Expanding R&D in Tools and Techniques

A great need exists for more real research and development in management tools and techniques themselves. The level of research effort and support in the field of management is woefully low. It is also not particularly great in the discipline underlying management or, for that matter, in the entire area of social science. Nevertheless, it is probable that research in the underlying disciplines far outpaces that in the central area of management.

There are many reasons for this. General management research is difficult, exceedingly complex, and dynamic. It is an area in which facts and proved relationships are hard to come by and in which the controlled experiment of the laboratory is difficult to use without dangerous oversimplification. Like wise, management research is expensive, and the funds that have gone into it are abysmally inadequate.

Still another reason for the low state of management research is that there are few clinical analyses, despite a considerable volume of clinical experience. Consulting efforts of both, professional consultants and individual academics, extensive management case collections, and studies and analyses made internally in business government and other enterprises almost certainly encompass a huge mass of undigested information, largely not summarized and relatively useless information. If this clinical experience could be given the analytical and summarizing work so common in the health sciences, there might now be considerable evidence of what is workable in practice and where deficiencies exist.

Undertaking this research requires patience and understanding. Perfection of analysis to include all kinds of variables is a laudable goal for a researcher. But particularly in the field of management, a little light can be a massive beam in a hitherto dark area. We must often settle for small advances so that cumulatively and over time, we may gain larger ones.

Research without development is insufficient. One of the major challenges for the manager of the future is the need for developing more managerial inventions. It is interesting that so much creative talent has been channeled into the invention of physical designs and chemical compositions while so little has gone into social inventions. The Gantt chart has sometimes been regarded as the most important social invention of the first half of the twentieth century. Other management inventions include the variable budget, rate-of-return-on investment analysis, and PERT. Mere reference to these inventions under scores the fact that they are creative tools developed from a base of principles on the one hand and needs on the other. Reference to them indicates also that they are useful devices in improving the art of managing.

Inventions tend to reflect the cultural level of an art. There are few of them in management. Surely, even the present inadequate cultural level can be coupled with urgent needs to give rise to many more management innovations, particularly if the people concerned are willing to spend some time and money to direct their energies toward these inventions.

Applied research and development in this field surely justify a considerable expenditure of time and money.