Against Management Theory

For a decade now, I've railed against the proliferation of management theory in architecture. In one of those transmutations that only architecture theorists of a certain generation could produce, In Search of Excellence was the next logical entry after Milles Plateaux on the graduate reading list. 

To be fair, this has abated somewhat, although the rhetoric of management theory is often still heard in parametricist discourse, which itself accompanies the stock market in a march of the zombies, stalking us even after their thorough immolation in the economic collapse of 2008.* 

So I was delighted today to run across Matthew Stewart's article "The Management Myth" from a 2006 issue of the Atlantic Magazine. Stewart, who trained as a philosopher but ran a management company for a time, has expanded on the article in a book that I am going to have to seek out (more information here). As Stewart points out, management theory tends to consist of nothing but a bunch of platitudes (be efficient! make people feel like they belong!). Only Elton Mayo's Hawthorne Effect—which makes up the key story of AUDC's next book, to be titled the Hawthorne Effect—proves to have some worth and that's only because it serves to show that management theory itself is nothing more than a process of variation and stimulation.

In any event, at least take a look at Stewart's article. I'll leave you with this question: shouldn't architecture's job in the first place have been to articulate what it offerede and how the changed it promised was different from the world of business?   

*See Owen Hatherley, "Zaha Hadid Architects and the Neoliberal Avant-Garde" in mute magazine, October 26, 2010 and Sam Jacob, "Architecture's Abstract Hubris Lies in Ruins," Architects Journal, November 27, 2008. 

 

   

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