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  • This article was downloaded by: [Tufts University]On: 29 October 2014, At: 11:55Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Journal of OrganizationalBehavior ManagementPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/worg20

    OBM Today and TomorrowThomas C. Mawhinney aa Management Area , University of Detroit Mercy,College of Business and Administration , USAPublished online: 12 Oct 2008.

    To cite this article: Thomas C. Mawhinney (2001) OBM Today and Tomorrow, Journalof Organizational Behavior Management, 20:3-4, 73-137, DOI: 10.1300/J075v20n03_04

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J075v20n03_04

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  • OBM Today and Tomorrow:Then and Now

    Thomas C. Mawhinney

    ABSTRACT. In this article I present the speech I gave when acceptingthe OBM Networks award for outstanding achievement. In that speechI characterized the field as I understood it in 1992 and directions Ithought it should take in the future, including the role that JOBM shouldplay in that future. The acceptance speech is followed by my extensivecommentary and opinion concerning developments in the field of OBMup to the year 2000 and the paths along which I think it should developand paths I think it should avoid in the future. [Article copies available fora fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-342-9678. E-mailaddress: Website: ]

    KEYWORDS. Organizational Behavior Management, OBM, OBM in1992, OBM in the year 2000, accomplishments of OBM, OBM inbeyond the year 2000

    In the presence of a small gathering of colleagues and friends,including my wife Betty and my cousin V. Thomas (Big Tom)Mawhinney, I experienced the joyful and humbling experience offormal recognition by the OBM/Network of the Association for Be-havior Analysis. The recognition was for contributions I had made tothe network extant 1992.

    Thomas C. Mawhinney is affiliated with the Management Area at the Universityof Detroit Mercy, College of Business and Administration.

    Address correspondence to Thomas C. Mawhinney, University of Detroit Mercy,College of Business and Administration, 4001 West McNichols Road, P. O. Box19900, Detroit, MI 48219-0900 (E-mail: mawhinneyt@aol.com).

    Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, Vol. 20(3/4) 2000 2000 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. 73

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  • JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT74

    During the year and a half leading up to receipt of the award, I spentthe bulk of my time outside of classroom teaching, editing two specialissues of JOBM (Mawhinney (1992a), Hopkins & Mawhinney (1992))and writing an article that appeared in one of them (Mawhinney,1992b).

    I think readers will better appreciate the remarks I made on theoccasion when I received my outstanding contributions award if theylearn what I was doing in the months leading up to that event. And,rather than change the tense and so on of the original paper to bring itup to date, I would like readers to hear the themes I presented andthe tenor in which I presented them then. So that the work does notseem archaic it includes a prologue that describes my experiencesleading up to the time I wrote my acceptance speech, the acceptancespeech as I read it at the award ceremony and an epilogue in which Imake numerous remarks about what has happened since 1992 andwhere I think I see us headed or think we should be heading now.

    PROLOGUE

    One of the 1992 special issues (Mawhinney, 1992a) focused on theconcept of organizational culture, cultural practices within organiza-tions (Glenn, 1988) and the concepts of rule governed behavior (Mal-ott, 1992) and metacontingency (Glenn, 1991). Rule governed behav-ior is an essential element of processes by which cultural practices aretransmitted from one generation of people in an organization to anoth-er and from current members to newcomers. Taken together, the for-mal organizational practices and non-formalized cultural practices inan organization have environmental consequences. For example, aneducational institution turns out students that are better or poorlyprepared to be gainfully employed after graduation and an auto com-pany, like GM or Ford, experiences gains or loses of market share as aresult of how it competes with other auto producers. The contingencybetween formal and non-formal practices within an organizationalculture and its environmental consequences arising from those practic-es are what, taken together, is called a metacontingency (Glenn, 1988).My contribution to the special issue on culture was intended to provideprima fascia evidence that dominant practices within and among orga-nizations in a given industry were probably the product of the causalmode of selection by consequences (Skinner, 1981) operating across

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  • 75Invited Articles Celebrating the 20th Volume of JOBM in the Year 2000

    organizations populating an industry through time and specificallyacross the metacontingencies of competing organizations (Mawhin-ney, 1992b). I wanted to make the case that the causal mode thataccounted for evolution in biological systems was at work in systemsthat are not immediately recognized as being subject to this causalmode. In my analysis the grist for the mill of selection by conse-quences was variation in practices among organizations currently pop-ulating a particular industry and variation in practices added to theindustry population by births of new organizations in the industry,through time (Hannan & Freeman, 1989). The quantifiable products ofselection by consequences were rates at which organizations perishedand lengths of time members of the population survived. Organiza-tions perished, according to my analysis, when one or more of theirdominant cultural practices were deadly, or simply failed to fit themfor survival at some point in time. This sort of thing was implied bythe work of Brethower (1982), Gilbert (1978) and Luthans and Kreit-ner (1975, 1985). But all these treatments had been focused on engi-neering effective organizations a priori and adaptation processes of asingle focal organization once it was in existence. What I wanted toclearly show was why this sort of engineering made sense rather thanhow to do it. I also wanted to make it clear that unless adaptation perse was made a dominant practice in an organization, the organizationwould run the risk of perishing if its environment were to abruptlyshift. Finally, I wanted to suggest that which practices were connectedto survival and deadly were not always self-evident. That being thecase, even a well-engineered organization at one point in time couldperish before a person in it with enough power or clout to change itcould discover how to correct for emergence of a deadly practice.

    My work, I thought, made a contribution to our understanding oforganizational behavior processes by showing that failing to identifyand create contingencies in support of survival-related practices inorganizations was what predisposed organizations to decline and toultimately perish. In addition, I wanted to make two points aboutdeadly practices. I wanted to point out that very effective practices atone point in time could become deadly at another point in time simplybecause of a change in the organizations environment, e.g., the Japa-nese attack on the U.S. auto market. I also wanted to point out thatstrategic decisions, such as the decision to create a monopoly aimed atinsulating the organization from effects of current competitors, could

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  • JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMEN