Technogeekaphobia: Scourge of the Age of Technology – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, published in late May, I introduced the long-standing problem of Technogeekaphobia. A problem that has plagued IT productivity in businesses ever since businesses began utilizing Information Technology.

In upcoming articles, we’ll explore how this problem actually manifests in business environments and causes higher costs, lower efficiency, greater frustration levels and generally creates an environment and even a culture that can have a profound negative impact on the strategic goals of the business.

Today we’ll look more closely at the development of the discipline of Business Management so that we can better understand the perspective or the point of view that a majority of non-technical business managers and executives bring to the table.

Origins of Business Management

Fredrick W. Taylor, a mechanical engineer, is generally acknowledged to be the father of Scientific Management. In 1911 he published “The Principles of Scientific Management”, a summary of his theories on increasing efficiency in business and production operations. Business management principles, as we understand them today, can also be linked directly to a field of study that was formed in the 1940’s during World War II. Scientists in various disciplines were brought together to develop superior organizational, strategic, and tactical operations. This new field of study was known as Operation Research and was considered a subfield of mathematics since it dealt with quantifying and optimizing cost, quality and schedules.

20th Century Development

In 1946, Peter Drucker published his seminal work “Concept of the Corporation” where he further expanded upon these earlier theories as well as his own and brought them squarely into the world of the functioning corporation. His research included an in-depth, even intimate, two year study of General Motors, which had retooled to completely support the war effort. Although Alfred Sloan ran General Motors in strict accordance with a philosophy of management as a science, Drucker acknowledged that there was also an art of practice that influenced the success of a business. In this way he concurred with Dale Carnegie who, at the same time, was building his organization training managers and leaders.

And thus the foundation was laid for decades of academic and professional management instruction according to the existing body of knowledge. In 1969, the Project Management Institute began adding to that body, in the particular arena of project management. Dr. Edwin Locke and his associates would also add to that body of knowledge in the area of goal setting and motivation.

21st Century Changes

Over 40 years later, in 2009, when I first began speaking on the topic of Technogeekaphobia, I found recent research showing that in business management schools, very little had changed regarding the way business management was taught in the 20th Century. With a few exceptions, much of what was taught in the fifties and sixties was still being taught as we entered the second decade of the 21st century. Very few courses addressed the particular requirements of managing Technogeeks.

I was a bit surprised by this research because years before, I had read Peter Drucker’s book, written in 2000, “Management Principles in the 21st Century”, wherein he clearly articulated the need for management practices to adapt as we shifted from an industrial age to a technological age. I assumed academia would be keeping up.

Drucker made the point that managing knowledge workers in the 21st century is very different from managing other workers in the 20th Century. Knowledge workers – many of whom are Technogeeks – are quite different and have needs and motivations that differ widely from workers whose primary asset to a company is not their highly specialized, expert knowledge.

In the next article of this series, we’ll take a closer look at who these Technogeeks are, what drives them, and why managing them can be frustrating.

Part 1 of this series