“They brought one of those business-school types in to run the department instead of promoting someone,” Mrs. Bowman said, “so now we have a boss who doesn’t have any idea what we’re supposed to be doing.”
“The idea that business-school graduates know best how to manage everything has taken hold so deeply that I see no way of extirpating it in our lifetime,” said Mr. Magundi. “It shows all the markings of a religious belief: it is dogmatic; it is non-negotiable, so that those who question it are dismissed or (more frequently) demonized; and it is immune to contrary evidence. Certainly it would not be hard to argue, looking at the evidence alone, that the conventional wisdom of the business schools has frequently led us into disaster. Yet a government department, or a school, or a church, that was doing perfectly well on its own will be turned over to a business-school graduate to be ‘run like a business,’ although for some reason we never consider that perhaps ‘running it like a business’ means sending it into bankruptcy and then begging the government for a bailout. You must accept the pronouncements of your new manager, not because he has any evidence to back them up, but because he is invested with infallible authority in matters of management; and because, by his definition, everything in life counts as a matter of management. Businessmen are our new bishops; given the choice, I prefer the old bishops, but it doesn’t look as though I’ll be given the choice much longer.
“Still, the pendulum always swings eventually; and I can imagine a time—perhaps when our children’s children are old—when an assistant dean will be brought in to run a marketing department, and all the employees will be told, ‘From now on, this place is going to be run more like a university.’”