Management Gurus and Management Fashions: A Dramatistic Inquiry.

Jackson, Bradley Grant (1999) Management Gurus and Management Fashions: A Dramatistic Inquiry. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Since the 1980s, popular management thinkers, or management gurus, have promoted a number of performance improvement programs or management fashions that have greatly influenced both the pre-occupations of academic researchers and the everyday conduct of organizational life. This thesis provides a rhetorical critique of the management guru and management fashion phenomenon with a view to building on the important theoretical progress that has recently been made by a small, but growing, band of management researchers. Fantasy theme analysis, a dramatistically-based method of rhetorical criticism, is conducted on three of the most important management fashions to have emerged during the 1990s: the reengineering movement promoted by Michael Hammer and James Champy; the effectiveness movement led by Stephen Covey; and the learning organization movement inspired by Peter Senge and his colleagues. The study discovers that the rhetorical visions for all three movements possess strong dramatic qualities. It suggests that managers and other followers find these visions compelling because they can readily relate to the gurus' organizational dramas which contain a familiar cast of characters, a clear and well-developed plot line and a meaningful setting. While they share strong dramatic qualities, the underlying rhetorical appeal of each vision is rooted in three quite distinctive master analogues or deep structures: pragmatic (reengineering), righteous (effectiveness) and social (learning organization). In addition to its theoretical and empirical contributions, it is hoped that this study will help to stimulate a critical dialogue between practitioners and academics about the sources of the underlying appeal of management gurus and management fashions and their effect upon the quality of management and organizational learning.

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Thesis (PhD)
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02 May 2019 16:29
Last Modified:
12 Nov 2023 00:35