Human Resources Consulting - Columbia SC

Business Management Fads

Employers are constantly on the watch for ways to improve the environment, productivity and profitability of their organizations. To that end they keep abreast of the latest management ideas, technologies and programs. Confronted with advertising, promotions and social pressure, it is difficult to ascertain which programs might have long term positive effects for their companies and which might be management fads. It is an important difference.

“Management Fad” is sometimes used as a term to characterize a change in philosophy or operations which is implemented by a business or institution for the purpose of obtaining a competitive advantage.

Management fads often have the following characteristics:

  • New jargon for existing business processes
  • External consultants who specialize in the implementation of the fad
  • A certificate or appraisal process performed by the external agent for a fee
  • Amending or adding job titles and duties of existing employees which include references to the fad
  • Claims of business improvement via a measurement that is defined by the fad itself
    An internal sponsoring department or individual that gains influence due to the fad’s implementation
  • Big words and complex phrases
  • Promises that if a company embraces the fad in all aspects, then the company will outperform their peers

Over the last 70 years dozens of management fads have been introduced into the workplace. Some of them include the following:

Decision Trees
Management Grids
Theory X and Y
Theory Z
Management by Objectives
360 Degree Feedback
Business Process Reengineering
Embracing Mistakes
Matrix Management
Sensitivity Training
Authentic Leadership
Zero Based Budgeting
Quality Circles/TQM
One Minute Managing
One Minute Managing
Management by Walking Around
Emotional Intelligence
Six Sigma
Core Competency
Balanced Scorecard
Self Directed Work Teams

Over the last 40 years, I have worked as a Human Resources professional in the positions of Director or VPHR for several hospitals and financial institutions. I have personally witnessed the implementation and demise of several of the programs listed above. As an example, in 1990, I was the VPHR of a large hospital in Tennessee. One morning, a meeting was held where I and several hundred other employees were present. The hospital COO began to explain that the hospital would soon be undergoing a fundamental change which would last well into the next century. It was called Total Quality Management. Implementation of this program would give us a measurable competitive advantage over other hospitals in the area. Soon thereafter, all employees went through an exhaustive training regime to insure that everyone was aware of what to do and how to do it. Seven years later, the program was abandoned. It became just one of a multitude of management fads.

This brings me to the primary reason for this post. I have read and heard a lot recently about the new programs of diversity and inclusion. Are they the newest management fad or are they here to stay? One writer stated that, “Businesses which embrace diversity are said to be better equipped to remain competitive and current in the modern workforce. In a diverse team, individuals with varied talents and backgrounds work together towards a common goal. They develop more heterogeneous solutions and ideas. This increases creativity and problem solving abilities.”

On the other hand another writer states, “Some people believe that a diverse team will more likely encourage dissent among the members which discourages group think in the process and also discourages creativity.”

When reading about diversity and inclusion, many sites use various versions of the following claim. “Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects at their businesses statistically out perform their peers.” If you could look back at the marketing materials over the past 70 years of the fads listed above, I believe that you would find the same statement in each one. Just delete the words diversity and inclusion and insert Six Sigma, Matrix Management, Quality Circles, TQM, etc.

A little research on the internet will produce a multitude of information on why businesses should and should not embrace the practice of diversity and inclusion. It is not my intent to become a proponent of either side of this discussion. I leave that up to the readers to decide for themselves. Unfortunately, it seems that there is no way to accurately forecast whether or not diversity and inclusion initiatives are truly a long term management tool or if they are just another management fad which is doomed to fail. If I am still around in 10 years, I will try to remember to write another article in 2031 to answer the question.

In the meantime, in order to ensure a best fit to any company, it behooves every employer to take the time and effort to inspect the details of any proposed new program and to consider how well the program components and goals fit the mission, vision and values of the company. Quality management, efficiency and productivity, are important to any successful business. Employers have an obligation to insure that their businesses are following sound, effective and proven principles - not by following the latest management fad.

A company’s best defense against the potential expense and aggravation related to federal or state law violations is to proactively review and revise as needed all Human Resources policies, handbooks, hiring procedures, compensation, benefits, training programs, communications tools and other functions. The professionals of PHHR are ready to assist your organization with this type of training as well as to maintain compliance with the latest state and federal mandates.

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Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC
Columbia, South Carolina
Office: (803) 481-9533
Cell: (803) 305-8962 

Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC