A conversation with William Hopper

I reviewed William and Kenneth Hopper’s book, The Puritan Gift, awhile back. It is an excellent book on management and traces the history of management in the United States as well as aspects in the UK and Japan.

I asked this question of Will Hopper recently:

The traditional management path described in the Puritan Gift requires a young management prospect to work their way up in a company or at least and industry so they fully understand the craft, the process, the product, the technology, the business, the customer, etc. In today’s economy it seems that young workers are not likely to remain in one company for a long time and may not even stay in an industry for long, especially if they are in management. Companies today hire and discharge people in large numbers and there is little job stability for many. In this environment how can a person hope to develop the years’ of experience in an industry or company that the traditional path requires? Or does this beg the question in that to follow your recommendation companies must change their practices and keep employees with management potential for the long haul?

Here is Will’s response:

“It is almost by definition that, if a company is seen to be well managed, the structure will  be more or less as we describe it. For example, it is doubtful if any complex organisation can function well, unless some kind of a line-and-staff structure is in place. This was the pattern that Col. Lee established at the Springfield Armory, normally regarded as the model for the future Great Engine companies. Equally, if an organisation is seen to be well-managed, some element of ‘bottom-up’ will probably be present.

“I say ‘probably’, because one can conceive of well-run organisations run by talented CEOs which do not follow this pattern. For example, they could take a detailed interest in every activity of their ‘staff’ departments or be thoroughly top-down in their approach to their ‘line’ activities.  The problem will this kind of all-purpose genius is that they will turn their companies into personal fiefdoms which will collapse when they retire, resign or fall under a bus. It is most unlikely that they will have equally talented people waiting in the wings to take over from them. In short, they will have neglected the all-important subject of management development.

“Re your more general question, I agree with your answer. I believe (as we say in our Principle 22) that employment should be for the long term, namely at least ten years. Otherwise, how can you justify the expense of training and how can you build a ‘corporate memory’ of problems addressed and solved in the past?”

You may be an employee, a small business owner, or a member of management in most any organization. No matter where you are you can benefit from The Puritan Gift and the insights it gives for effective management as an aspiring manager or business owner.

Learn more from my Review on the book and if you find this as compelling as I do consider buying the book. You will be glad you did. The Hoppers challenge much about modern “management science” and offer a compelling view of where we have been, where we are going and where we ought to be going.

Wishing you success and prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy
Helping People Learn to Build Wealth

Wishing you Success and Prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.