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 A New Vision of Management in the 21st Century

Peter Drucker has described the emergence of modern management in the early years of the 20th century as a "pivotal event in social history." Modern management, he noted, was "proven so indispensable so quickly...with so little opposition, so little disturbance, so little controversy..." (1954: 3-4). But the age of consensus is over, along with the convergent social, economic and technical conditions within which modern management evolved.

Now we live in a divergent world of stark contrasts and difficult tensions, faced with totally new questions and challenges, both as human beings and as scholars of business. What does it mean to be "human" in the era of genetic engineering and “smart” technology? What does it mean to uphold individual dignity and human rights when there are such great discrepancies between the power and opportunity of some, and the isolation and hopelessness of others? What does it mean to be a "citizen" in a global village dominated by giant organizations, both public and private? What does it mean to be "ethical" and "responsible" in organizations characterized by complex goals, diverse cultural boundaries, and multiple bottom lines? In a time of unprecedented gaps between the wealthy and the poor, what is our responsibility, and to whom?

What is our vision of management-in both theory and practice-in this new century? For example:

  • What do we mean by managerial performance in a century that may be characterized by new and extreme ranges of asset valuation, the emergence of new types of capital, and the redistribution of markets and wealth? How should managers be evaluated in this new age?

  • What do we mean by ethical management behavior in a 21st century characterized by diverse norms, customs and competing interests? What value will society and stakeholders place on proper ethical behavior in this new age? What should the ethical standards be? Who should set them?

  • What is the dynamic of social capital in a century likely to be characterized by global consolidation of multicultural organizations?

  • How do we identify the case histories of 20th-century management that apply to the 21st-century context? What indicators and benchmarks from the 20th century will carry over into the 21st century?

  • Are new theories of management required in the 21st century to respond to advances in cognitive psychology and biopsychology?

  • What is the purpose of the publicly traded organization in the 21st century? How will the missions and purposes of public organizations differ around the world and what are the consequences of these differences for the management of such organizations?

  • In what ways should managers direct resources toward scientific and technological discovery in the 21st-century economy typified by dramatic differences in wealth and individual needs? What responsibility do managers have to sponsor research that promotes the welfare of the disadvantaged versus the advantaged? 

  • What are the effective managerial strategies that nurture and sustain firm innovation and entrepreneurship? Will innovation and entrepreneurship activities in the 21st century differ from management theory and practice emphasized in the 20th century.

  • How should managers infuse the corporation with value in the 21st century? What value? Whose value? For what purpose?

  • In organizations of the future, what responsibility do managers have in helping employees-and their families-achieve personal satisfaction and success?

  • What will be the relationship between management and labor in the 21st century? Will the power and influence of unions continue to diminish? Is this inevitable? Good? Bad?

  • What is the role of business schools and management education in shaping the future of management in the 21st century? How will this role change in response to the new requirements of management? Will academics lead or follow these changes?

  • Is the "American Research Model" of business schools the model that other nations should benchmark-or avoid?

  • What are the attributes of effective managers in the 21st century? Will our models of management continue to emphasize contingency arguments or will management be even more complex? How will the academy and our profession need to change to keep pace with the revolutions in management?

  • What social, economic and technological forces will drive management in the 21st century?

  • How will our research methods and strategies change in order for us to study management in the 21st century? How will our academic journals and our methods of diffusing knowledge change with the changes in management?

  • How will growth in knowledge reshape society and organizations, and how can management keep pace with these changes?  Will knowledge creation and knowledge management become a commodity in the 21st century as we learn more about how it should be managed?

  • What resources will managers need to create and exploit to make their organizations competitive and responsive in this new age?

And what do we have to learn from the Hawaiian Islands?

The awesomely beautiful island of Oahu, one of the seven Hawaiian Islands, is a wonderful backdrop in which to discuss, explore, and debate "A New Vision of Management in the 21st Century". Like the concept of management and our understanding of organizations, the islands continue to change and grow in a struggle between fiery, violent volcanic activity that gives birth to new land and the cooling, eroding powers of the sea, rain, and wind.

The ancients who lived here understood this evolution. Over the millennia, they theorized that Pele, the fiery goddess of volcanoes, created and inhabited Kauai, the first island. Before too long, she was attacked by Namakaokahai, the goddess of the sea, who forced Pele to create and flee to the Island of Oahu. Namakaokahai attacked Pele there, too, forcing Pele to successively create the entire chain of Hawaiian Islands. [2] Pele now lives on the summit of Kilauea, a still-active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Interestingly, modern geologic data support this Hawaiian legend. Kauai, the oldest island in the chain, emerged from a powerful undersea volcano between 5 and 6 million years ago. Its rocky coasts and once-jagged mountain peaks now appear weatherworn and somewhat smooth. By contrast, the Big Island of Hawaii and the mountains volcanoes of Kilauea and Mauna Loa located there are only several hundreds of thousands of years old and have, for the time being, retained their sharp, craggy character.

Indeed, for ancient Hawaiians and modern geophysicists alike, a curious and indescribable tension exists between the sudden, destructive power of volcanic activity, the resultant and wondrous creation of entirely new parcels of the Earth, and the incessant forces of the elements. According to recent geologic data, however, this tension-and the ancient conflict between Pele and Namakaokahai-may be nearing a new inflection point. In particular, the volcano at Kilauea has been erupting continuously since January 1983. Further, the Loihi Seamount (an undersea volcano off the coast of the Big Island) rumbled to life again in 1996 and has been intermittently active ever since. Most recently, geophysical and seismic data collected since 2000 on Mauna Loa's 13,500-foot summit are suggestive of pre-eruption volcanic activity.

Has Pele fully completed her creation of the Big Island, or will the volcanoes located there soon violently erupt? Will she invoke her awesome powers to transform undersea Loihi into the newest island yet in the Hawaiian chain and seek her refuge there? Has her nemesis Namakaokahai not yet begun her assault on Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and the rest of the Big Island? Such is the state of affairs among powerful, dialectical geologic, atmospheric, and mythical forces in a tiny spot of the South Pacific.

For the 2005 Academy meetings in Honolulu, we will use Hawaiian geology and legend as a metaphor to develop "A New Vision of Management in the 21st Century". Like the emergence of a new island in an isolated spot of open sea, modern management ushered in an era of unprecedented economic growth, productivity, and prosperity. But, like the older, weathered, and now inhabited islands of Hawaii, the uproarious century of emergence is over, succeeded by tranquility. Massive change-geologic or managerial-will likely prove to be both destructive and constructive, depending on the character and direction of change.

Come to Honolulu and join in the discussion of "A New Vision of Management in the 21st Century"!

Ken G. Smith
2005 Program Chair
University of Maryland


Qing Cao
2005 Program Coordinator
University of Maryland 


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