If a man is to manage by concepts, patterns and principles, if he is to apply system and methods he can, however, also prepare himself for the job. For concepts and principles can be taught as can system, method and the formulation of patterns. Indeed, perhaps the only way to acquire them is by systematic learning. At least one never hears of anyone acquiring this basic patterns, the alphabet and the multiplication table, by experience.
Tomorrow’s manager will actually need two preparations rather than one. Some things a man can learn before he becomes a manager; he can acquire them as youth or as he goes along. Others he can learn only after he has been a manager for some time, they are adult education.
On does not have to have been a manager to learn reading and writing. Indeed, these skills are best acquired in one’s youth.
It can be said with little exaggeration that of the common college courses being taught toady the ones nearly vocational as preparation for management are the writing of poetry and of short stories. For these two courses teach how to express himself, teach him words and their meaning and, above all, give him practice in writing. It can also be said that nothing would help so much to prepare young men for management as revival of the honorable practice of the oral defense of one’s thesis – only it should be made a frequent, normal, continuing part of college work rather than something that happens once, at the end of formal schooling.
In ones youth one can also most easily acquire knowledge and understanding of logic and of its analytical and mathematical tools. A young man can also learn the basic understanding of science and scientific method which the manager of tomorrow will need. He can acquire the ability to see the environment and to understand it through history and the political sciences. He can learn economies and acquire the analytical tools of the economist.
To prepare himself to be manager, a young man can, in other words, acquire a general education. He may acquire it through formal schooling. Or, as many of the best have always done, he may educate himself. But all these things together constitute what has always been considered the general knowledge and discipline of the educated man.
Do not mean to imply that what the young man needs to prepare himself for management is incompatible with specific business or engineering training. On the contrary, there is no reason why the required general education should not be a integral part of the business school or engineering school curriculum (as is indeed being recognized increasingly by our engineering schools). It also does not mean there is no value to specific business or engineering subjects. On the contrary they give a man ability to perform functional work with home degree of workmanship. And it is not only still important that everyone in an enterprise possess that ability to do functional work – at least on the journeyman’s level – but it is crucial that every manager acquire the respect for workmanship which only a technical or craft skill can give. The young man who only acquires functional skills, however and only learns specific business or engineering subjects is not being prepared to be a manager. All he is being prepared for is his first job.
Indeed the demands that tomorrow will make on the manager may well force us to create anew what we have all but lost: the liberal education for use. It will be very different (at least in outward appearance) from what our grandfathers knew by that name. But it will again have strict method and real standards, especially of self discipline and of ethics, instead of the abandonment of method and standards that characteristic so much of today’s so called progressive education. It will again have a unified focus rather than be fragmented departmentally. And like every living liberal education in the past, it will be preparation for work as an adult and citizen rather than merely ‘general culture’.
The specific work of the manager makes sense only to men who have set objectives, organized, communicated and motivated, measured performance and developed people. Otherwise it is formal, abstract and lifeless. But to a manager who can put the flesh of his own experience on these terms can become extremely meaningful.