MANAGEMENT THEORIES IN THE 1980s

The 1980s spanned a period in which three new trends appeared in the strategic management theory developed in the 1970s. These new trends were (1) Porter’s Competitive Strategy (1980); (2) Japanese-style business management theory (Ouchi, 1982, 1993; Pascale & Athos, 1981); and (3) Peters and Waterman’s Eight Excellence Attributes from their book, In Search of Excellence (1982).

In Competitive Strategy, Porter expanded the subject of strategic management from whole companies to competitive strategy in operational divisions. The 1980s was when people were once again asking themselves how to manage the operations that many managers had diversified in the 1970s. Porter’s competitive strategy not only analysed the internal environment (organisation) of business strategy, but also set companies’ sights on the external environment of competitor companies (that had been increasing) or on diversifying, as it attempted to answer those questions.

However, as of the mid-1980s, strategic management theory that had implemented elaborate management planning and had been the mainstream management theory since the 1970s began to be criticised as an ‘analytical management theory’. Strategic management theory centralised all matters to head office staff responsible for strategy formulation, introduced complications and organisational bureaucratisation in implementing strategies, imposed many institutional formalities on employees, and caused a decline in the ability to adapt to the changing circumstances on site. Situations such as these in which results were unimpressive relative to the effort spent on strategic management came to be mocked as ‘paralysis by analysis syndrome’.

In this manner, strategic management theory, which had hitherto been criticised, gained ground in the 1980s. The U.S. economy became sluggish in the 1980s with U.S. companies being pressured by Japanese companies that had increased their competitive power internationally. With the U.S. economy receding, Japanese companies suddenly began to prosper, garnering worldwide attention. Japanese-style TQC (changed to TQM in the 1990s) and Theory Z grabbed the spotlight as examples of Japanese-style business management theories. This was the second trend. The world of libraries too was influenced in no small way by the trends of this period. For example, besides the Japanese-style TQC and Theory Z (Ouchi, 1982), The Art of Japanese Management (Pascale & Athos, 1981) had a major influence on thinking in the United States, and was introduced among library management textbooks. This is how Japanese management styles made an appearance among U.S. library management textbooks, and their practical application onsite was attempted.

However, Peters and Waterman’s In Search of Excellence criticised the huge impact of Japanese-style management, arguing instead to focus on American business management styles. By analysing U.S. firms that had been achieving long-term success even under a recession, they reaffirmed the greatness of U.S. companies and of an American comeback for U.S. firms that had been losing to Japanese ones, and whose confidence was beginning to flag.

 
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