MANAGEMENT HISTORY In the Vanguard of Management Thinking

By the beginning of the 1960s managers had acquired – or conferred on themselves – the mantle of professionalism. With growing confidence and popular business concepts like P & C (planning and control for profits), the new managerial class believed they had the skills and the tools to plan revenue years ahead, to control costs and, of course, make profits. Ernest Dichter’s ‘motivation research’ would provide the tools to guarantee marketplace success.
In fact, rapidly changing business landscape, and particularly the rapid development of technology, soon wiped the complacency from the corporate world’s composite countenance. The invention of the transistor led to an avalanche of innovation that revolutionised business – and the way it was conducted – as well as the rest of life.
Nevertheless, Dichter’s ideas still rated Management article as late as 1965. The father of motivational research had moved from ‘keeping up with the Jones’ to his ‘inner Jones’ phase. He looked ahead to the 1970s: “Having been freed from the wrong morality which permits us to be happy only when we work, we shall guiltlessly and openly pursue the more elevating aspects of life to make us feel like full human beings.” Dichter’s ideas ended up on the same scrapheap as the 30 hour week and the paperless office.
But in world that was still several decades away from the idea and reality of globalisation, change in New Zealand was slower than elsewhere. And we felt only the outer ripples of the tidal wave of ‘conglomeration’ that threatened to engulf US and European business in the 1960s. For time, it was sign of success, rather than theory gone haywire, that ITT owned Hertz rental cars, ran the Chilean phone system and baked Wonder Bread.
In the November 1960 issue of Management, Lever Bros (NZ) chairman C R Borland mused about the changes facing managers in the new decade. “It seems probable that with the emergence of the managerial group, individual responsibility for decision making is likely to decline, while the importance of making strategic analysis and the giving and taking of advice will grow, as likewise will the training function.”Commercial television had arrived and its power was acknowledged, although with only about 40,000 sets in operation by mid 1962 – about 17.5 percent of home penetration in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – the experts advised caution, with adman L M Beck pointing out that “established media such as the press can guarantee intro-home penetration of 90-95 percent and commercial radio up to 75 percent”.
The introduction of television was one reason for the very noticeable increase in marketing articles in Management during the 1960s. Also influential was Theodore Levitt’s Harvard Business Review ‘Marketing Myopia’ articles. These theorised that if business was in trouble or in decline it was not because of market saturation, but because management had concentrated on the production of particular product or service and ignored customer concerns or wants. The American railroad companies, for example, were so preoccupied with investing huge amounts in rolling stock and infrastructure they didn’t notice the beginnings of the trucking and airplane revolutions. The era of the marketing manager was dawning.
There had been low birthrates during the depression years in New Zealand but, by the beginning of the 1960s, the number of teenagers was beginning to climb sharply. Adman Grev Wiggs had some tentative thoughts on the ‘social phenomenon of the teenager’. “The teenager must be understood, not feared, by the businessman. It is important to understand the teenager because starting right now, he or she is rapidly going to become one of your most important customers.”
A few issues later, in March 1961, he was pondering another new social phenomenon – the working wife. In 1926, out of every 100 women who worked, eight were married; in 1956, one woman in every three at work in office or factory was married. For some it was necessity, but Wiggs saw our ‘standard of wants’ as the main driving force.
“In New Zealand, people with lino-square standard of living are in the habit of having wall-to-wall carpet standard of wants …. One way to satisfy the wants – and speedy way – is to have two breadwinners in the family instead of one. So the wife works.”
Women were still more likely to be draped around products in advertisements than written about in Management during the early 1960s. But their suitability as executive wives was of concern, as Jack Morcom discussed in June 1962 article. He recommended studying prospective outside appointees and wives over weekend – “a dinner invitation isn’t quite enough, for all of us can present our most favoured profile for limited time.” On the other hand: “If it’s an appointment from within the company, it’s just little easier, for many occasions arise when the little lady can be met and the sphere of her influence assessed.”
The opportunity for women to be much more than typist or machinist was still in the future, despite the stern rebuke of journalist Molly G Elliott. “When will New Zealand management doff its antique arrogance,” she wrote in late 1961, “and catch up with its overseas counterparts in training women for responsible positions? This field, as the estate agents say, is ripe for development.” It was not until 1965 that she was able to pen ‘Some New Zealand Women Outstanding in Business’. “Warm, approachable people, not one careerist as hard as profit or loss, these women do not surround themselves with chilly circle of accomplishments,” she wrote. “All do jobs with extraordinary success probably feeling that they must in New Zealand’s predominantly man’s world.”
The decade of ‘steady as she goes’ government under the calming leadership of Keith Holyoake disguised the fact that the country’s longest era of economic growth was ending: farm production leveled off, terms of trade were turning internationally against primary producers, Britain was firmly set on course towards EEC membership, and there was still heavy dependence on imported goods. Prosperity, and the full employment that was crucial part of it, was increasingly maintained by high levels of borrowing.
Colin Larsen, an Auckland business consultant, wrote in December 1962 article: “Britain going into the Common Market is not our real dilemma. The terms of trade are moving against us so even if we increased our exports of dairy products, we would probably never have it so good again,” he wrote. “New Zealand’s salvation lies in an involved change of economic emphasis towards establishing basic industries – no matter what the cost.”
In the May 1961 issue of Management, NZIM national president H S J Tilly contributed an article entitled ‘Social Responsibilities of Managers’. Stephen Niblock, who took on the role of editor as well later in the year, was moved to note in his Publisher’s Letter: “The point of view expressed in this article is one that I have not previously come across before in print, but is also one that I am sure will appeal to all men who have the advancement of New Zealand business at heart.” Horace Tilly wrote: “There is no divine right to the ownership of property, nor any divine right to make profits, nor any divine right to seek the self interest of sectional group. These rights were entrusted to us by the society in which we live and work. … An atmosphere of aggression, spirit of self-assertion and the ability to achieve one’s own ends are some of the hallmarks of an efficient manager. These characteristics are also dangers.”
Internationally, and in New Zealand, commerce and industry had moved from solitary leadership to teamwork and from intuition to scientific management thinking. As P F S Otten, international chairman of Philips Electrical said in contributed 1962 article: “Just as at much earlier period absolute monarchy had to make way for parliamentary democracy in the sphere of politics, in industry

Visited 3 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window