Mary Parker Follett Prophet of Management

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Pauline Graham
Beard Books, 2003 - Business & Economics - 309 pages
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This is a reprint of a previously published work. She was the predecessor of modern theorists on management. Almost everything written today about leadershipand organizations comes from Mary Parker Follett's writings.

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In this 1995 collection of Follet's writings (ISBN 0-87584-563-0), Pauline Graham does a great service by providing the public with the Prophet of Management's philosophy unvarnished. Concurrently, she gathers some of the top writers on management science, such Mintzberg and Drucker, to describe the significant, continuing implications of Follet's work.
Follet was a well-educated Bostonian whose training and experiences formed her teachings. She was a social worker who helped the homeless, a political scientist who studied human response to conflict, and a highly-sought consultant who gave the world her ideas before it was ready for them. Her unique style of detailed interviews with subject-matter-experts coupled with a straightforward articulation of complex ideas allowed her to reach wide audiences with great effect. Contemporary scholars are now just rediscovering her, and may they continue to do so!
- Her key interest was in "reinventing the citizen" (7).
- Her most profound psychological observation on human behavior: "we react ot only to the other party but also to the relationship that exists between us, thus creating in part our own response" (ix). Her concept of circular response expounds on this: " behaviour helps create the situation to which I am responding" (85).
- A leader "is one who sees the whole situation, organizes the experience of the group, offers a vision of the future, and trains followers to be leaders" (xiv).
- True power comes from relationships and the respect that engenders. "The most effective way to exercise authority is to depersonalize the giving of orders, emphasizing the importance of a task rather than the rights one person has over another" (xiv). In this sense, function is a key area of focus in a successful business.
- Business is a social institution (xiv). In this context, management is a function or process, not a set of tools to influence subordinates (xiii). Follet also takes the idea further by saying that "a person's work itself becomes community service" (xv).
- This integrated lifestyle would also describe her conflict resolution technique whereby individuals or organizations would ideally not seek domination or compromise. Rather, they would create alternatives (i.e., not either-or (see p. 70)) to satisfy each other's true needs. The catch is for both sides to listen to each other in order to discern those requirements and achieve an "integration of interests" (4). "The first rule, then, for obtaining integration is to put your cards on the table, face the real issue, uncover the conflict, bring the whole thing into the open" (75). She concludes that conflict is difference (67).
- In bureaucracy, Follet was ahead of her time. She "urged leaders to replace bureaucracy with empowered group networks with a common purpose" (xv). She also urged healthy businesses to encourage employees to think about their responsibilities (products) rather than about to whom they report (147). This would presage Senge's learning organizations and foster business management as a holistic, inter-disciplinary effort.
- Follet saw "democratic governance" (15) as a means for an individual to constructively & responsibly contribute to an organized society. Every worker, then, becomes a valuable asset because they have knowledge and experience which are crucial to accomplishing specific tasks (157). Leadership connects the control of the situation to the citizen. "When leadership rises to genius it has the power of transforming, of transforming experience into power" (169).
- "For whatever problems we solve in business management may help toward the solution of world problems, since the principles of organisation and administration which are discovered as best for business can be applied to government or international relations" (139).


Relating The Circular Response
Constructive Conflict
Follett Constructive Conflict
The Giving of Orders
The Basis of Authority
Mary Parker Folletts View on Power the Giving of Orders and Authority An Alternative to Hierarchy or a Utopian Ideology?
The Essentials of Leadership
The Individual in the Group
The Individual in the Group
The Individual in Society
Business in Society
Most QuotedLeast Heeded The Five Senses of Follett

Thoughts on The Essentials of Leadership
Some Fresh Air for Management? Henry Mintzberg
Reflections on Design and the Third Way
The Process of Control

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