Episode 29 – Medicine and Managerialism: A Clash of Values


J.-C. Spender, PhD, is an engineer-turned-business school professor, an author, an expert on the history of business education, and he’s a former business executive and business school dean.  These credentials equip him to have insight into the goings-on of business schools and real expertise in the practical challenges of graduate business education.  Dr. Spender has a distinct philosophical bent which surfaces in this episode (and more so in Part 2 of this interview—Episode #30).  He sports a professorial persona, likely honed with endless graduate students, which means a few pugilistic remarks punctuate our conversation even when we are in “violent agreement.”

I asked him to come onto the LTL podcast to talk about Managerialism. He and Robert R. Locke co-wrote the book Confronting Managerialism—How the Business Elite and their Schools Threw our Lives out of Balance.

Dr. Spender makes it clear from the get-go that controversy related to managerialism must be seen in terms of conflicting values. By necessity, there are distinct values driving people who are involved in the financial or operational details of large organizations. He believes critics of managerialism might suffer from the delusion that it’s possible to run a complex organization without applying attention and resources to maintaining the multiplicity of needs of the enterprise itself. This “idiotic and fruitless” stance ignores the fact that friction between managers and professionals represents an inevitable clash of values.

In this episode Dr. Spender says “The issues of managerialism in the healthcare sector are extraordinarily important–they are the cutting edge of getting a sense of how on earth do we manage these systems?”

In this episode:

  • Principles and theory—the scaffolding for the actual practice of a profession
  • Tacit knowledge—you won’t escape this podcast without a clear picture of the critical nature of experiential learning
  • Principles and theory must step aside to allow tacit knowledge, practice, and the “real you” to assert agency in times of uncertainty
  • The mystifying chasm between the business community and business school curriculum
  • The “deadly, fatal” loss of critique in academic business literature
  • Business school faculty priorities: getting published, tenured, and pensioned
  • Being “present” vs. sacrificing yourself to a principle

Meet J.-C. Spender, PhD

Dr. Spender is a Research Professor at Kozminski University, Warsaw; an Emeritus Research Fellow, Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership; and a Visiting Scholar with Fordham Center for Humanistic Management.  He served in the Royal Navy Submarine Service and he worked with Rolls-Royce on nuclear propulsion, IBM on financial computing, and as an investment banker before earning a PhD at the Manchester Business School (UK). He retired in 2003 as Dean of the School of Business & Technology at FIT/SUNY (New York). 

He has published eight books, and over 100 journal articles and book chapters. His most recent book is Business Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Enterprise (Oxford UP 2014) which is his dissident view of strategy as a practice that includes the need to manage a business’s creative responses to uncertainty.  He also writes about the theory and ethics of the firm, business strategy, and the history of management education. 

In 2014 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in economics by the Lund University School of Economics & Management.   He is also Commissioning Editor for the Cambridge University Press Elements in Business Strategy.


For details of his current work, broader interests, and a detailed resume go to:  https://jcspender.com/

For a Glossary of Sorts (aka Spenderisms) in this episode, read the 10/19/21 Licensed to Lead newsletter (and for heaven’s sake: subscribe!):  https://bit.ly/LTLmoreinfo

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