You have never heard of Lyman Ketchum or Charlie Krone, but they were among the pioneers of the modern corporation. They are also two of the heroes of a fascinating new book titled The Age of Heretics, by Art Kleiner (Doubleday/Currency, 1996, $29.95). In it, Kleiner chronicles the struggle by management radicals of the 1960s and 1970s to bring change to such giant corporations as General Foods, Procter & Gamble, and Shell.
It's easy to forget how recently it was that mistrust of employees was an unchallenged assumption of business. So, for that matter, was the view that management's job was to get people to behave, usually by fear. Those who fought against the prevailing wisdom often paid a heavy price. This book is a tribute to them and their vision. It's also a reminder that all innovation -- to paraphrase Tip O'Neill -- is local. While the big-business media continue to focus on what happens in the boardroom and the corporate suite, the real work of running the Fortune 500 is done by managers in factories and offices across America. In a sense, they are as disenfranchised today as entrepreneurs were back in 1979, when Inc. was founded. Maybe it's time for someone to give them their own Inc.* * *
George Gendron can be reached at email@example.com* * *