However much the break-up of family empires creates nostalgia for stable earlier days, there are at least some compensations in ‘professional management’, wherein competitively chosen managers may displace or augment the scions of an automatic succession. These have been underlined by recent statements of Henry Ford II, in his much publicized decision to limit private shareholding as he had earlier limited family influence in the ranks of his senior management.”
There was also reiteration of Management’s objectives: authoritative articles and cuttings and well-based challenges to accepted principles of management; coverage of all managerial functions; the needs of all management levels served; personal and impersonal aspects of management covered; and the encouragement of controversy. The last had been hardest to achieve. “As people, New Zealanders tend to be less critical than perhaps they realize. And whilst we agree with Disraeli that ‘it is much easier to be critical and correct’, we welcome those letters of disagreement which interrupt the continuity of kindly approval which comes our way.”
After three years in business, Management staff pondered the reasons for its success. One was its relationship with NZIM, an approach that has remained consistent over the years. “We keep to minimum the internal chit-chat of the Institute of Management simply because we disagree with the popular platitude that ‘personal paragraphs always appeal’. (They do, if they rise above banality and are of fresher date than is possible in monthly magazine. You’ve only got to look at some of the drivel in number of NZ house organs to know what we mean.)”
In September 1958 Management celebrated the incorporation of Trade and Industry magazine, the original Modern Productions publication, with move to quarto size (a little smaller than A4) and more articles on law, investment and economic and financial trends. Now it would cover the concerns of businessmen, industrialists and professional people as well as managers. Along with the increased coverage came features editor, with Robert Westgate now assisting editor Denis McClure.
Strangs’ Bookshop was promoting C Northcote Parkinson’s Parkinson’s Law or The Pursuit of Progress, but its central premise that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” was altogether too frivolous an idea for the magazine’s editorial pages. An article about management training for NZ Railways stationmasters was about as quirky as Management got.
However, for those who think workplace stress is phenomenon of the late 20th century, it was being widely talked about in the late 1950s. One article, in November 1958, quoted Dr Harry Johnson: “All this talk about the unusually high incidence of disease in their ranks is turning executives into worried, fearful, and sometimes neuroti

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