Once folks understand that MBM is a management philosophy, most people wonder why MBM organizations bother to put so much energy and effort into a philosophy. Below are some common questions on the topic.
What is a management philosophy?
A management philosophy is a set of values, beliefs, opinions, and mental models that direct how a business should be managed. Usually philosophies have to do with the people side of business. For instance, a common business philosophy may include ideas about how to hire people. Whole Foods is famous for having a team approach to hiring. Whole Foods management philosophy includes strong beliefs about teams and empowerment through group decision making. Google is famous for giving employees time to work on their self-directed projects. This practice is rooted in a belief that autonomy breeds innovation. These practices are part of their management philosophies (even if they don’t call it that).
Why dedicate resources to a management philosophy?
The reality is all leaders who are making decisions for businesses have management philosophies, even if they don’t realize it. What happens in the minds of leaders is important, as their values, beliefs, opinions and mental models will determine how they behave.
Some companies go through the trouble of articulating their management philosophies. The upside is that employees (and candidates for jobs) can decide if they like the philosophy. This can lead to a couple of good outcomes:
- Employees and perspective employees can choose if they want to work for that type of company.
- Customers and business partners can decide if they want to do business (or boycott) because the approach to business is clear.
- Employees are more likely to adopt the behaviors necessary to uphold the philosophy because they understand the values and beliefs and opt in. So, when they make decisions on behalf of the company are more likely to faithfully represent the owners.
- Employees can bring their ideas, ask questions, and find better ways of managing.
The downside is that it is difficult to articulate a philosophy, remain open to changing the philosophy as it makes sense, and hold employees accountable for acting accordingly when they make decisions on behalf of the business.
Why did MBM take so long to evolve?
Like many management philosophies, MBM started with some deeply rooted beliefs. The earliest copy of the Guiding Principles was produced in the early 1980s – though many who have been around since before that will tell you there were mental models being used long before that. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that there was a group of people dedicated to articulating, teaching, and developing MBM. In the 1990s, MBM got its name. If I had time and energy, I could probably develop a timeline of what mental models and tools were added when.
Part of the reason MBM took so long to evolve into what it is today is just that: it wasn’t designed, it evolved. For those of you who have studied spontaneous order or the rules of just conduct, you know that systems that are grown organically often take a long time to emerge and can be difficult to describe. Once they have evolved to a certain point, ensuring they continue to evolve and grow can be tough.
If you’re interested, spend some time searching the internet you will see many companies have written down some of their management philosophies. It’s not just MBM organizations that have discovered the benefits of articulating a management philosophy. What other questions do you have about the history of MBM or about management philosophies?