Toward Better Understanding of Management

Toward Better Understanding of Management

J. Great Lakes Res. 9( I): I Internal. Assoc. Great Lakes Res., 1983 EDITORIAL TOWARD BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF MANAGEMENT Within an ecosystem approac...

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J. Great Lakes Res. 9( I): I Internal. Assoc. Great Lakes Res., 1983


Within an ecosystem approach, the man-nature ecosystem may be characterized in various ways. For present purposes-toward better understanding of management-I find a characterization of W. B. Clapham, Jr. (Cleveland State University) particularly useful. He organizes the man-nature ecosystem as three interacting domains-the policy maker, the manager, and the environment. The last includes natural and manmade environments and their renewable and nonrenewable resources. All three of Clapham's domains deserve serious empirical study. In the North American Great Lakes, as elsewhere, recent emphasis of study has been overwhelmingly on the environmental domain. The policy domain ranks a distant second and the manager domain a very distant third. Great Lakes research, even in the environmental domain, has not been strongly empirical at a systems level. Much of the work has been very reductionistic or quite abstract, at least in motivation. Ecotoxicologists, ecologists, economists, demographers, etc.-whether of theoretic or reductionistic persuasions-have proffered much normative advice to managers. Relatively little of that advice has been acted upon. Possible reasons: the abstract theory or the reductionistic truth may appear to be largely irrelevant to practical issues as perceived by the manager; the manager may not yet understand theory or truth; or the manager may simply ignore them both. For whatever reasons, the transfer into practical application has been disappointingly limited. In contrast, the results of empirical systems studies seem to be of greater interest and utility, at least within the environmental domain. Over the past quarter century I have worked closely with some highly perceptive and innovative managers, as well as with some empirically-oriented interdisciplinary scientists with strong interests in the manager domain. Some of the issues under study with which I am familiar include (1) how users of resources interact with each other and with managers with respect to conservation issues; (2) the extent to which agencies exercise (formally or informally) their policy mandates, as a step toward understanding what passes for "governance" currently; (3) the broad spectrum of mechanisms available for implementing policy, the reasons why particular mechanisms are selected, and their subsequent track records; (4) the ways an individual copes with the formal mandates to which she or he is committed on the job, particularly with respect to an individual's own critical concerns relevant to the issue; (5) innovations in economics that provide more comprehensive and useful information on values relevant to the management of the environment; and (6) how the "technostructure" of scientific disciplines, schools; professions, institutions, and agencies organize informally to serve powerful interest groups in the Great Lakes basin. In my own work I have also tried apply a version of the taxonomic schema of J. H. Dales (University of Toronto) to resource allocation with lakes. The schema recognizes a number of ways in which society allocates rights of use: traditional or communitarian, the commons, administrative (including bureaucratic), the free market, patronage, and a "pathological" mechanism involving criminal swindlers. In any period of time there is a dynamic tension as to the pre-eminence of a particular mechanism with respect to a particular kind of use. Shifts occur frequently. In the Great Lakes basin the current pre-eminence of the administrative mechanism is being challenged by the policy makers interested in deregulation and decentralization. On the assumption that there is something like a "law of the conservation of rights," the question arises as to what other mechanism will take on the functions being trimmed from centralized administrative mechanisms. I suspect that a well-camouflaged form of patronage will blossom, at least in the short run. If so, then this has interesting implications for the membership of IAGLR-there will likely be less support for scientific, scholarly, and technical work. More of what is actually done will likely b.e funded by private interests and then be kept relatively secret as proprietary information. I feel that we need much greater emphasis on empirical, interdisciplinary studies of man-nature ecosystems, and especially on the manager domains of such systems. -H. A. Regier, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto.