Edited and updated from: 'A Taste for Innovation' in A.G. Bedeian (ed.) Management Laureates: A Collection of Autobiographical Essays, volume 4, 1996, New York: JAI Press.
|Derek as a pageboy, 1939|
|Derek as a prefect, 1948|
I was fortunate to be able to study at the University of Edinburgh, with a grant from the London County Council. Traditional Scottish universities are different from English ones. With a four-year degree framework and a modular structure, they are much closer to the American pattern. At the time I was a student (1949-1953), the Edinburgh Psychology Department was offering by far the most thorough education in all aspects of psychology in Britain. In addition to the wide range of lecture courses offered, the opportunities for practical experience were immense. I ran animal experiments (pigeons, I'm glad to say; our learning theory man was a Skinnerian), gave intelligence tests to schoolchildren and to paraplegics (Terman-Merrill and Koh's Blocks respectively, if I remember rightly) and administered and interpreted projective techniques (Rorshach, TAT, Szondi).
Edinburgh was then a major centre for printing and publishing. The selection of boys as printers' apprentices (no girls of course, which shows how long ago this was) was undertaken by the Psychology Department. Honours students were involved in administering the tests, conducting the interviews, writing evaluations and participating in selection decisions. This really caught my interest; psychologists doing a real job in a practical situation that I could relate to. I found psychiatric hospitals too depressing, and I am afraid that I got a bit bored with the fact that theories of behaviour were supposed to be furthered through the study of white rats. That schools and firms could make use of applied psychologists was much more interesting.
Conceptually the range of studies was wide. In addition to psychology I took courses in mathematics, social anthropology and political economy (as economics was called in my time). The University regarded the fledgling science of psychology as having so recently moved out from under the wing of philosophy that we were all required to take several courses in logic and metaphysics. I took to philosophy immediately. Thus I had a good grounding in epistemology, and, as is appropriate for one studying on the same benches as David Hume, had my period as a solipsist.
In due course, I came to the conclusion that, whatever view I took on the philosophical issues as such, if I was going to pursue any substantive topic I would have to assume a realist, determinist approach to analysis. Otherwise I would be condemned to spend my time on the metaphysics without getting round to the physics, or, in my case to the social psychology. This is still my view, which is why I refer to myself as an 'unreconstructed positivist'.
|Derek and Natatie at their wedding 18 April 1954|
During my career I have learnt from many people. My wife has been a fellow professional and a constant source of ideas over the years, and I have learnt much from many colleagues. But at the early stages in my career I worked with four senior colleagues whom I came to regard as my 'professional father figures.' The relationship with some of them was not always easy (there is, after all, a strong Oedipal element in all Western parent-children relationships), but they played a major part in my intellectual formation. The first of these was Boris Semeonoff of the Edinburgh Psychology Department. What I took from Boris was breadth of vision. He was both the leading statistical expert in the department and the leading exponent of the subtle individual, and often psychoanalytical, analysis involved in projective techniques. In a highly fractionated discipline and department, this was distinctive.
|Derek at his graduation in 1953|
SOCIAL SCIENCES RESEARCH CENTRE, EDINBURGH
But by then I was working with my second professional father figure and was growing up very quickly both intellectually and organizationally. After I graduated I was invited by Roderick M. McKenzie ('Mac' to everybody) to be his research assistant on a newly funded project. After the Second World War, the poor financial state of Europe benefited from the US Government's Marshall Aid programme. In the early 'fifties there was a follow-up programme in which aid in dollars (i.e. hard currency) was given by America on condition that an equivalent amount of money in the country's own currency was spent on improving its industrial productivity. This 'Counterpart Aid' allowed a number of industrial social science research projects to be set up in Britain and, for my generation, provided a large increase in the number of research job opportunities.
I therefore finished the old academic year as a student and started the new one as a Research Assistant in the same department. It is true that RAs are the lowest form of academic life, but they are members of staff and a whole new world opened for me. As a student I had known in a general way that there were disagreements in the department and some lecturers were not too friendly with others. But I had no idea of the degree of contempt, conflict and hatred involved in the cross-currents until I joined the staff. As McKenzie's assistant, I was taken under his wing and inevitably saw the issues primarily from his point of view, but I was also impressed by his organizational knowledge and subtlety in understanding and explaining the motivations of the other players.
Although Mac and I were members of the psychology department, we were seconded to the Social Sciences Research Centre. The reason why there was no sociology taught at that time in the normal undergraduate programme at Edinburgh (it was only taught in the Social Studies department as part of the professional training of social workers) was that the government grant had been used instead to found this interdisciplinary Centre. All the academic members had been seconded from social science departments with the idea of developing a more integrated research approach which it was hoped would get us further in understanding social phenomena. Those seconded were very impressive: they included Tom Burns (the sociologist from the department of Social Studies, who was soon to be joined on another Counterpart Aid project by the psychologist, George Stalker), Michael Banton (from Social Anthropology, later a leading sociologist of contemporary Britain) and Hilde Behrend (from Commerce, a leading academic in industrial relations). Erving Goffman had been a visiting scholar (and my tutor in social anthropology), and the first edition of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was published as a Centre monograph.
As a beginning academic, I bought entirely the innovative message that interdisciplinary integration was the way forward. Looking back now, I see the Centre as a heroic, yet doomed, enterprise. There was no Director - the idea appeared to be that it would function as a sort of intellectual kibbutz. Tom Burns was already the biggest name, and was later to become much bigger with the Management of Innovation book. He was sometimes regarded by outsiders as the leader, but he did not wish to play that role internally. And certainly several others would have resisted that.
The Centre is long gone; Edinburgh has a fine Sociology department of which Tom Burns became the first Professor and Head. But I retain something very important from my experience there. It is a great scepticism about academic disciplines; in particular about the arbitrariness of their boundaries. I can easily be provoked into maintaining that they are merely the restrictive work practices of academics. What matters is that the subject of study should be illuminated in as many different ways, and with as many conceptual research schemes, as possible. And while collaboration across disciplines is good and should be encouraged, real inter-disciplinary integration takes place in the researcher's head. The clearest way in which this view has stayed with me is that in my academic career I have eschewed traditional disciplines. In the succeeding four decades I held posts in Social Medicine, Human Relations, Industrial Administration, Organizational Behaviour, Systems and International Management.
The project that Mac and I carried out at the Centre concerned the problems of inspection in British industry. Although we did look at some problems of selection and training in the traditional industrial psychology mode, the focus of the study was a post-Hawthorne social interaction approach. On my part, this entailed a reading of the early Human Relations literature (B.B.Gardner, I remember, appeared very wise and, when we were feeling depressed, seemed to have said it all). I also tackled the management literature and found, as you would expect, that F.W.Taylor had some forceful and shrewd things to say about inspection.
During this project I learned many things. From Mac I learned about being sensitive to an individual's motivation, the key importance of status and how it is manipulated, and how interpersonal control works. For myself I had already begun to take seriously the notion of organizational structure. Tom Burns talked about Weber and, after I discovered that this was not the psychologist who linked the intensity of the stimulus to intensity of the sensation (i.e., the Weber-Fechner Law), nor the musician who wrote "Invitation to the Dance" the only Webers I knew, I found out a bit more about Max Weber. (I feel the need for a Wagnerian leitmotiv at this point!) The aspect of the study that I wrote up for my MSc dissertation was concerned with the impact on the inspection-production relationship of the differences in their positions in the organizational structures of the Chief Inspectors of three subsidiaries of one firm.
This aspect of the project was eventually published in a paper in the Journal of Management Studies about ten years later. This brings me to another thing I learned from Mac, in the 'how not to do it' vein. Research is not carried out unless the results are published. Mac had a problem with publication, which is why he is not nearly as well known as he should have been. He was the classic perfectionist: always putting off publication in order to improve the work. But he was also always finding ways in which teaching - and he was a fine teacher whose students regularly considered him the best they had experienced - would take priority over writing. Since he was the designer and leader of the inspection project, when I left I felt it right to allow him to publish overall from it. But after ten years when little had appeared relative to what we had investigated, I decided to publish anyway and my later articles appeared in 1966.
There is a sequel. In his sixty-fifth year on the eve of his retirement, Mac died after a painful cancer, bravely borne. During his illness he talked with friends about an unpublished manuscript on which he had worked after I had left. It was clear that the work meant a lot to him. After his death, Hilde Behrend arranged for it to be considered for publication and asked me to edit it. I found the manuscript fascinating; full of penetrating insights based on the psychological understanding, concentrated detailed analysis, and sheer practical common-sense that characterised Mac's approach. The volume was published in 1989 - but that was too late.
During this period I also gently began my teaching career. Since, like the rest of us, I have suffered from so much inadequate teaching in my time, striving to be an effective teacher has always been important for me. So are innovative teaching methods, and I have tried to contribute to their development. Indeed my first teaching task in the mid-fifties was innovative in that I had heard of no other institution where it occurred. Because no entry knowledge of statistics was required for the first-year psychology course, many students found the weekly statistics lecture difficult to follow on merely one hearing. A second weekly lecture in which the same topics were covered was therefore set up, and about half the class attended it. Giving this 'echo lecture' was my first teaching job. I had to put on an academic gown (borrowed), enter the main lecture theatre, and discourse to the assembled multitude (well, about a hundred). Being a ham, I loved it of course, and was sorry that I was allowed to do it for only one year.
EDINBURGH SOCIAL MEDICINE
My next job was in the Department of Public Health and Social Medicine, where I worked on a project concerned with sickness absence as a social phenomenon. The project was led by Cecil Gordon, a social biologist who during the Second World War played a leading part in the development of Operational Research in the Royal Air Force, and later in the foundation of the British Operational Research Society. It had been designed with Roy Emerson, whom I succeeded. I came in at the data analysis stage, my first involvement in a large-scale statistical survey. As I am fond of pointing out, I can't programme a computer - by the time they came in I could loftily require others to do that for me - but I used to be able to plug up a Hollerith board! When I came to know him, Cecil Gordon had suffered a number of debilitating physical and mental illnesses. Although he was a general benign presence presiding over the research activity, he could not, in fact, make an intellectual contribution. Although I was the junior member of the team, I had to become responsible for organizing and writing up the material for academic publication. Intellectually I recognised this after about two weeks; but emotionally it took me nearly three months to accept that nothing was going to happen unless I did it. I then buckled down to the analysis and writing up, which meant that my name was on three articles from about one year's work.
At this time, as an applied psychologist, I was asked by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine to evaluate the adequacy of the selection procedures into the Medical School. The cynics had long said that the sons of doctors, particularly if their fathers were Edinburgh graduates, were admitted on poorer school (i.e. high school) leaving attainment than others. The orthodox view held that this was not so. I found that it was so. Then an interesting thing happened: the establishment's denial changed to justification. The sons understood better what was involved in the job, and indeed the life, of a medical practitioner; they would be more committed to last the long and gruelling course; their fathers were in a better position to help them to become effective more quickly; and so on. Nothing changed.
BIRMINGHAM COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY
It was Natalie who brought to my attention in 1957 the advertisement for a Lecturer in Human Relations at the Birmingham College of Technology, and urged me to apply. This was probably the most important single decision of my professional life.
The College had been founded as a technical college concentrating on part-time sub-degree education, but it had recently been designated to be developed into a College of Advanced Technology. This meant that it would be able to present 'degree equivalent' courses and, most importantly, would be expected to develop its research activities. As an earnest of this intention a number of 'Reader' posts were established. In the British system, these are senior posts with the emphasis on research activity - not being universities they could not establish professorships. In the 'Birmingham Tech' Department of Industrial Administration where the management education took place (in Britain in those days, 'business schools' meant secretarial colleges) an internal promotion to the newly established Readership meant that a lectureship became available, and I was appointed.
When I decided to go to this strange low status institution, the reactions from my Edinburgh colleagues were very mixed. While some were intrigued that applied social science was wanted there, several warned me that I would never get back into a university if I went. The fact that it was a permanent post, with an increased salary was a plus, of course. But the move from Edinburgh to Birmingham was a minus, which would take me a considerable time to adjust to. But the more I found out about the proposed developments, the more interested I became in the potential for change and innovation.
On arrival, I was immediately thrown in at the deep end into a teaching schedule which required me to teach for up to 20 hours a week, including two evenings and Saturday mornings, for which I had one weekday off. But of course, with Sod's Law in full operation, that was a day on which I had to teach in the evening. That was the bad news. The good news was that all the students were in jobs. They came to the college in the evenings, or on day release arranged through their employers. This meant that courses were repeated in parallel. For example, you could do the Certificate in Workshop Supervision on Tuesday afternoons and Friday evenings, or on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Staff were all required to repeat their classes several times in one week. This is an excellent way for new lecturers to learn their trade - if they get help in preparation, and feedback on their performance.
I was extremely fortunate in receiving this from my third professional father-figure, John Munro Fraser. Munro, as he was known, was very different from Mac. They knew of each other but I don't think they ever met. Had they done so I am sure they would soon have cordially disliked each other - they did have in common that they were both good haters. Mac was subtle, wanting to build on intuition, wondering about the reasons behind the reasons; Munro was direct, go-getting, wanting an analysis which would give a formula to wrap the matter up. They were both Scotsmen, but Mac fitted my stereotype of an Italian, Munro of an American. Mac found it hard to get academic material to the stage of publication; Munro published a steady stream of books. Mac had developed a system of classification of jobs for use in vocational counselling which was ten years ahead of its time. He published a couple of papers on it, but never managed to complete for publication the definitive handbook that the system required to become properly established. Munro published several workbooks on his 'Five-fold Grading' selection system, which was a well-known rival to Alec Rodger's 'Seven Point Plan'.
Munro had designed the courses in Human Relations that we in the section taught. He specified the contents of each lecture. The subsequent discussion topics were designed to enable the participants, who had good practical industrial experience as supervisors, technical specialists, junior managers, or shop stewards, to explore the ideas and test them against their experience. Having to conduct the same class four times in one week, certainly polished my presentation skills. The hardest task, I found, was to be able to remember whether the joke I was about to tell had been used yesterday, (in which case this was a different class and I could use it again), or last week (in which case it was the same class and had to be avoided). This assembly line approach did not apply to certain specialist courses. I developed and presented my own course on staff selection, including Munro's methods, of course, but going wider. This was a very welcome increase in autonomy. I don't suppose this experience would suit everyone, but I must say it gave me a good grasp of the skills of classroom teaching.
In addition to my Human Relations teaching, I had to contribute to the course on Management Principles and Practice. This was the final course of the Diploma in Industrial Administration and was intended to be the jewel in our crown. It consisted of a series of case studies which attempted to pull together all the previous teaching. Each course was taught on a visiting basis by a senior business manager from the Birmingham area, with any required academic input given by a member of staff. In my first year, I was allocated to work with a very unusual man who is my fourth professional father figure. Joe Hunt (later Sir Joseph Hunt) was the managing director of a very successful hi-tech automation company "Hymatic Engineering". He ran his firm in what Tom Burns had called an 'organic' way. This is impressive enough, but Joe was a successful top manager who was also a natural born teacher. He just knew, without as far as I know having had any teacher training, that in this field, the important task of a teacher is not to give the right answer, but to ask the right question. He was naturally skilled in doing this, and his students and myself, as his junior colleague, learned a great deal from him of the subtleties of management. He was open in thought too, again unusual in a successful senior manager, and learned from us. I regard it as a considerable accolade that he asked for me to be his co-tutor on this course in the two subsequent years that I was available.
In my second year, Norman R.F. Maier came for a month as a visiting teacher. He introduced his role-playing exercises, and this was a big eye-opener. It is still the only teaching methodology that I know which actually benefits from larger class sizes through comparisons between the smaller sub-groups. I began to use some of his role-plays, and developed a couple of my own. I used Norman's exercise, "The Change of Work Procedure", regularly for the next twenty years. It is an excellent introduction to interpersonal leadership skills.
During this year too, I began working on an innovative project with two colleagues not in the Human Relations section. As can be imagined, this was an unusual thing to do in a mechanistic set-up such as ours, but it grew out of my commitment to integration in teaching. Bill Williams (an economist) and John Fairhead (from the business communications section) and I started work to develop our version of a non-computer business game based on G.R. Andlinger's 1954 paper in the Harvard Business Review. Over the succeeding years we developed, with other colleagues, many business exercises which we later collected and published as Exercises in Business Decisions in 1965.
Also at this time I began my first experience of distance teaching (another leitmotiv here). Tom Wylie, a former trade union official who headed our Industrial Relations section, suggested me as the correspondence tutor in social psychology for Ruskin College, Oxford. Ruskin was the college that prepared trade unionists with no qualifications for entry into the university proper. But it also ran correspondence courses for shop stewards and other workplace representatives. They had to read material sent to them, and send me essays that I commented upon. No marking of course; this was true education for development. I enjoyed it, and did a six-year stint, until the system changed.
After three years of concentration on teaching at this intensity, I felt that I had had enough and was more than ready for a change when the opportunity came.
THE INDUSTRIAL ADMINISTRATION RESEARCH UNIT
The change came in 1960 with the appointment of a new head of the Department of Industrial Administration. The previous head, David Bramley, had left when it became clear that the designation as a College of Advanced Technology was going to lead the institution to establish Bachelor's and even Master's degrees. He felt this was an academic diversion from what the College should be doing, and so returned to an industrial post. The new person appointed was a surprise: Tom Lupton, a social anthropologist from the department at Manchester. The choice of a businessman or an engineer was expected, and Tom's appointment heralded that the Board of Governors of the College was taking very seriously the intended development in the academic standing of the organization.
Tom Lupton had brought with him a large Government grant for the study of shop floor behaviour in British factories. But since he had been appointed as the head of the largest management studies department in the country, he found, inevitably, that he had no time to launch the research. Nor did any of his research colleagues in Manchester transfer with him to Birmingham. This was my opportunity. I offered to be seconded from my lectureship to work on the research, and Tom agreed enthusiastically. There was also a College Research Fellowship available and David Hickson was appointed to it.
I don't remember when I first met David - though it was as momentous for me as Oliver Hardy first clapping eyes on Stan Laurel. But I still do remember very clearly the look on his face when I told him that I was going to leave my lectureship to do research full time, and that we were going to set up a research unit and intended to appoint other researchers. He had not been told. He had thought that he was going to be a lone researcher working under the general supervision of Tom Lupton, but he readily agreed to join the group. Forty-five years later we still regularly work on collaborative projects. The first book on which we collaborated was dedicated to our parents (and our professional father-figures); the latest to our grandchildren.
The Industrial Administration (I.A.) Research Unit was set up on 1st January 1961, with a Senior Research Fellow (myself) and a Research Fellow (David). We appointed two Research Assistants: Bob Hinings, a sociologist, and Graham Harding, a psychologist. Bob thus started his long association with the work, and his subsequent major contributions to the field of organizational analysis.
So the group got started. We retired to our researchers' ivory tower to review the field and plan our programme. The 'ivory tower' was, in fact, the basement of a nearby slum. But conceptually it was an ivory tower, because we had the great privilege of being allowed to get on with our research. No one else in the Industrial Administration Department was particularly interested in what we were doing, since this was solely a teaching department. Tom Lupton was the exception, of course, and he provided the crucial protection of authority, and much encouragement. We spent a year surveying previous work and hammering out our conceptual framework of context, organization, group, and individual levels of study and their relationships. Everyone participated in all aspects of designing the programme of work and carrying out pilot interviews, and this had a great integrating effect.
After Graham Harding went to other work, Bob Hinings moved to a teaching post in the neighbouring University of Birmingham, but continued his contribution from his new base. This allowed the recruitment of the 'second generation' of researchers. It was rather different for them. Since the conceptual framework and research strategy had been worked out, their contribution was to the operationalization of the concepts at the context and organizational levels, and data collection and analysis. Important as this is, it brings with it the inevitable feeling of working on 'somebody's else's research' and they did not develop a long term commitment to this academic field. Chris Turner works in the field of social services provision, Theo Nichols is a powerful Marxist analyst of modern industry, and Keith Macdonald publishes on the sociology of professions.
I realised that we would need some methodological help, even though I was by now a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and held their certificate. I also realised that we did not need a professional statistician (who would only tell us what we could not do) but a methodologically sophisticated social scientist. We were extremely fortunate in interesting a psychologist, Phil Levy of the University of Birmingham, in working with us. He made a major contribution to structuring our analyses, which were way ahead of anything else being done in the field at that time. I have always felt that my highest methodological accolade was not my Fellowship, but the fact that Phil said to me "I enjoy explaining these ideas to you. You get their implications."
THE UNIVERSITY OF ASTON IN BIRMINGHAM
|Aston at 40, 2006|
One change I had not bargained for, since it went against my predictions: a difficulty about being a positivist is that the data can bite back! I had always predicted that academics who become heads of departments, with the increased salary, status and power involved, would not give them up just because they preferred to do research. Well, Tom Lupton proved me wrong. He gave up his Aston post to go to a Research Chair at Leeds. It is true that he went from there to the Manchester Business School and, in due course, became its Director (which is half a vote for my hypothesis), but he did demonstrate a commitment to personal research work that is rare among British heads of schools.
By 1965 the external grant was coming to an end. In those days one of the conditions laid down by the Government on providing support such as this, was that the institution would continue to fund the work from its own resources if, at the end of the original grant, the research was still found to be important and timely. With the inevitable bureaucratic complexities involved in such a decision, it was literally within two weeks of the official date of the grant ending that the decision was announced. By this time those on short-term contracts had left; in an expanding social science market they had obtained permanent teaching appointments elsewhere. Only David Hickson, who had obtained a Research Lectureship, and I remained.
But, glory be, the answer was 'Yes'; the University agreed to continue funding the work. This sort of major support was infrequent even in the 'sixties and, for me, it underlines how appropriate it is that the research has become internationally known as 'the Aston studies'. The decision opened the way for the third generation of Aston researchers. Kerr Inkson, Roy Payne and Diana Pheysey were paid for by the university. John Child was funded from an additional Government grant that I obtained.
We now entered a new phase of the work: new projects were designed (e.g the wider national organizational study), the previous conceptual frameworks were extended (e.g. to group level work), new concepts were developed and operationalized, new data were collected and analysed. All the members of this generation were thus involved in all stages of the research, and it is interesting that they all continue to do leading work in the field of organizational studies: Kerr Inkson in Auckland on corporate excellence, Roy Payne in Sheffield on stress, and John Child in Cambridge on management in China. Diana Pheysey worked on corporate change at Aston until her retirement, and I am most touched and grateful that her innovative book on Organizational Cultures: Types and Transformations (Routledge, 1993) was dedicated to me.
The Unit was always very fortunate in the high level of contributions it received from its support staff - only one bad selection decision there, over which we will hastily draw a veil. Our information, data and interviewing assistants did us extremely proud. I like to think that we contributed to their development too, in that Cindy Fazey, Rita Austin and Will McQuillan - all of whom started with us as non-graduates - in due course became academics in their own right with lectureships at universities. Patricia Clark has stayed at Aston for three decades in research information. Our secretary, Ruth Goodkin, was a phenomenon in coping so unflappably with a whole bunch of demanding academics.
THE ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF MANAGEMENT, WRITERS WRITERS ON ORGANIZATIONS, AND PENGUIN BOOKS
The history of the Aston studies has been written up several times now, and is beginning to take on a myth-like quality even for those of us who experienced it. I like to be as realistic as possible in describing the tensions and failures as well as the commitment and the successes. Roy Payne once paid me the compliment of introducing me as the most participative manager that he knew. But, as I pointed out, I had no choice: that's how it had to be. For example, in the early years I was the leader of the group, the most experienced researcher, the only member in a permanent post, and, at the time of the second generation, the only psychologist. It does not need a great deal of psychoanalytical insight to see that I would, on occasions, become the focus of the hostility of junior members when the frustrations became too great. There was an inevitable tension between the impact of their short-term contracts and my long term view of the objectives of the programme. This result just had to be lived with, but it made me grateful for the fact that I was involved in The Association of Teachers of Management (ATM).
The ATM was distinctive to Britain in that it contained professionals from a wide range of institutions concerned with management education. In particular, it was a forum in which academics from colleges and management development officers from industry could meet together to discuss professional issues. It started in 1960: Tom Lupton became the first Chairman, Frank Heller the first Secretary. I was a founder member and accepted the post of editor of the Newsletter. This was a mimeographed sheet produced in the Department: my first issue was, in fact, typed up by Bob Hinings. During the next six years I built it up into a larger, professionally producedATM Bulletin, which reflected the growth of activity in the field. This task took some of my time, and that of our information assistant Cindy Fazey, to occasional rumblings from the populace about lost research time. But the activity was very important to me psychologically, in that it engaged me in a professional activity away from the group. I needed the bolt-hole. I was also hammering out my view of the nature of our subject and published an article in the Psychological Bulletin in 1966 on 'Modern Organization Theory', which generated the largest number of requests for offprints, and appeared in the greatest number of anthologies of any of my papers.
It was through the ATM that I came to know Morris Brodie of the Administrative Staff College at Henley. The College had produced a booklet to hand out to its students introducing them to some of the management writings. Morris asked me to prepare a new edition of it. I recruited David Hickson and Bob Hinings and when we had worked out what we wanted to do, it was no longer a booklet, but a book. Thus began Writers on Organizations: a set of summaries of the work of leading writers in the field. The first edition in 1964 was a hardback, but the second and subsequent editions have been published in paperback by Penguin in Britain, Sage in the US. It has proved to be one of the most durable books in organizational studies, with sales over the years of more than a quarter of a million copies. It has been translated into Japanese, Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Slovakian. I am told that there is also a pirated version in Chinese, but I have not seen it. Bob dropped out as an author after the third edition, owing to pressure of other work. David and I produced the fourth edition in 1989 after I had spent a happy Christmas vacation unsexing the language: 'professional father figures' becoming 'professional forebears' etc. A fifth edition appeared in 1996 and a sixth in 2007. The book ensures that we keep up with the literature, and involves the interesting decision, which we make after a small survey of our colleagues, of which writers to add and who to drop for each new edition. I used to feel a bit guilty about those dropped, but now we have produced a hardback omnibus version, Great Writers on Organizations, (3rd Omnibus edition, 2007) which includes all those writers who have ever appeared.
I do feel that Writers is a real contribution to management education in Britain. I continually meet managers who tell me that reading it had started them thinking seriously about organizational issues. Communication with managers has always been an important value for me. I am proud of how many professional and popular articles we have written about our researches, in addition to the academic ones. And I have taken every opportunity to work with practising managers in research, teaching and consulting.
It was in the mid-sixties that I was asked by Charles Clark of Penguin Books to be the General Editor of a series of entitled Penguin Modern Management Readings. Readers were very popular then in all subjects as the writing of textbooks could not keep pace with the expansion in higher education. I like this sort of editorial role and was pleased to accept. My task was to design the set of titles in the series and then to ask a leading scholar to edit a volume. Of course, getting a 'name' to edit a reader is much easier than getting them to write a book, which is why the series went with a swing and my network grew rapidly. So, for example, Igor Ansoff did a reader on business strategy, Vic Vroom and Ed Deci did one on motivation, Warren Bennis and John Thomas on change, Andrew Ehrenberg on consumer behaviour, Fred Emery on systems thinking, Dalton McFarland on personnel management, and so on. My own contribution on organization theory is still going strong, with a fifth edition out in 2007.
THE FINAL PHASE OF THE I.A. RESEARCH UNIT
The final phase of the I.A. Research Unit took place from 1968 onwards with its splitting up. I am often asked why this happened, with the implication that a successful work group should go on forever. But it is not like that. I am inclined to think that research groups have a life cycle in which they are productive, and the Aston unit was longer lived than most. But people's horizons, opportunities and aspirations change even when they are doing good work, and these form the pull factors. Even in 'success' there are many stresses and frustrations which can provide the pushes.
In my case there were two pull factors. First, the attraction of going to a recently established business school in London that was an independent institution wholly devoted to developing research and teaching in the subject. I have a taste for educational innovation and saw that this was a big opportunity. Secondly, I was head-hunted; only the second occasion in my career (so far?) that this has happened to me. Head hunting was unusual in the British academic world, and I took it as a welcome example of the degree of independence which the London Business School (LBS) had obtained from the federal University of London, compared with the workings of the unitary University of Aston (see next paragraph).
The push factor came from the fact that I had unsuccessfully applied for a chair at the University of Aston. It was not that I did not get the job (nobody was appointed), but that the University had adopted a policy which meant that, in principle, I could not be appointed. They were advised by an external assessor (in British universities, chair appointing committees always contain professors from other universities) to look to appoint an industrial sociologist who would both build up the organizational work in the management school, and develop a sociology department in the new Faculty of Behavioural Science. Apart from the fact that I did not qualify, I fundamentally disagreed with this policy. My view was (and is) that business schools are adequately developed only by academics who are willing to commit themselves in career terms to the new venture. They do not have to cease being sociologists or economists, but their organizational identification must be fully as sociologists in business schools. There was also a second problem: Was it possible to find a leading industrial sociologist who would be prepared to join the management school at Aston? In my view, it was not.
As someone who has spent a large chunk of his life studying the workings of bureaucracies, I have always believed in putting my knowledge to use. I predicted that, having accepted what sounded to those who did not know the field like a viable policy in regard to the chair, it would take the powers-that-be of the University of Aston five years to discover that they could not carry it out. They would then accept the sensible policy of an organizational behaviour chair in the management school, and a separate chair to head the sociology department. I left Aston, with considerable regret, because I was sufficiently ambitious not to be prepared to wait those five years. This was one of my predictions which was supported by the data. Precisely five years later John Child was appointed to the chair of organizational behaviour in the management school, and in the following year a professor was appointed to head up the sociology department. I acted as an external assessor for both posts.
So, in 1968, I went with John Child and Will McQuillan to the London Business School, Roy Payne following a year later. For quite unrelated reasons, David Hickson and Bob Hinings accepted a two year secondment at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. There David led a group in studies of power, and on his return to Britain, inaugurated the Bradford decision-making programme. Bob returned from Canada to the Institute of Local Government Studies at Birmingham, later going back to Alberta to continue his studies of strategic change. At the time, all these departures led to a winding down of the programme at Aston, and the fourth generation of Aston researchers operated from other institutions, primarily the London Business School and the University of Alberta. The unit at Aston continued as an administrative entity until 1973, when with a general re-organization of the department the title lapsed. Research at Aston continued in other directions.
THE ASTON RESEARCH PROGRAMME
The results of the programme have been described in the various books and papers, by us and about us, and need not be repeated here. They have made an impact on the field as is shown by the fact that no less than three papers have been designated 'citation classics' by the Institute of Scientific Information on the basis of citation counts. I was awarded a University of Aston DSc (a higher doctorate in the British system) on the basis of my contribution, with Paul Lawrence on the examining board. I regard it as a considerable academic accolade that leading scholars, such as Howard Aldrich, Jerald Hage, Marc Maurice, Bernard Reimann and Bill Starbuck, are prepared to write and publish detailed critiques of the work. I don't agree with all they say, but I don't mind being criticised - I find it more difficult to be ignored.
But the studies have not been ignored - far from it. John Freeman's 1986 'editorial essay' on assuming the editorship of the Administrative Science Quarterly, actually mentioned the Hawthorne studies, the American Soldier studies and the Aston studies in the same breath - and managed to take my breath away! Interest in the work stems primarily from the fact that the concepts studied are important to the field. But, in my view, there are two other contributory factors. One is the group basis of the research, which allowed extensions and replications to be undertaken by original members of the group and their 'fourth generation' collaborators. The second is the publication of extremely explicit descriptions of the methods of the research. This makes it easier for others to utilise the instruments developed. Many studies around the world have been carried out based entirely on the published methodology. I am most appreciative of the two original editors of the Administrative Science Quarterly, Tom Lodahl and Bill Starbuck, who agreed to publish such a degree of detail. John Child and Patricia Clark made a key contribution when they prepared the various data sets using the Aston methodology for deposit in the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) data archive for the social sciences at the University of Essex. I have also archived some of the original interview schedules of the Aston and LBS studies in the Open University.
I want to react to two comments on our type of work which never cease to irritate me. One is the suggestion that because we take a functionalist approach, we then use only quantitative data. This is completely wrong, and can be dangerously misleading to the unwary. Some people seem to think that the Aston variables, scales and items jumped straight into our laps, and all we had to do was to start counting! That was not the case; they were the result of a considerable degree of qualitative investigation to understand the relationships involved. How often have I heard PhD students say "I'm going to send out a questionnaire, and then do a detailed study on a small number of cases". This is the wrong way round. Good quantitative work is necessarily based on good qualitative work. As an unreconstructed positivist, I regularly carry out qualitative study, moving on to quantitative designs only if a clear framework of relationships between variables is established which can convincingly be encapsulated in numerical analysis. Oh, and by the way, the Aston structural level studies were based on structured interviews, not on questionnaires. These were used only for the group-level studies.
My second irritation is the way the term 'radical' has been appropriated by phenomenologists, neo-Marxists, post-modernists, etc., who characterise a positivist, functionalist approach as anti-change. I think that is just not so. If I wanted to change an organization, I would go to someone who understands its structure and functioning, and the levers of change. I would not go to someone who considers that an organization is a domain of discourse or a class-based conspiracy, because it would not give much help in actually changing. So 'critical'? Yes, criticism from all is necessary. But 'radical'? No way.
THE LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL
I came to the London Business School when it had been in existence for a couple of years and was still in temporary accommodation. My first post was as Reader and Director of Research of the School, but after a year, on 1st January 1970 to herald the new decade, I was appointed Professor of Organizational Behaviour (OB). Although there had been visiting American professors at LBS with this title, including Vic Vroom and Dean Berry (who recruited me) I was the first native Brit in the country to be appointed to a chair in this subject. Tom Lupton had been appointed to the Manchester Business School before me, of course, but his first title was Industrial Sociology. He changed to Organizational Behaviour only after I had been appointed. I had been writing quite a lot about the need to forge an interdisciplinary approach to behavioural aspects of management under the title of 'organizational behaviour', and so was very pleased to have been the first appointment.
My work changed considerably in London, since I had to take on a full teaching and administrative load in addition to research. Natalie too, took up full time teaching with a lectureship (then a senior lectureship) in industrial sociology in the Business Studies Department of the Polytechnic of North London. She was very important in helping me to understand and keep in touch with the polytechnic sector, which then had a large majority of the students in business studies, when, in 1970, I was elected as Chairman of the Association of Teachers of Management. In my three year term as Chairman I had to undertake a more public role: presiding over conferences and committees, developing workshops and training courses for management teachers on professional updating and research, leading delegations to the House of Commons to lobby for the development of management education as a whole, writing to the Education Secretary (Mrs Thatcher) questioning Government policy on 'regional management centres', and so on. I also had to learn to make after dinner speeches, which is more difficult than it seems - though I always found the story about how Androcles persuaded the Lion not to have him for dinner got me off to a good start. And my experience of management meant that I was recruited to undertake other non-academic jobs as chairman or consultant in a number of voluntary organizations.
An early job that I had to do at LBS played an important role in my professional thinking. As part of the first review of the master's programme, I worked with William Egan in evaluating the validity of the selection test used for the intake. Along with all other leading schools we used the Admissions Test for Graduate Schools of Business of the Educational Testing Service at Princeton (ETS). Since we had only been going three years, only the first year graduates were in jobs. We therefore used the course marks as the criterion measures. We found very high predictive validities from the test scores to the first year marks - in one of the years an overall correlation of over 0.6, and this was before any correction for restriction of range. This was very gratifying to the testers, and our results were used for some years by ETS in their advertising literature. But it worried me. What was the intervening educational process which allowed a selection psychologist to predict so well how somebody would perform more than two years later? How would it be characterised by an educational psychologist? It seemed to me that it had to be a very straightforward process - a 'sponge theory' in which education was the one-way transfer of knowledge from the professor to the students, who soaked it up, and then spewed it out in the examinations. I decided that I would throw in my lot with improving the educational process, making it more flexible, more exploratory, more of a two-way exercise, even though this inevitably meant that the predictive validity would fall. I decided that I would rather be an educator than a selector, and since then I have never used a test. I am glad to say that when we reorganized the programme, the validities duly went down.
Our Organizational Behaviour section at LBS had some interesting teachers. When I first knew Denis Pym he was a mainstream Birkbeck College occupational psychologist. Then he went back home to Australia for a few years. When he returned to London and joined LBS, he had become the most free-wheeling iconoclast that I knew. He seemed to attack everything: organizations, leadership, professionalism, 'the domination of the eye over the ear.' He was a forceful and effective lecturer and his students liked him. In as far as I could understand him, I regarded his approach as a form of anarchism - which is very liberating, I suppose, for budding executives presumably preparing themselves to oppose anarchy in order to manage successfully.
Andrew Pettigrew was already making a name for himself as a detailed and careful researcher into organizational power and politics, and beginning his magisterial studies of change at ICI, the British industrial conglomerate. He went, in due course, to a chair at Warwick Business School and has built up the Centre for Corporate Strategy and Change there as a leading research group. Charles Handy was the most effective lecturer that we had. Clear, forceful, relevant and inspirational. It is no surprise to me that he has gone on to become a leading British management guru - the British version of Peter Drucker. He regularly broadcasts and his books are very popular in challenging received wisdom with visions of the future. Stuart Timperley stayed at LBS, where his street-wise organizational wisdom is much appreciated by the experienced executives. And there can't be many academics who have achieved Stuart's distinction of becoming the chairman of a professional football club, viz: Watford Town.
We were later joined by Tommy Wilson (A.T.M. Wilson), one of the most experienced professionals in the field of industrial social science. He had been the first Chairman of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, but came to us after having spent a long period as Adviser to the Board on Social Sciences at Unilever. This was probably the most prestigious social science job in British industry, involving continual treading of the corridors of power. He was very shrewd in his understanding of the political processes of organizations, and very powerful in his analysis of policy options. But, maybe because of his long experience as a consultant, I found it very difficult to mobilise his support. For a time we were the only two OB professors in the School. I was the head of department and needed to fight my corner. Tommy always produced clear analyses of the issues, but then usually abstained rather than voted as I felt was required.
At LBS we benefited from a steady stream of outstanding visiting scholars of such enormously varied interests and skills as Chris Argyris, Bob Dubin, Martin Evans, David Kolb, Ed Lawler, Charles Perrow and Bill Starbuck. I always found it fascinating to watch them in action and to come to terms with their thinking. I like to think I took something from all of them.
I feel particularly proud of two innovations in teaching which I introduced at LBS. Will McQuillan and I developed an Interpersonal Management Skills course as an option in the Master's degree. It became so popular, many students rating it as the best course they had taken in the programme, that it was made compulsory, despite my protestations that the act of choice was an essential part of the commitment which made it work. Later Jill Jones and I collaborated, and, after my time there, LBS hired John Harter as a specialist trainer just to carry to this training in a specially designed laboratory.
The second innovation was a course for the OB Doctoral programme on the skills of doing research. This course developed from my gradual realisation that the education normally given to doctoral students flies in the face of all we know about adult human learning. Typically in Britain, we give doctoral students lectures, tell them to read a lot, and then send them out into the field to "make a contribution to knowledge". Some of them make it, of course, but on the whole it is a recipe for disaster. Effective learning takes place under controlled conditions in which the learner gets plenty of early feedback. I developed a series of graded research exercises, including designing a research study on a specified topic, constructing a questionnaire and testing it out, replicating a published paper, etc. to allow the skills of the research craft to be practised before candidates started on their doctoral projects. Of the series of doctoral students whom I supervised at LBS, I still keep in close touch with three: Peter E. Smith who runs the MBA programme at the Berlin Fachhochshule, Moshe Banai of Baruch College, New York, and Ana Shetach of Emek-Yezreel College, Israel.
During this time my international professional network expanded considerably. Rex Adams of Ashorne Hill College, who succeeded me as Chairman of the ATM, asked me to join with him in bidding for a contract to design and run a six-month course in Italy for Italian managers who wished to prepare themselves to become management teachers. We got the contract and this led, over the years, to a considerable amount of management development work in Italy. In due course I was elected a Fellow of the Italian Academy of Business Management. Teddy Weinshall of Tel Aviv University came regularly to LBS and became a friend - particularly after his daughter did her PhD under my supervision. Teddy helped me to develop my contacts in Israel, and I regularly gave seminars to managers there, many of them jointly with him. I have also been a visiting professor at the Haifa Technion and the Tel Aviv Business School, where Yoram Zeira has been a constant contact. S.R. Ganesh was a doctoral student of mine, and after his return to India he arranged for me to undertake a lecture tour there. I had the honour of being the keynote speaker at the first all-India conference of organizational behaviour teachers in Hyderabad in 1979. Other tours there have followed. I also paid a regular series of visits to Hong Kong working with Gordon Redding, giving seminars to managers and collaborating in a joint research project. Regular contact as a teacher and a consultant with practising managers in both the UK and abroad is important to me as stimulant to my thinking and as a challenge to my teaching.
I had become a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management based in Brussels. This enabled me to make contact with many colleagues on the continent. I contributed to a conference, organized by Geert Hofstede and Sami Kassem, on European Contributions to Organization Theory and met a range of new colleagues from different countries there. All of these experiences were sensitising me to the need to understand cultural differences in organizational functioning. Until then it was David Hickson who had taken the lead in the consideration of cultural differences in the Aston work and its derivatives. The problem, I found, was that 'culture' as a explanatory term was a residual category: a rag bag into which it was too easy to throw things which would otherwise be left unexplained. Geert Hofstede's contribution in establishing a framework of four dimensions of societal culture was a major step forward in analysing the differences. And I find it significant that two of the dimensions map on to Aston dimensions. I have become more and more interested in cultural differences in management, as I feel that we can go beyond description and take a more analytical approach to them.
THE ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOUR RESEARCH GROUP
From my arrival at LBS in 1968, Dean Berry and I began building up the Organizational Behaviour Research Group with support from the School. After he left to fulfil his nominal potential by becoming Dean Dean Berry of INSEAD (the multi-lingual business school in Fontainbleau, France), the Group obtained a Social Science Research Council programme grant entitled "Organizational Behaviour in its Context". This had a number of components. It began with John Child and Will McQuillan working on the 'national' Aston project. Roy Payne joined to develop group-level studies on the performance of managerial work groups. Malcolm Warner and Lex Donaldson became 'fourth generation' Aston researchers, working on extensions to the programme to trades unions and occupational interest associations, in collaboration with Ray Loveridge. Roger Mansfield came to work primarily on managerial careers, but also become a member of the fourth generation making important conceptual contributions both at the structure and group levels. Alan Dale joined to study organizational change and development and Leslie Metcalf (now of the European Institute in Maastricht) to research QUANGOS (quasi non-governmental organizations, such as the economic development committees then set up for particular industries). Brenda Macmillan worked on managerial mobility. Kay Schraer was an excellent secretary. Our size meant that, as is traditional for me anyway, we were housed in a nearby slum - the fine new premises of the business school in Regent's Park being already too small to accommodate researchers.
Good research projects were carried out, as reported, for example, in the second and third volumes of the Aston books and elsewhere. But we were never able to get anything like the degree of group cohesion that we had experienced at Aston. Chris Argyris was a regular visitor to LBS, and on occasion we benefited from his consummate skills as a process consultant when relationships in the research group needed help. After a few years John Child went back to Aston as a professor (i.e., full professor in American terms) and Malcolm Warner went to be professor at the Administrative Staff College, Henley - both meteoric rises: from Senior Research Officer to Professor in one step. Both later went on to develop their many contributions to the field, finally returning to their alma mater, Cambridge University in the Judge Institute of Management Studies; John as the first Guinness Professor of Management Studies. Roger Mansfield, also a LBS Senior Research Officer, paused slightly at Imperial College on the way to becoming Professor and Director of the Cardiff Business School. Ray Loveridge went to a chair at Aston from an LBS lectureship.
In addition to presiding over the whole research programme, I was continuing my writing aimed at developing the field of organizational behaviour. I had an interesting experience in crossing swords in print with Lyndall F. Urwick. He was the leading British exponent of traditional management theory, and wrote a paper in the then newly established management journal Omega attacking social science for confusing what was previously straightforward by misuse of the word 'organization'. Sam Eilon, the editor of the journal invited me to comment, and I published a short defence of social scientists' contribution to the understanding of management activity. Urwick's reply was a poem called "Lines on D.S.Pugh's Theory of Organization" which begins:
"I have no animus
Against the Pughsillanimous,
Nor any intention
To handicap invention.
But D.S. Pugh's semantics
Play such curious antics,
That its hard for a simple mind
Not to be left behind."
It then went on to say that what I had written was nonsense. Since I had gone to some trouble to point out that I did not consider Urwick's views nonsense, only incomplete, I was a bit put out at the time. But still, I suppose it must be some sort of distinction to have a poem about you published in an academic journal.
My specific research interests, in collaboration with Lex Donaldson and Penny Silver, focused on attempting to understand and analyse organizational processes. In the early 'seventies we held a conference on 'organizational process' to try and get a better understanding of how to analyse the phenomenon. We invited Karl Weick, whose book The Social Psychology of Organizing had recently made a big impact. I remember being very impressed that, when I told him that I did not understand the second half of his book, Karl replied that he did not understand it very well either. I thought this must be real innovation, not just a taste for it. The longitudinal study that Lex, Penny and I carried out also reflected my growing interest in organizational change. I was impressed with the ideas that Alan Dale, our most experienced organizational development practitioner, was demonstrating. The excessive emphasis in American OD on interpersonal relationships, always seemed to me to be inadequate. Not surprisingly, I was clear that you had to take the authority structure seriously and look for ways of getting structural change.
That Lex Donaldson left for Australia was a failure on my part. Not for Lex, of course, he has gone on to develop a powerful world-class career as an organization theorist based in Sydney. But I could not persuade the Principal of the London Business School that someone would actually leave the School while there was still some chance that he would get an extension to his contract in London. He was therefore not prepared to advance in time the decision on Lex's extension.
I felt that this was typical of LBS at this time. It was at the top of the tree: the leading business school in Britain, the only non-American school consistently listed in the world top ten. It was in a beautiful location in a park in central London, and was a very comfortable place to be. Our Principal was the economist Jim Ball (later Sir James Ball); an excellent leader who had done a magnificent job in revitalizing the School in the 'seventies. But by the 'eighties, he had stayed too long. (Pugh's rule-of-thumb for successful chief executives has a Macawber-like ring. Aim to stay for ten years. Go after nine: result, sighs of nostalgia. Go after eleven: result, sighs of relief!) I felt that the School was in a rut and, after fourteen years, I was in a rut too. So when the opportunity came in 1983, I was able to exercise a taste for innovation.
OPEN UNIVERSITY, TECHNOLOGY FACULTY, SYSTEMS DISCIPLINE
The United Kingdom Open University (OU) is the leading distance learning institution in the world. It led the way in developing the most important innovation in higher education in modern times: the facility for students working part-time and at home to conduct rigorous university level studies to the same degree standards as at established universities. For the central academic staff it requires a completely different way of working. Teaching does not mean taking a class at nine o'clock on Tuesday morning - there are no students on the campus to teach (except PhD students, of whom more anon). Teaching means participating in a course team which writes course units (as the specially designed workbooks are called), makes audio-visual presentations in collaboration with the BBC (originally as radio and television programmes but more commonly now as audio and video tapes), designs the short residential schools, and sets up and participates in computer conferences. In addition to central staff in the 'course writing factory' at Milton Keynes, there are also regional academic staff across the country who tutor the students through the courses prepared at the centre. It is a completely different way of working from my previous teaching experiences. I was ready for a change and entered into all these activities with a swing.
The reaction in the profession to my move from LBS to the OU, was one of bewilderment - if anything more incredulous than the reaction to my move twenty-five years earlier from Edinburgh University to Birmingham Tech. I was the first full professor of the London Business School to move from there to another university. I was moving from the top status institution in my field to a new-fangled set-up which was viewed with much suspicion. For many university teachers, it appears demeaning that the OU requires no previous qualifications at all for entry to its foundation courses. It aims to take people who left school thirty years ago with no qualifications, but who have the ability and the commitment, to obtain a degree. The view is that it is not the input level but the educational process and the output standards which matter. For several years people would come up to me at conferences and say how surprised they were at my leaving LBS. I think many were bemused when I said it was because I have a taste for educational innovation.
I was also changing in another way, too. I was widening my academic interests by joining the Faculty of Technology and accepting the chair of Systems and headship of the Systems discipline. This brought me into contact with a subject that I had previously only been aware of in a general way, but now had to tackle seriously. I should say that the University had defined the post in the widest possible terms, and, indeed, the advertisement for the job had specifically stated that experience in organizational development was an appropriate basis for applying. I underlined at my interview that there was no point in appointing me unless the OU was intending to develop management studies in a major way, and the Vice-Chancellor confirmed that this was so.
My Inaugural Lecture linked both interests, being on "The Management of Complex Systems". In British universities a new professor on appointment gives a lecture which is open to the whole university and, indeed, to the public. But I had given public lectures before and did not come to the OU to repeat myself. My Inaugural Lecture was a fifty minute television programme: a first even for the OU. It is a lecture but, since I had the resources of the BBC behind me, I was able to illustrate it with footage from programmes as disparate as Henry Ford's Model T assembly line, the 'Yes, Minister' sitcom, and specially filmed interviews about their research with Frank Heller and David Hickson. I was talking direct to camera for less than half of the time. The programme was shown several times on television, and after some years was even revived as a 'golden oldie.'
The fields of application of the systems discipline were very wide ranging. There was research on bio-systems, catastrophic systems failures, manufacturing systems, energy systems, and the functioning of worker co-operatives. The group, using the ideas of Sir Geoffrey Vickers, Stafford Beer, Peter Checkland, took what I would regard as a cybernetic engineering approach to systems. It always surprised me that my colleagues did not draw on the biological systems thinking of von Bertalanffy, and Emery and Trist. Even the bio-systems unit seemed to me to be concerned with an engineering approach to biological change. And, with few exceptions, the discipline's interest in management was confined to systems design. As head of department my involvement in these activities was limited to encouragement and criticism. My own writing at this time was focused on reviews and re-evaluations of past work, such as that for the fascinating conference on Beyond Method, which Gareth Morgan organized at York University, Toronto.
The only students on campus are those studying for PhDs: at this level the OU becomes like an ordinary university with personal supervision. I found, as is so often the case in Britain, that these students were not well inducted into the nature of a PhD. They did not know how the process works, and what was expected of them. Their supervisors seemed to think that 'they will pick this up as they go along' and left it at that. At the London Business School, in addition to my skills course for the OB doctoral students, I had inaugurated during my term of office as Chairman of the Doctoral programme, a course for all students on "The processes of PhD-getting". It dealt with such usually neglected topics as the meaning of a doctorate, the form of the PhD thesis, and perils to avoid. When I came to the OU, I began to offer this course to the Technology Faculty and then to the whole university.
While I was still at LBS, I was asked to be the external examiner for a PhD thesis on concept development in doctoral students by Estelle Phillips. When I came to the OU, I found that Estelle had carried out an evaluation study of the University's doctoral supervision system. Clearly we had complementary interests in this process and I suggested that we collaborate on a book that would help students to understand and manage their way successfully through their doctoral studies. She agreed, and in due course Phillips and Pugh: How to Get a PhD came into being. Now in its fourth edition, it has been a very successful book both in Britain and abroad. It is distinctive in that it concentrates on the processes involved, and, being applicable to all subjects, is as avidly read by scientists and engineers as by economists and historians. 'How not to get a PhD - seven tried and tested ways' and 'How to manage your supervisor' are popular chapters, as is the one on 'How to supervise', which is addressed to the supervisor, the other key partner in the enterprise. Since it appeared, Estelle and I have been running a sort of unofficial counselling service. Students, supervisors, even Deans, call us up for advice on difficult problems. Some of the ways in which research students are treated are truly hair-raising, and I often think of us as the pathologists of the doctoral process. Later editions of the book contain a detailed chapter on 'Institutional Responsibilities' which we hope will contribute to improving the standards of provision.
I was also much involved at this time in the battles to establish a business school in the Open University on what I would consider to be a proper basis. The teaching of management had begun in the Continuing Education programme of the University under the direction of Brian Lund. I acted as a tutor in the London Region for the introductory course entitled "The Effective Manager" for which Brian had been responsible, with contributions from, among others, Charles Handy. This excellent course was very popular, and further courses were introduced. But there were inevitable disagreements about the nature of the qualifications, the need for an MBA degree, the necessity to establish a school as a full faculty in the University able to appoint professors, and so on. These were duly hammered out, and in 1988 the business school was established as the Faculty of Management of the Open University.
Having established a school, the University's first task was to appoint a Dean. With many misgivings on Natalie's part, she is always much more realistic than I am, I applied for the post. In what I now regard as a providential escape, I was not appointed. Looking back I realise that I was too influenced by the independent situation of the London Business School: I conceived of the Deanship as something like the Principal's role there. In fact, for most deans of British university business schools, the main job appears to be fighting your own university - and I would have got very frustrated with that.
The OU appointed Andrew Thomson of the University of Glasgow as Dean. Andrew and I were already working together on an Economic and Social Research Council working party for the establishment of large-scale databases in management studies. He immediately asked me to join him in the business school. I was lobbied by Geoff Peters, the Dean of the Technology Faculty, to stay there. But there was no doubt where my heart lay - and anyway I have a taste for new expanding enterprises, rather than mature ones.
THE OPEN UNIVERSITY BUSINESS SCHOOL
So here we are again in temporary accommodation in Stony Stratford while our campus building in Milton Keynes is being erected. The Open University Business School (OUBS) was not in a slum this time but in a suite of offices in a faceless modern block. In 1988 it was a hive of activity: new structures, new subjects, new courses, exponentially expanding numbers of students. In four years it became, in terms of student numbers, the largest business school in Europe, probably in the world. That's the nature of successful distance learning. And then we began expanding into Western Europe, followed, with the help of the 'know-how fund' by expansion into ex-communist Eastern Europe, and then into the Pacific Rim. The whole exercise had an attractive 'sixties feel about it, and we were able to do it in the late 'eighties because the developments were funded from fee income with only minor government financial support.
In this welter of teaching activity, I was appointed as Director of Research with a brief to introduce elements of a research climate, establish research activity, and inaugurate a doctoral programme. Some financial resources were available, but as anyone who has been in this situation knows, it is not money that is the academics' scarce resource, but time. Over the years we have established a number of University recognised research groups built around committed researchers: they include voluntary sector management, small business management, strategic management, information management, human resource management and, my particular concerns, international management and management history.
I also inaugurated the OUBS doctoral programme, but it has, as yet, a small number of students because we cannot go beyond the capacity of our faculty to supervise, and their research experience is still being steadily built up. Then the ESRC established a national Management Teaching Fellows programme to give encouragement to beginning academics to enter the field of management studies. The programme gave opportunities for the participants to have a reduced teaching load, while they obtained training in teaching and research. During the years of the scheme's operation, the OUBS obtained over a dozen such fellowships, one of the largest allocations of any business school. I was responsible for designing and managing the programme of activities for them; in later years in collaboration with Jacky Holloway, one of the first graduates of the scheme.
While Andrew Thomson was still at Glasgow, he had agreed to edit the Newsletter of the newly formed British Academy of Management (BAM). Andrew edited the first issue at the OUBS, but then, because of pressure of work, he asked me to take it over. With my previous experience of the ATM Newsletter, I can't say that I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. But I enjoy this sort of editing. It is proactive. It requires the editor to go out to colleagues, asking, and then nagging, them to write informative or provocative articles. I was able to make full use of my network to establish a regular publication which BAM members told me they positively looked forward to reading. I established a number of regular features: 'BAM Soapbox' to stir things up by 'banging the drum at the top of your voice about a bee in your bonnet'; 'BAM Impact' for introducing your colleagues to an important book in your field; 'BAM Focus' for publicising the research being carried out in your school. Perhaps the most popular feature was the gossip column written by 'Stony Stratford'. This managed to comment on the passing scene to such good effect that even some of my American colleagues told me they read it to discover what was happening in British academic management. After three years and ten issues, I felt that I had done my stint and handed the Newsletter on.
THE INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT RESEARCH GROUP
By the time I moved into the Open University Business School in 1988, cross-cultural comparisons in management had become a main focus of my research interests and I decided to take the title of Professor of International Management - the third chair that I have occupied. David Hickson had put us in touch with Enzo Perrone of Bocconi University, Milan - the leading business school in Italy. They had been conducting comparative longitudinal studies of the structure and functioning of Italian organizations. They were setting up a European network to carry out cross-cultural studies and were seeking a British participant for the group. I agreed to join, and set up the OUBS International Management Research Group which became the British member of the 'International Organization Observatory'. The other members of the IOO were from France (Gilles van Wijk, Paris) Spain (Josep Baruel, Barcelona) the Netherlands (Arndt Sorge and Mariëlle Heijltjes, Maastricht) and Germany (Christian Scholz, Saarbrucken). Geoff Mallory, Timothy Clark and I worked on this project at the British end. I feel it appropriate that papers from this work have appeared in German, and in the Festschrift for my friend and neighbour Frank Heller of the Tavistock Institute which was published in Holland. A further result of the IOO collaboration is a book on 'European Perspectives on Human Resource Management', edited by Timothy Clark, which explores the interestingly different ways in which this subject is conceptualised and practised in the various European countries.
With my colleague Dagmar Ebster-Grosz, I also conducted a more specific project on Anglo-German business collaboration. This was designed as joint venture with the University of the Saarland and involved interviews with the chief executives of German subsidiaries in the UK and British subsidiaries in Germany. The two research teams made their data available to each other, but, because of a major divergence of opinion, made their analyses separately. In our view, the German analysis is overly quantitative in a way which is unjustified by the nature of the data. The British results are based on content analysis of the interviews and illustrative quotations. This harks back to a point I made earlier about the need for a strong qualitative understanding before undertaking quantitative analysis. Our results were published in 1996 in a book entitled "Anglo-German Business Collaboration: Pitfalls and Potentials".
My work in this field has linked up with David Hickson's. He proposed that we collaborate on a book that would review the impact of societal cultures on management activity in different countries around the world. The distinctive concept was that it would be organized by country, so that a reader could look up a particular country and obtain a summary of what is known of its management approach. Since collaborating with David is one of life's pleasures, I enthusiastically agreed. But I was hopelessly over-optimistic on time scales, and David had to do a lot of chasing up. But still, the book, Management Worldwide, was published by Penguin in 1995. A second expanded edition appeared in 2001.
MANAGEMENT HISTORY RESEARCH GROUP
A major recent interest of mine, as befits a geriatric professor, is in management history. This was stimulated when I met a phenomenon: E.F.L. Brech. Edward Brech has been writing about management for the last fifty years. He collaborated with L.F.Urwick on the classic British three volume work which appeared in the 'forties on The Making of Scientific Management. He wrote The Principles and Practice of Management and other books, and is in the Pugh and Hickson Great Writers on Organizations omnibus. And all this while working as a manager and a management consultant; he has never held an academic post. In the years since his retirement he had been writing a history of the development of management and the management professional institutes in Britain. He was looking for an academic link and, strangely, had found it difficult to find one.
|Dr Edward Brech (left) with Derek |
at the OU Graduation Ceremony, 2006
I consulted with Andrew Thomson and we agreed to set up a Management History Research Group in the Business School to develop this work. When Andrew finished his stint as Dean, he became the head of the group. Edward became a Visiting Research Fellow, and, under my supervision, developed his work on "The concept and gestation of a professional institute of management in Britain, 1902 - 1949" into a thesis. In 1994, at the age of 85, he was awarded a PhD for this study, and promptly went into the Guinness Book of Records as the then oldest British doctoral graduate. In the next decade, he continued his work on the history of British management institutions and was awarded a higher doctorate (DLitt) in 2006. He was considering further work when he sadly died at the age of 97. He was a phenomenon and will be much missed.
My own interests are in the history and development of management ideas. My contribution has been as the series editor for Dartmouth Publishing's The History of Management Thought. Many new universities cannot make available a historical framework for management studies because they do not have back runs of important journals, and are not in a position to obtain them. A set of readers, in which a leading scholar chooses key articles in the field to demonstrate its historical development, seemed a useful contribution to make. This is what the series sets out to do. So we have John Miner's choice on Administrative and Management Theory, Lyman Porter's and Greg Bigley's on Human Relations, Sam Eilon's on Management Science, Lex Donaldson's on Contingency Theory, etc. The series ranges from Early Management Thought (Dan Wren) to Post-modern Management Theory (Linda Smircich and Marta Callas).
|Natalie and Derek Pugh |
on the occasion of their Golden Wedding, 2004
Also at that time those who have been my research colleagues over the years presented me with a Festschrift, Advancement in Organizational Behaviour: Essays in Honour of Derek S. Pugh edited by Timothy Clark, which gratified me very much.
And I was delighted that my teaching colleagues were kind enough to have
established the annual Derek Pugh Prize, to be awarded to the best student
among the two thousand or so managers who take the OUBS beginning courses every
|Timothy Clark and Derek Pugh,|
British Academy of Management Conference, 2014
I continue to give seminars to managers and management students. I have also developed a series of seminars for doctoral students and supervisors of all faculties based on the topics covered in the 'How to Get a PhD' book. Then there are the new editions of the books to write, and new ideas for books to develop. I have to say that I have enjoyed myself at work - even in the battles, and I have had my fair share of those. So there is a natural attraction to carry on. And anyway, my view has always been that while we may have made some progress with the various research programmes, we are still trying - "and the best is yet to be".
(Revised November 2006)