Management à la joke

For those who believe that management thinking is taken far too seriously, a trip to France's top engineering school might provide an enlightening - and entertaining - change. Two graduates of Polytechnique recently presented their thesis on trends in strategic management - with a theory they had entirely made up.

by Les Echos
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Clémentine Marcovici and Benjamin Frémeaux had initially tried to approach their subject in traditional fashion (interviews with executives, academics and consultants), but faced with a torrent of predictable management babble, they decided to opt for a more radical option.

They invented a new concept called Strategic Alignment – an English name was de rigueur if their theory was to be taken seriously – which set out three guiding principles: to be, to say and to do. Decisions should only be made at the intersection of these main poles, the 'effective target zone'.

The two students wrote a 10-page memo outlining the foundations of their theory, wrapped it nicely in a well-presented word document and claimed it had been coined by two Harvard professors – the ultimate weapon in management thinking. They then sent their 'presentation' to 100 business people, academics and journalists.

Many would think that these professionals would have seen through the hoax, but 57% of respondents fell for it, some going as far as sending pages of enthusiastic contributions. Only two recipients had the enlightened idea of checking the veracity of Strategic Alignment, one almost by chance since he had received the parcel on April 1.

Moral of the story? Is management just a load of fluffy deception? Not at all, say Marcovici and Frémeaux, who are genuinely interested in the subject. So long as someone finds a theory useful, it doesn't need to be endorsed by top academics or approved as 'real'. Turning theory into practice is, at the end of the day, what management is about.

Source: La (fausse) leçon de stratégie de deux X-Mines
Muriel Jasor
Les Echos June 29 2006

Review by Emilie Filou

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