I came across the work of Mary Parker Follett in the mid 1960s, fell under her spell and remain so to this day. Have written Dynamc Managing - the Follett Way; Integrative Management - Creating Unity from Diversity and edited Mary Parker Follett - Prophet of Management published by the Harvard Business School Press, apart from numberless articles and lectures extolling her perennially relevant philosophy.
Dear Mrs Graham,
As I explained to Albie Davis, if I discovered Follett it is thank to Mrs Tonn, Peter Drucker, Henry Minztberg and you. One more again I have to say great thanks to you. I am working now on the first Thesis concerning Mary Follett in France (Université de Caen). I focus my research on leadership/communitiship - conflict/opportunity - liquid and "évanescent" leadership... I present Follett's approach to middle-size companies managers and I try to undertand if what she said "some years" is still modern or sounds right to them. To summarize I work on Follett's modernity.
I would like to contact Henry Mintzberg on that subject (especially concerning communityship , "alter-management", "wiki-management"...I don't really know the name we could give to that response to the complexity we have to face in the companies).
I have also to tell you I am not an academic but a general manager who tries to think a little about organization and complexity.
PS : I am locating in Normandy (Caen). Nobody knows, if your works or holidays bring you here, you will be the very welcome.
"C'est un honneur d'avoir votre réponse".
Concerning Marc Mousli I don't know Mr Mousli but it's thanks to him than I "discovered" through an article published on the Internet, then after reading his book: "Mary Parker Follett-Dirigez au-delà du conflit, Village Mondial 2002" and his article in Futuribles (N°202, 1996), the work of M.P.Follett.
When I suggested the word "évanescent", I mean or I try to, suggest something "gazeic". It seams to me that Follett's approach is a kind of mixed between the process, the project and the "émergence". It is not only one state but all states together. (To tell the truth my english is a little bit limited to explain that way my feeling about this.)
Another thing that "emerging" now in my research (don't forget I am a General Manager and not an academic) ,in Follett's approach is : The management as a service to the society. When I use the word society in french that can be for the whole society and at the same time for the company. What do you think of this ?
I really appreciate your invitation to visit you in London and also for the informations you coul communicate to me.
This is my address :
8 rue du Château
14610 Cambes-en-Plaine (FRANCE)
TEL 00 33 2 31 47 61 65
mobile 00 33 6 10 27 77 61
email address email@example.com (I am a timber merchant...)
I am now in holidays in the US, I will be back home in two weeks.
Merci encore de vos conseils,
I have to tell you a little bit more about my interest concerning Mary Parker Follett. I am 47, general manager in a company that imports and distributes timber and timber products in France. I did three years ago an E.MBA (Polytechnicum de Normandie). The work I defended was on the introduction of sustainable development in a middle size company, using project management to accomplish this aim. Even if I stopped my studies when I was 18 and thanks to two very good professors (Mr Joffre (specialist of Mintzberg) and Mr Carluer (who is also a very good friend of mine)) the Université de Caen accepted to transform this EMBA in a Master of research allowing me to work on a “Doctorat en Sciences de Gestion”… I don’t know if you are aware about the organization of the French University but, it is not very often that kind of thing happens.
This is the title (for the moment) of this research:
« L’évolution du rôle du DG dans une société sans repères : la modernité de Mary Parker Follett vue par les dirigeants d’entreprises moyennes »
Directeurs de Thèse :
Patrick JOFFRE, Professeur des Universités &
Frédéric CARLUER, Professeur des Universités
My aim through this Thesis is to try to explain the great interest, managers of middle-size companies (50 to 499 people) could have to discover Mary Follett. In France, we must say that just a few people know a little about her. Marc Mousli could be consider has a very rare would have translate some works of Follett. Fiol and Huault did it also in some articles. Till now (if we don’t make any mistake…) no Thesis in France has been defended and published concerning Follett. We will focus this research on the modernity of Follett. In those difficult times or after this crisis (this permanent crisis some says…) we could think that management, leadership and power needs to be rethought. It is what we will try to do.
I discovered myself Follett thanks to Marc Mousli works, then after reading Tonn, Graham, Davies, Fiol, Huault and some others. I will present the biography of Follett then I will follow by trying to summarize Follett’s ideas, even if it is difficult because there are or they seem to be , at the same time simple and complex. For example:
- Her community-based leadership approach
- The holistic approach. She said on this subject « We have an instinct for democracy because we have an instinct for wholeness; we get wholeness only through reciprocal relations, through infinitely expanding reciprocal relations» (MPF 1918 : 157)
- And as mentioned by Graham : « She also considered the business as a social institution, not just a financial or production vehicle » (Graham 1995 : XIV)
- Conflict : « All polishing is done by friction » (MPF 1940/73 p2)- « The music of the violin we get by friction » (dito) « Conflict is a fact of life » (Graham 1995:19
- « Each member of a group has a unique and sovereign power derived from the combination of knowledge, experience, and ability specific to him or her. According to Follett, the job of the managers is to help the members of the group realize they have this power; unify these individual powers into the total power of the group and make each individual responsible for shaping his or her contribution to fit the task as a whole » (Graham 1995: 24)
- As said by Pauline Graham, for MPF « The leader is the one who sees the whole situation, organizes the experience of the group, offers a vision of the future, and trains followers to be leaders » (Graham 1995 : XIV)
- « Business used to be thought of as trading, managing as manipulation. Both ideas are now changing. Business is becoming a profession and management a science and an art. This means that men must prepare themselves for business as seriously as for any other profession». (176)
After this introduction, we will interrogate business managers through “tables rondes” and questionnaires. We sent about 300 of those questionnaires and we already received 85 answers.(Companies or subsidiaries of group employing between 50 to 499 people).
Then we will have to analyze the answers through a folletien filter (This questionnaire includes 90 questions and 30 of those are typically folletien – for example on conflict, leadership, power, the way to learn management…) After that we will try to determine groups of leader. We don’t know yet and we will discover this in September or October if some are more folletien than others, if this characteristic has an interest or not…
After the academic first part of presentation then qualitative and quantitative research (the second part) we will think in the third part on the future, the perspectives of Follett approach:
- Management « To free the energies of the human spirit is the high potentiality of all human associations » (MPF 1924 : 303)
- « leadership can be exercised by many people besides the top executive » (183)
- Management as a service to the society: (This is the core of the problematic)
- A democratic leadership,
- To consider the worker but also the manager to be a citizen of corporation,
- To be at the crossroad of leadership/communityship and citizenship,
- To think interdependency,
«The way in which you give every day order, the way in which you make every decision, the way you meet every committee, in almost every act you perform during the day, you may contributing in the science of management».
- The three states of matter or material & phases
As Drucker mentioned it some years later in different words : «My response is not to a crystallized product of the past, static for the moment of meeting; while I am behaving, the environment is changing because of my behaving , and my behavior is a response to the next situation, which I, in part, have created» [1924 : 63]
Solid: leadership, hierarchy, process, Taylor’s heritage, the pyramid
Liquid: communityship (this liquid leadership or leadership at any stage creates a kind of collective responsibility). Project and cross organization, adaptative organization - Davis (1997)
Evanescent: citizenship, vision, integration, intuition, globalization, coopetition, sustainable development, stakeholders
- A wiki-management?
A modest leadership required to organized communityship.
Allowing everyone in the organization to exercise initiative…
So, you can understand my great interest and most of all my great pleasure to have the opportunity to tall to Matthew, Pauline, Albie…
I love the way we have to talk about the word “evanescent”. We will have to find a way to integrate… another word, another concept. No compromise, no domination, probably innovation.
The question I would like to formulate to Henry Mintzberg is the following:
“Do you think Mary Follett was too optimistic?”
In your opinion could it be a subject for a forum?
Another idea for a forum or a conversation would be: Management as a service to the society, Follett approach.
Thanks a lot,
Soory to use too much of your time but I want to be sure of the words you sent me. Shall I read ? :
"Follett was a great commnunicatrice, she did not believe incidentally , in the zero-sum theory she believed in the behavior , the solution that world produce a plus for you and a plus for the others , a plus for your company (société) and a plus for the wider society in even widening circles."
Regarding your look at Follett-Complexity/Chaos connections, there is a strong parallel that I discerned some years ago between the dynamics of circular response (Follett 1924) and the concept of structural coupling that Maturana and Varela (The Tree of Knowledge, 1978) suggest is integral to the way a living thing relates to its environment. On another level there are parallels between Follett's thinking on conscious evolution (parts of The New State) and the work of later systems thinkers like Bela H. Banathy, Jonas Salk, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Love to explore it more.