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Socio-historical Validation

The striking reality and power of THEE Frameworks can be appreciated through one of the Spiral of Growth trajectories, as described in the 1994 book: Strengthening the Management Culture.

The Spiral of Growth

Natural stages in strengthening a management culture: are paralleled by the development of management theory and consulting practices.

This Spiral describes an evolution in the requisite values to strengthen management. It indicates how deterioration in culture should be understood, and how necessary changes should be pursued in organizations. There are seven stages of growth in management sophistication.


As in all Spirals, growth is a cumulative process. Once one set of values in a Stage becomes fully established, the values start to become over-used. This degeneration produces new problems within a more mature context. So a new set of values is required. Installation of values is difficult and time-consuming—not at all like getting action. All organizations can be mapped on the Spiral trajectory. Very few, if any, have completed the full journey.

At some point, I noticed a similar pattern in the emergence of ideas about management in society and in consulting services on offer. In retrospect, it should have been obvious much earlier. Values are exceedingly difficult to install unless they are supported by wider society. To take root and blossom, new values need to be affirmed, explained and promoted vigorously by respected authorities.

Only values that serve the most immediate needs of managers have any chance of being accepted. So academics and popular writers must sense what is needed «now». They must expound what these new values are about and why they are necessary. The social evolution of management values leads to the emergence of new management functions and new offerings from heavyweight external consultants that bolster the set of values being promoted.

Business leaders and managers tend to be resistant to change and suspicious of new ideas. Development of fads, deplored by sensible people, is all part of the pressure needed to activate them. Fads address the deep reluctance to be different. Even if fads sometimes drive changes in an excessive or foolish fashion, they are eventually put into correct perspective as time passes—and then the next fad emerges.

As I have observed it, the evolution in management thinking has taken place without any awareness that the sequence was natural and inevitable given competitive pressures.

Historical Development

Remember …Closed this is an instance of exemplification of the Spiral and focuses on the US. It is not an actual instance in an organization. Much else occurred during this evolution. The story is outlined here with the broadest of brushes. Every student of management can fill in details or apply the ideas to their own country.

ClosedPragmatic values: end 19th C & early 20th C …

ClosedStructuralist (Proceduralist) values: in the 1920s & 1930s …

ClosedDialectic values: in the 1940s and 1950s …

ClosedRationalist values: in the 1960s and 1970s …

Stakeholder theory emerged and re-shaped Pragmatism into logical opportunism.

ClosedEmpiricist values: in the 1980s and 1990s …

The «empiricist culture boom» is now well established. Computerization is no longer a competitive advantage when everyone does it.

We must now move into the predictive mode. Remember:Closed The values that define the growth process at each stage cumulate to produce increasing sophistication.

ClosedImaginist values: since around 2000 and probably lasting to ~2020-2025 …

ClosedSystemicist values: expected around 2020-2040 …

Growth has a non-utopian conclusion: people never become perfect, management never becomes easy, competition remains stressful, governments continue to intrude, and crises still come out of left-field. However, the most sophisticated organizations will handle challenges successfully, in large part through their culture of informed, ethical and dynamic pragmatism.

Originally posted: August 2009; Last updated 2-Jul-2010.

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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