I would venture to say that no one out in the Iamcuriousmellow blog-land has heard of either Alice Schille or Mary Parker Follett.
Alice Schille, one of the pre-eminent water colorist of the 20th century, and Mary Parker Follett, a seminal thinker on management and leadership, were born in 1869 and 1868, respectively. Both lived well into the 20th century, with Schille outliving Parker by 22 years, dying in 1955 at age 86.
In some ways, this period — the late 19th and early 20th centuries — were phenomenal times for women at least compared to what had occurred before. Doors opened that had been shut for centuries. Women attended college, were eventually able to vote, were able to travel, have careers.
Of course, some of the struggles that confronted those women — combining family life and career most significantly — are still with us. Neither of them married or had children. But the liberation experienced by both Follett and Schille, compared to their predecessors (and even followers) is significant. And their influence on their fields was also significant.
Despite that, no one has heard of them. Well, not quite no one — me, for instance — but not many.
Follett was a ground breaking thinker about leadership and management in organizations. She was one of the first people to recognize the importance of human behavior and human relations in industrial and corporate life.
Sounds a bit amazing doesn’t it. You mean human behavior and human relations are related to management? But, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when she was most prolific, this was unheard of. Management and Industrial Relations were all about Henry Ford’s assembly line and efficiency. Human beings barely entered the equation, and I mean, equation, like in Frederick Winslow Taylor’s time and motion studies.
She had major influence on management studies, with particular emphasis on non-hierarchial systems and “soft” systems such as communication and informal processes. She was a major influence on Abraham Maslow (of Maslow’s hierarchy fame) Douglas McGregor, (of Antioch College and MIT and Theory X and Theory Y), Chris Argyris (theories of action and reflection), and ultimately Warren Bennis, one of my heros.
She set the stage for a generation of effective, progressive changes in management philosophy, style and practice, revolutionizing and humanizing the American workplace, and allowing quantum leaps in productivity effected through the humanization of the workplace.
Still, she is relatively unknown except to a few students of management. No doubt this had a lot to do with the fact that she was a woman truly in a “man’s world”.
But I also think it has a lot to do with her ideas, which to this day, seem not to be fully practiced. Below is a quote from Taylor with two quotes from Follett following. Even today, people are still enforcing things in organizations, all in the name of “good” management.
“It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.”
He thought workers were too stupid to understand what they, themselves, were actually doing!
Compare this to Mary Parker Follett: “That is always our problem, not how to get control of people, but how all together we can get control of a situation.”
“There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise, and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish.”
She had an enormous impact on conflict resolution theory and practice. Her thoughts about compromise — which is often thought of as an optimal solution to problems — is very meaningful. Think about it . . .
Schille was not as much of a ground-breaker, but she led an independent life and continually worked to master new modes of painting throughout her long career. Here are some examples of her work:
This painting of Provence is just gorgeous!