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Management Fads: The Seeds Of Change

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

EM Skills and Real World Concepts

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.911.1 - 10.911.10



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Paper Authors

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JoDell Steuver

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Donna Evanecky

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

EMD 1642

Management Fads: The Seeds of Change Donna J. Evanecky, JoDell Steuver Purdue University College of Technology

Kokomo/Columbus-SE Indiana


America has long been a country ripe for the planting of seeds of change—our culture cultivates change and provides a fertile environment for their growth. The paper talks about the life cycles of management fads – new growth, over sowing, sprouting of imperfectly implemented ideas, good ideas choked with the weeds of disenchantment, and abandonment of the field. It will also examine why people adopt fads and present some recent management trends.


In the March 4, 1985, issue of Industry Week, Harvey Gittler wrote a short article entitled “One More Panacea and We’ll All Go Nuts.” In this article, he covers the sixties, seventies, and a portion of the eighties. Near the end of the article, he states, “there is no doubt that great advances and improvements have been made over the last 30 or 40 years. Fads—a fleeting collection of beliefs—continue to be disseminated by management trendsetters in the twenty years since Gittler wrote his comments. Peter Scholtes says we live in an era of “management pathology.”1

But why is each technique heralded as a panacea? One answer to the question is that management is “faddish”—companies want to be seen as trendsetters. If a fad improves the bottom line, usually within the next quarter, the company will drive it home. Fads are touted as a way to improve organizational effectiveness. These interventions give hope of improved performance.

Robert Bacal allows that two kinds of people are readily attracted to management fads. One type is the person who is attracted to information on management, who has the time, desire and commitment to digest a new concept. These managers can apply the information and succeed. The other type of early adoptee is the person familiar with the buzzwords, who really would like to seem on the cutting edge, but who does not have enough depth of knowledge to apply the concept and make it work.2

The perennially favorite yo-yo is a good example of this concept. An expert demonstrates tricks that look so easy. Yoyos colorfully advertise the fun all have been longing for, and they are relatively inexpensive. Every kid on the block now has a new yoyo, but about 20 percent of them can actually make the yoyo work. About once a decade a new model is introduced and marketed, ensuring that many American homes have these toys in the closet. Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Steuver, J., & Evanecky, D. (2005, June), Management Fads: The Seeds Of Change Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14341

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