Management fad is a term used to characterize a change in philosophy or operations implemented by a business or institution.
The term is subjective and tends to be used in a pejorative sense, as it implies that such a change is being implemented (often by management on its employees, with little or no input from them) solely because it is (at the time) "popular" within managerial circles, and not necessarily due to any real need for organizational change. The term further implies that once the underlying philosophy is no longer "popular", it will be replaced by the newest "popular" idea, in the same manner and for the same reason as the previous idea.
Several authors have argued that new management ideas should be subject to greater critical analysis, and for the need for greater conceptual awareness of new ideas by managers. Authors Leonard J. Ponzi and Michael Koenig believe that a key determinant of whether any management idea is a "management fad" is the number and timing of published articles on the idea. In their research, Ponzi and Koenig argue that once an idea has been discussed for around 3–5 years, if after this time the number of articles on the idea in a given year decreases significantly (similar to the right-hand side of a bell curve), then the idea is most likely a "management fad".
Management fads are often characterized by the following:
Consultants and even academics have developed new management ideas. Journalists may popularize new concepts.
Like other fashions, trends in management thought may grow, decline, and recur. Judy Wajcman sees the human relations movement of the 1930s as a precursor of the later fashion of "transformational management".
The following management theories and practices appeared on a 2004 list of management fashions and fads compiled by Adrian Furnham, who arranged them in rough chronological order by their date of appearance, 1950s to 1990s:
Other theories and practices which observers have tagged as fads include:
Business journalists [...] participate in the creation of management fads and fashions, and provide platforms or sounding boards for the teachings [...].
[...] participatory involvement was seen as the key characteristic of management during the Human Relations movement of the 1930s and 1940s. Even so, this precursor of the current fashion for 'transformational management' was entirely identified as a male leadership style.
Teamwork has become a management fad with its own set of problems.
While there are some that would want to use DevOps for all types of products, applications, and organisations, others see DevOps as the latest fad that may work for small start-ups but not for any 'real' work.
Arguably, it was a mistake for the public sector to try to ape the transformational leadership fad that dominated some private companies.
The catchphrases alone are enough to bring flooding into the memory some of the numerous time-and-money-wasting initiatives that went nowhere. Remember 'empowerment,' now replaced by 'engagement'? Remember 'thriving on chaos' and 'upside-down organizations'? [...] The change-ophile, wannabe consultant or desperate manager often embrace every new fad around.
[...] yet another management fad in the style of the Tao of Leadership [...]
For a critique of the practice of branding new management ideas as fads, see
For a listicle see: