Management Fads in Higher Education: Where They Come From, What They Do, Why They Fail / Edition 1

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When is a management innovation truly a good idea, and when is it only a fad? In this thoughtful and engaging book, Robert Birnbaum takes a critical look at the rise and fall of management fads in higher education since the 1960s. He shows higher education administrators and faculty how to move beyond the hype of new fads to make wise, informed decisions and adopt sound management policies.Birnbaum first introduces some novel ideas about fads and carefully analyzes the historical development of seven major management systems in higher education: Planning Programming Budgeting System, Management by Objectives, zero-base budgeting, strategic planning, benchmarking, Total Quality Management, and Business Process Reengineering. From these detailed histories, he develops a model for understanding the life cycle of management innovations, including their creation, development, and eventual adoption or abandonment. The author also explains the social and environmental factors that make educational institutions vulnerable to fads, plus the psychological processes that may lead managers to support failing fads.Finally, Birnbaum explores both the negative and the positive consequences of management fads. Fads often create significant educational and organizational problems, but they are an essential source of good ideas that may be of great value to colleges and universities. He suggests what academic managers can do to maximize the organizational benefits of new management techniques while minimizing their institutional costs. This comprehensive resource can help administrators and faculty become effective academic leaders who understand how management innovations can be used to strengthen the Anduring educational and social purposes of higher education.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Vintage Birnbaum—crisp and ironic, with a contrarian touch. Management fads in higher education will never be the same. Birnbaum's penetrating analysis reveals in the clearest possible terms why fads die an early death."(Burton R. Clark, Allan M. Cartter Professor Emeritus of Higher Education and Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles)

"College and university leaders will welcome Bob Birnbaum's new book, Management Fads in Higher Education, largely because the environment for learning is changing so swiftly. It has become increasingly difficult to separate passing fads from best-practice imperatives. Birnbaum's analysis will be helpful to those who must strain to discern the distinction."(Stanley O. Ikenberry, president, American Council on Education)

"This study will provide chapter and verse for university mid-rank administrators and their faculty colleagues who have to absorb and react to the latest Bright Idea imposed on the system by business-oriented members of the board or state legislature. In showing how such fads have come and gone in the past forty years, Birnbaum also indicates that change has to take the university culture into account: its politics, its working consensus, and—most of all—its values."(Mary Burgan, general secretary, American Association of University Professors)

"Anyone in higher education leadership should read this critical and amusing book. It goes much further than the dull descriptions of management techniques for universities and colleges. It is fair, convincing, and well documented."(Frans van Vught, Rector Magnificus, University of Twente, The Netherlands)

The use and lingering effects of management ideas in higher education are discussed clearly and with humor by Birnbaum, a former vice chancellor and chancellor of three universities, who now teaches higher education at U. of Maryland in College Park. The concept of fads, here meant not pejoratively but as something enjoying brief popularity, and seven new management systems in higher education since the 1960s are the subject of part one. The remainder of the book considers the life cycle of fads, why fads seem appealing, and the consequences, both positive and negative, of their use in universities. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787944568
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/4/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT BIRNBAUM is professor of higher education at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he teaches and writes about higher academic leadership and organization. He was previously vice chancellor of the City University of New York, vice chancellor of the New Jersey Department of Higher Education, and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. He is also author, coauthor, and editor of numerous articles and books, including How Academic Leadership Works and How Colleges Work.

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Table of Contents


Seeking the Grail: The Never-Ending Quest.

We're From the Government and We're Here to Help Planning Programming Budgeting System (PPBS): More Bang for the Buck Management by Objectives (MBO): The Illusion of Empowerment Zero Base Budgeting (ZBB): Denying History.

Survival in a Changing Environment Strategic Planning: The Grand Name Without the Grand Thing Benchmarking: Why Not the Best?

Higher Education as a Commodity Total Quality Management/Continuous Quality Improvement (TQM/CQI): Every Day, in Every Way, Getting Better and Better Business Process Reengineering (BPR): Starting from Scratch.


The Life Cycle of Academic Management Fads.

Organizations and Fads.

Managers and Fads.


The Legacy of Fads.

Managing Fads.

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