THE TWO FACES OF MANAGEMENT: An American Approach to Leadership in Business and Politics by Joseph L. Bower
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THE TWO FACES OF MANAGEMENT: An American Approach to Leadership in Business and Politics

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The title suggests a conventional exercise in management theory, and the author is indeed a Harvard Business School expert in public administration--but the subject is no less, ultimately, than the relationship between government paralysis and economic peril. Bower, moreover, builds his argument block-by-block, and on the basis of cases, in business and government, that can fairly be called astonishing--in the extent to which they illuminate the problems special to each sphere. He starts by delineating the two faces, or modes, of management: the technocratic, aimed at efficiency and effectiveness, and the political, whose criteria are legitimacy and accountability. Technocratic managers control the systems for which they are responsible--the budgets, information, personnel; political managers not only do not, they are usually inexperienced, short-term appointees charged with solving intricate, indeterminate problems. Technocratic managers ""are in a position to make choices that match goals to the limited resources available""--viz. IBM's crucial decision, in the 1960s, to consolidate its resources behind a single, compatible family of computers. The political system, however, seldom allows of absolute, top-to-bottom solutions: ""Turning to the question of border management, we find that southwestern manufacturers do not wish to see the problem solved; the government of Mexico, a potentially large source of energy to the United States, does not wish to see the problem solved; the Mexican-American community has mixed feelings about the problem; the government unions involved do not wish to see the problem solved at the expense of their voting power and clout; and the Congress members involved do not wish to see their personal control over important areas of the US policy diluted. . . . By political measures, maintenance of the status quo is a success."" Analogously: Carter ""would have liked to have handled energy and welfare reform"" on the Camp David model--""He did not seem to understand that Camp David was a basic forum for Israel and Egypt, but that Washington is many levels removed. . . ."" Foreseeably, this is an argument against national planning and in favor of limited, local, intermediate-level negotiating--on the basis, also, of the ways we're not like Japan and are heterogeneous, do have experience with voluntary organizations. . . and should, finally, prize our different technocratic and political management systems (i.e., keep technocrats free of political constraints too). It's an acute, empirically powerful argument, whether or not one reaches alt of Bower's conclusions.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin