My grandparents used to have a big book with an illustration which showed the hypothetical rise of man, from mostly monkey to modern man. You've probably seen it too. As I think back on it, it makes me wonder...
The two must go hand in hand, for where there are people, there is society. Where there is society, there must be some forms of organization, which in turn implies forms of management.
Is mankind making progress? Physically, yes. We stand taller and straighter. Our brains are larger, particularly our cerebrums, where we do our higher-order thinking. Technologically, it's obvious that we are advancing rapidly. Socially - who knows? There have been lots of bad things in society for a long time. Archeologists have found ancient skeletons with arrowheads lodged between vertebrae, and that sort of thing. And we still have Cambodians and Rwandans and Bosnians dying by the thousand.
Are we getting to be better managers? On balance, I think that the answer is yes. We've learned a lot about motivation, dispersed intelligence, listening to customers, and sharing information. We can use control charts to avoid wild goose chases while at the same time detecting real problems.
Can we get better faster? Again, I think we can. There are more students of management, and would-be instructors, than at any time in human history. If we can somehow tap into their thought processes and combined experiences, we could piece together a picture of what works, and what doesn't.
There are a couple of practical ways that we can accomplish this "pie in the sky" goal, or at least move in the right direction:
There's probably a way for the private sector to handle most of this work. After all, if I'm right, and it is valuable information, people will be willing to pay for it. What will it look like?