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New-Radical

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven French qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant in the UK in 1980 before emigrating to Australia.

 

He consolidated his experience as a management accountant, before moving in to sales and marketing, human resources management and management consulting specialising in strategy.

 

Steven completed his PhD in open systems strategic thinking and then rewrote it into a series of nine integrated papers which were published in two special editions of the Journal of Management Development. His 20 published papers have more than 400 citations. 

 

For various reasons, when I finished school, I was unable to go to university. The only way I could get an education was to get a scholarship. The only scholarship I could secure was to become an accountant, and I am not the accountant type. But I persevered with my studies for the professional exams and after four years, I qualified in the UK in 1980 as a Chartered Management Accountant. CIMA is one of the world's most respected professional management accounting bodies. I was steeped in the plan/control theories of double entry book keeping, financial analysis and management reporting.

 

In 1982, I emigrated to Australia and after consolidating my experience as a management accountant, I changed career direction to sales and marketing and then HRM before another change to management consulting. In the late eighties I started my own marketing company and in 1996 I decided to specialise in strategy consulting. I also bought and restructured a manufacturing company in the domestic building industry, part of which I still own. I had begun to grow very disaffected with classical management and economic theory and so at age forty, I enrolled at university in a research masters programme to investigate the classical theories and explore options. For about ten years I taught many subjects in the Business School programme. All the management courses and several of the marketing, but my specialty subject was organizational strategy.

 

In a very small department with no supervision available, I developed my own research programme, utilising factor analysis and multiple regression. I looked for a relationship between theories of classical strategic planning and business performance but found nothing, something was wrong with strategic planning. I published two papers, one in the top Australian management journal and the other in the Journal of Management Development (JMD) from Cranfield School of Management in the UK. JMD is one of the top ranked UK, peer reviewed academic journals. The JMD paper got some traction and I have more than 110 citations for this paper.

 

What was wrong, was that strategic planning is a closed system project and management, business and the economy are open system realities. I read von Bertalanffy's book General System Theory. Systems have isomorphic laws and social systems are open not closed systems. I had my PhD research subject, to investigate strategy as an open systems theory. Complexity! I completed my PhD and then re-wrote it into a series of nine integrated papers, which were published in two special editions of the JMD, dedicated to my work.

 

Accountant, Marketeer, Professional Sports Consultant, HRM Consultant, Strategic Management Consultant and Manufacturer. ACMA, Masters degree in classical strategic planning, PhD in open systems strategic thinking. Twenty peer reviewed papers published of which twelve are single author or first author publications in top ranked international academic journals with >400 citations, but I am a management consultant and professional manager, not a full-time professional academic.

 

I used a statement from a Gary Hamel paper, which was hot off the press in 1998, and it became the introductory paragraph for my 2006 PhD thesis. Hamel claimed that there was a hole in the strategic planning process. I used Bertalanffy’s isomorphic law of systems to demonstrate that the innovation process that was missing was an emergent process, an idea that I had picked up from Henry Mintzberg. The emergent process of innovation was incompatible with the closed system strategic planning process. The conclusion that I made is that classical strategy is a close system theory attempting to explain open system realities and open system theory is equally applicable to all classical theories. Management is a plan/control theory and plan and control are isomorphic laws of closed systems. Economics is a theory of stable equilibria, equilibrium is an isomorphic law of closed systems. Our theories of politics and law and justice are based on the adversarial concept of duopoly, win or lose, the ultimate closed system.

 

Systems have laws that are isomorphic to all systems of a particular class. Motor cars, firearms, buildings, computers, solar systems, all obey the same isomorphic laws of closed systems. Oak trees, bumble bees, the brain, ant colonies, weather patterns are open systems that obey a different set of laws. The sets of laws are mutually exclusive hence isomorphic. We apply closed system laws to open system realities of management, economics and politics and law and justice and the result is a disaster because open systems in equilibrium are dead.

 

There are reasons why our society ignores these quite obvious claims and it has been my project for the last decade to tell the story, which will be available in three volumes. The first, New-Radical Management is available now, read on…

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