If you want to understand management – especially manufacturing management – how we got here, what has worked and what doesn’t – and how to get back on the phenomenal track American manufacturing was on before the wheels started to come off a few decades back, you have to read this book.
It is not an overstatement to describe The Puritan Gift as an essential book for manufacturing management. You really will have a hole in your understanding of the art and science of manufacturing until you take the time to let the Hopper brothers fill it for you. It will be the best $20 you ever spent.
(Bill’s full post here)
Social and intellectual history combined with practical advice on business management…sounded interesting, so I ordered a copy. I’ve read it pretty quickly and will now go back and read it in more depth, but I agree with Bill that it’s a pretty significant book. I’d encourage other Chicago Boyz and Chicago Girlz and Readerz to pick up a copy so we can discuss.
The Hoppers attribute America’s economic success, and especially its success in manufacturing, to a set of values they strongly associate with the Puritans:
1)”A conviction that the the purpose of life, however vaguely conceived, was to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth”
2)”An aptitude for mechanical skills”
3)”A moral outlook that subordinated the interests of the individual to the interests of the group”
4)”An ability to assemble, galvanize, and marshal financial, material, and human resources to a single purpose and on a massive, or lesser, scale”
The authors argue that American business went far astray circa 1970, with excessive emphasis on credentialing, too much dominance by the business schools, and too much credulity given to various forms of faux expertise…and, especially, to the rise of the “professional manager,” who was believed able to manage any kind of business, regardless of its substance.
They close the book with 25 principles for restoring good management…here are a few samples:
#3: The most important sub-system in any organization is the managerial hierarchy, which is likely to be based on some form of line-and-staff
#6: The middle manager is the keystone of the managerial arch
#8: Meetings are ‘the medium of management work’
#14: You should use consultants sparingly–and ‘strategic’ consultants never
#18: A manager should possess or acquire what is now known as ‘domain knowledge’, ie a profound understanding of the technology and business of his company, which can normally be gained only through a long apprenticeship in the company or in the same industry.
#22: Employment should, in general be for the long term–by which is meant, at least, eight and, if possible, ten years.
I don’t agree with everything the Hoppers say…I do think there are certain core managerial skills that are applicable across industries and functions, although domain knowledge is indeed of extreme importance. (And developing these core skills is at least as much a function of experience as it is of education.) And on a more galactic level, I think individualism was as important as group orientation in America’s economic success. But I think that anyone who is concerned about America’s economic future–anyone who runs a business or a part of a business, or aspires to do so–anyone who is interested in social and intellectual history–should read this book and spend some time thinking about it.