First I have to say my first language is french. So, time to time we will discover some strange way to use english. Sorry for that.
Of course I know your article concerning liquid leadership (IT IS a part of my thesis) Follett understood, probably,before anybody the transversality of management, the possibility to use the communityship instead of leadership, project and traditional organization together. I like thinking management as a mixed between solid and liquid. But I think also there is coming from...litterature, innovation, "integration"... something gaseous. In French ther is a good word for that, we say "évanescent".
So, you can imagine it is great, great honour and opportunity for me to talk to you and to people like Matt. !
As explained before I am a General Manager (in Timber Business) and I fall in love with Mary when I discovered her through an article on the Internet when I was finishing an EMBA at Chicago 4 years ago. After that, even if I have not a lot of time, I decided to think about Follett's ideas. The question is : Could Follett "principles" (is it not the right word) help today's Manager of middle size companies (50 to 499 empoyees). I already asked 80 Genaral Managers... and I have to say that even in the country of Mr Fayol (le jardin à la française...), they all have an incredible interest for Mary's works.
Sorry if I take to much of your time... but you can undertsand my fabulous interest for all Follett's works and all the works concerning her.
I plan to defend my thesis (the very first one in France concerning the lady from Boston. You could be a memeber of my jury ? Why not ?
I will be myself in the USA for my vacations (Florida / August) and I will travel on the East Coast before the end of Otober.
Hi Albie...don't get me wrong, I got a lot out of that job. One of the good things was the Code of Ethics for Government Employees, which I saw hanging on a wall in a break room. Another poster I used to pay homage to was a quote from Machiavelli to the effect that there's nothing harder than to institute change in the order of things, because you can expect only lukewarm acceptance from friends, due to natural timidity, and the outright opposition of those who benefit from things the way they are. I had to throw out three recycle tubs of paperwork I'd generated from my time there, just so I could stay afloat. It reminds me of a poem from Coleridge, "...and now I am all that is left of all aboard." Or was it the Story of Jonah? There..."Now I've said too much, I haven't said enough." (Cold Play)
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,
Do you know of any comparisons made between the unique similarities in portions of the "New State" (MPF) and some of the teachings of Liang Qichao, in "The New People" manifesto? I think the common denominator here might be John Dewey - however I am still data digging. Cheers Elise
Thanks for your kind words. I have 29 books about Peter Drucker but Inside Drucker's brain; I will buy it today! Thank you for reminding me about this book. I learned about Mary Parker Follet from Peter in the class Management in Society in 1995. A couple of years later I bought MPF Prophet of Management. I live in Reseda, California with my two adult children.
Wow! Very interesting, Philippa. I assume you do know that Seebohm Rowntree became a big fan of Mary Parker Follett, brought her to the UK to give talks to businessmen. Lyndall Urwick, co-editor of Dynamic Administration, worked for Rowntree at that time. While at the Rowntree Foundation I came across some of the wonderful thinking and work of the British Quaker chocolate makers. Very fascinating. An influence on Follett, I suspect. Keep us posted of your discoveries! I think it is to Lyndall Urwick (who admits he lifted some of Follett's works from Dame Katharine Furse, and I think that Dame Katharine made it possible for him to do so, but this is all my private speculation) that we owe thanks for knowing what we do about Follett. I met his widow in Australia in the early 1990s.
Nice to meet you. The paper reviews not only MPF but others such as Rusch (1991) entitled "The social construction of leadership: From theory to praxis". Rusch discusses MPF in 1927 earlier work and transformational leadership.
Very busy right now, but happy to find this group. refreshing! Thanks again, I will check out John Sarvey.
Thanks for your comments, Albie. Yes, there is evidence that MPF was intellectually active at at least the fringes of Bloomsbury. I'm actually digging in Woolf's papers (when I have time) for evidence of her awareness of MPF so that I can establish a probability for influence. Then, I'll trace evidence of MPF's influence on Woolf's work, esp. her earlier work, which contains many observations about how organizations actually work and how social systems are organized.
Thank you for the tip, Albie! "Conscious evolution"! Sounds like a much better idea than unconscious devolution! What do we have to lose? So glad to have discovered MPF! ...and a community of consciously evolving fellow human beings, too!
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