Go Forth & Multiply

Management Muster

There may be good reason for some management trends-but why must we have so many? Carson says some companies seek out current fashions as a way to disguise past mistakes and dodge responsibility. Carson characterizes this attitude as, "If we adopt this and it doesn't work, it's not our fault."

Another source is undoubtedly an increase in the number and energy of people working to come up with new management ideas. "There are definitely more consultancies marketing these innovations," Carson says. However, she isn't sure why. It could be because more people want to cash in on the recognition and fat fees that come with being seen as a management trend originator � la Tom Peters or W. Edwards Deming. Or it could be because companies themselves are demanding ever-newer answers to what are, after all, ever-newer problems.

IT'S ACADEMIC

Rita Gunther McGrath started two companies before joining the faculty of the Columbia Business School in 1993. Now an associate professor of management and co-author of The Entrepreneurial Mindset (Harvard Business School Press), McGrath talked to Entrepreneur about how management of entrepreneurial companies, in particular, has changed over the past few years--and how it's changing now.

"In the past 25 years," McGrath says. "the major difference in how entrepreneurial companies are managed has to do with the sophistication with which business processes are approached by young, new companies. Many entrepreneurs today take advantage of knowledge, tools and techniques they could not have dreamed of years back. The effects of this have been to level the playing field on many dimensions with larger organizations.

"I also see the use of new technologies making it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to leverage their contacts with established organizations by providing them with outsourced services, by linking with their ongoing processes, and by making the kinds of commitments that would have been inconceivable years ago.

"Young companies today are also far more open to opportunities than they were in the past. I think the advent of global trade and advances in information and communications technologies have helped this. Another big plus is that people today [are] far more open to attracting and utilizing diverse talent; that's been a wonderful development in the world of entrepreneurship.

"On the less positive side, I see a tendency for entrepreneurs to get so carried away by opportunities that they forget some of the entrepreneurial basics: Know your customers better than a big company can, keep it simple, keep it cheap, stay focused. Too many entrepreneurs spend their time processing e-mail, futzing around with advanced technology that hasn't been debugged yet and flirting with too many ideas. The new technologies are thus a boon and a bane."


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This article was originally published in the May 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Go Forth & Multiply.

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