Devalued management theories
Poor quality research at business schools
Overemphasis on management practice
Management research has a dual nature, drawing on and contributing to the experience and knowledge of managers and organizations. The problem is that management research is often regarded as irrelevant in the business world, where "experience" and trial and error practices are more commonly employed.
Examples of management theories which have had widespread influence on company practice are: Japan's post-war adoption of the quality research of Deming, Juran and others, "re-engineering" (restructuring of companies along process lines), and "options pricing theory", whose practice underlies the explosive growth in trade in "derivatives".
In 1992, just 12 of the 104 business schools in the UK were rated centres of national or international excellence in research and, in 1994, only 2% of all research council grants were in business. Often managers either do not regard research topics as key issues or cannot understand the results. There is no research agenda for important unresolved macroeconomic issues (in the case of the UK, for example, into the underpowering of small and medium companies or the ability of inward investors to gain world-class performance from UK plants where indigenous owners have been unable).
Research into the problems, solutions and success of management processes, and the ways organizations can best adapt and thrive in a changing environment, has much to contribute to good management. Research can contribute directly to management practices and to informing policy makers. It has a particular role to play in analysing change, in pinpointing critical factors in success or failure, and in bringing forward new perspectives and methods of management. The best research lifts itself above immediate problem-solving to provide perspectives that contribute to a cumulative understanding of management and the environments in which it operates. A management technique that is fine in practice, but does not work in theory, has limited broader relevance, particularly in its ability to be replicated and transferred to different settings.
Unlike some other fields where practical progress depends on theoretical advance, management leading-edge practice often drives far ahead of theory. Pure research in management is a contradiction in terms. Companies' need is applied advice, and this they can get from consultants. Business consultants act as intermediaries between theory and practice.