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The Business Forum Journal


"Management by . . . ???"


By Henry H. Goldman



In my article, "The Origins and Development of Quality Initiatives in American Business" (The Business Forum Journal, 2010), I alluded to a series of early management programs that led directly or indirectly to the Quality Movement in the United States.  Among these were a group of management techniques that were generally called, "Management by Objective" or MBO.  The late Peter Drucker claimed to have been the originator of MBO, in his 1954, The Practice of Management, but, then, he also claimed ownership of Total Quality Management (TQM).  One of the "founders" of MBO, and the person who really developed the idea was George S. Odiorne, in his, Management by Objectives: A System of Managerial Leadership (1965).

Odiorne was joined by several management consultants/management trainers espousing various subsets of MBO.  Among these were David N. Chalk, who early in the 1980s developed a more defined management program which he called, "Management by Commitment," (MBC) but not published until 2008, hence, generally overlooked by those who did not have the opportunity to hear Chalk's presentations.

Still another early attempt at redefining MBO, a system that Edwards Deming and Joe Juran thoroughly disliked, was by Southern California based management consultant and lecturer, David S. Norris, whose "Management by Specifications," became a popular, but, generally local, refinement of both MBO and MBC.

I had the honor of working closely with David Chalk during the 1980s and 90s.  Much of the work we did was centered around the MBC style, and it worked.  Companies that used MBC, as opposed to MBO, found it easier to use and gained more from it as a change in how company leadership made assignments.

Norris' MBS also gained popularity about the same time.  Norris published a small pamphlet which he used as advertising material for his consulting practice, entitled, "Management by Specification," but, undated.  I received my copy early in the 80s, when Norris spoke before the Los Angeles Area Chapter of the Planning Executives Institute.  The pamphlet was a handout for those in attendance.

 While Chalk's MBC required that managers "commit" to achieving particular goals or objectives, Norris' MBS, demanded that managers agree to achieve those specific goals and/or objectives.  He defined Management by Specification as follows:

One can always have fun putting together various definitions of words using a good dictionary in order to define what is really meant by a term of four words leading to the final definition of "Management by Specification."

  • Management is the art of accomplishing

  • The Manager must succeed in accomplishing

  • Specification requires a detailed, precise plan (on paper)

  • A Plan is a method of carrying out a design or a goal [or objective]

  • Management by Specification [is] the art of detailed, precise planning (on paper) and accomplishing a design or a goal [or objective]

 Both Chalk and Norris see their respective systems as requiring a full and complete change in management thinking.  Both systems demand that management develop empathy for their subordinates, that the managers "walk in another's shoes."  Management, therefore, becomes collaborative with those who are to be managed.  Both systems, while different in application, strive to reach the same overall goals:

  • Customer Satisfaction

  • On-time delivery

  • Costs under control

  • Customer involvement

  • Empowered employees

The considerations are, of course, virtually congruent with those of the quality movements that followed closely behind the "Management By . . .."  Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, it appears that the quality initiative of contemporary choice is Six Sigma, together with Lean Manufacturing, while the ISO 9000 Quality standards have been placed on a shelf, to be viewed, from time-to-time, but, not seen as being very important.

There is a continued linkage between the "Management by Commitment, by Objective and by Specification" and quality.  Every management trend from Fayol and McGregor to Drucker, George Steiner and Michael Porter, have, at least at the broad end of the spectrum, contributed to the quality movements in American business, if not the world.  Deming and Juran are, therefore, supported by the attempts of management theorists in increasingly holding management responsible for quality.

Henry H. Goldman is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and is the Managing Director of the Goldman Nelson Group.  Henry got his Masters Degree at the University of Iowa and did his Doctoral Studies at the University of Southern California.  He is a Certified Professional Consultant to Management (CPCM); and has published numerous articles in trade journals and was Associate Editor of Taking Stock: A Survey on the Practice and Future of Change Management (Berlin, Germany).  He is a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); Association of Professional Consultants (APC) and the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC). Henry has consulted and/or offered training in South Africa, Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Barbados, Georgia, Kosovo, Tajikistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and of course North America.  He has also taught at Baker University: Lee�s Summit, MO, 2008, Adjunct Professor of International Business; National Graduate School: Falmouth, MA, 2004-2008, Adjunct Professor of Quality Management; California State University: Fullerton, 2005-2006, Lecturer on Taxation; University of California: Berkeley, 2002, Adjunct Professor of Management; University of Macau (China), Adjunct Professor of Management, 2001-2003.

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