The Profession of Management

I live in California which has one of the best state college systems in the country. While the University of California (UC) system has ten campuses and a world renowned focus on the sciences and research, only two campuses offer undergraduate business degree programs. The lack of commitment to the study of business is reflective of a discipline that has only been recognized as a serious profession over the last twenty or thirty

As a professional strategy practitioner, I draw from the writings of innovators such as Michael Porter which are only thirty to forty years old. Relative to professions like medicine or engineering, strategy as a practice is still an immature field. As a result, best practices are not cast in stone.

In recent retreats, we have witnessed professional managers break out into debates about what a mission statement should be or even how an opportunity should be framed. These debates, while needed and useful also reflect the fact that the practices and norms of any business represent the combined experiences of its management. Like something out of a fast food commercial, there is no right way or wrong way, there is your way.

For this reason, the culture of a company and its modus operandi (MO) can differ radically from one to the next. While there are some truths that are common and self evident, I have found their applications to vary greatly. I actually think we should celebrate these differences and not be so caught up in one way of doing things. It is these variances that make the profession of management stimulating and fun.

Perhaps there is only one way to remove a gallbladder or to construct a ventilation unit, but in the field of business, the world is our oyster. The idea that an entrepreneur can take an idea, and form and shape it in any way he or she wants is a very liberating experience.

While businesses draw from books, thought leaders and the best practices of others, it is their way of doing things that can be an inspiration for competitive advantage. So don’t get too stuck in the mud on how others interpret how you should do things. Ultimately every management team needs to find their way, build their methodology and make it their own.