Want to start a fight at your next meeting? Ask everyone what they think of a management theory from ages past. If they know what you’re talking about, they’ll either groan and roll their eyes, or they’ll start telling you why such-and-such a theory should still be practiced today. That’s because most of these fads are a “love ’em or hate ’em” proposition. Fans claim that adhering to a given theory will help you advance your career; detractors say it’s a waste of time. No wonder, then, that so many management fads have faded away — and for good reason.
“No one talks much of economics fads, or accounting fads, but there is something about the word ‘management’ that means the word ‘fad’ is never far away,” writes Lucy Kellaway in her column in the Financial Times. Trendy and occasionally based more on pop psychology and buzzwords than actual scientific data and research, some management theories deserved to molder with the CD-Roms and the electric typewriters in storage room B.
Kellaway’s list of gone, but not mourned, management fads include:
1. Management by Walking Around
No, this isn’t when you and all your coworkers do your best impression of Aaron Sorkin characters and walk and talk, it’s when management makes it a point to circulate in person on a regular basis, to check in with workers. Management by Walking Around was popular at Hewlett-Packard in the ’70s. It was supposed to encourage managers to leave their office, but had the potential to be a lot more like this:
Anyway, this one would never fly now. Many of us have coworkers we’ve only spoken to on IM … and they work three cubicles away. It’s not a Walking Around world anymore.
2. Six Sigma
As Kellaway points out, only management consultants seem to really understand Six Sigma, which had its heyday in the 1980s. You might run into some companies that still believe in Six Sigma, but most organizations became too bogged down in meetings and too confused by the terminology (black belt, green belt, etc.) to continue.
3. Business Process Re-engineering
This one sounds great. Who wouldn’t like to tear out some archaic systems and ways of doing business, in order to make things more efficient? The only problem was, people often got fired as a result, a lot of the time unnecessarily. Not exactly a worker-friendly theory, from that perspective, and thus, doomed to fail.
Tell Us What You Think
Which management fad were you most happy to see go? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.
More from PayScale