Traditional Management Principles

The Myth
Traditional organization principles -- such as the need for hierarchy -- are stifling and outmoded in today's "new economy."

The Finding
Loyalty is not dead, and, the authors assert, neither are certain traditional management principles. These principles are important to both the organization and its workers because both the effectiveness of organizations and worker satisfaction require that there be clear and decisive direction from leadership; clarity of responsibilities, authorities, and accountabilities; authority that is commensurate with responsibility and accountability; unified command (each employee has one boss); a clear approval process; and, rules governing acceptable employee behavior.

These principles are familiar and uncomplicated, and they encompass key aspects of what is normally termed bureaucracy. Although they are familiar, the principles deserve to be repeated because they are fundamental and because they are seen by some influential modern theorists as largely out-of-date and dysfunctional, especially in the "new economy" or "post-industrial age" and with so-called Generation X workers. These theorists talk about recasting traditional hierarchical organizations into all kinds of new forms, such as "spider's webs," "starbursts," "wagon wheels," or "shamrocks."

To seriously advocate the destruction of any semblance of hierarchy shows a lack of experience with the debilitating consequences of working in a directionless organization, or getting conflicting instructions from different bosses, or being unable to decipher who is responsible for what, or not having the authority to carry out one's responsibilities. These severe obstacles hinder the performance of workers, whether they work in the "new" or "old" economy and whatever their "generation."

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