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Mary Parker Follett: The Enduring Contribution

Author(s): Elliot M. Fox


Source: Public Administration Review, Vol. 28, No. 6 (Nov. - Dec., 1968), pp. 520-529
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/973329
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520

Mary Parker Follett:


The Enduring Contribution

ELLIOT M. Fox, Columbia University

1 HIS YEAR MARKS THE 100TH AN- ) Mary Follett's contribution to the science of
NIVERSARY of the birth of Mary Parker Follett, management and administration spanned the
years between 1918 and 1933. She developed
a distinguished pioneer of modem manage-
ideas much in advance of her time, many of which
ment and administration. Miss Follett's dis- are only now beginning to be appreciated. De-
tinctions are many. She was a woman who spite a nontechnical, almost simplistic terminology
achieved a place in what was then largely a and a highly unsystematic style of exposition, she
man's world. She was one of the first to see developed a theory of human interaction of con-
siderable depth that retains a remarkable con-
that the handling of people constituted a ma-
sistency over a wide range of applications. Her
jor problem of modem management. She was frequently cited admonition to follow the law of
quite unique in recognizing that the concepts the situation is based on a concept of the "situa-
that had mainly concerned political philoso- tion" as a whole complex of reciprocally re-
phers were relevant also to the process of man- lated interactions which are by their very nature
constantly evolving and changing, thus giving
agement, administration, and leadership in al-
both the occasion and the opportunity for con-
most any field of human endeavor. She de- tinual efforts to keep the process healthy. Integra-
veloped a theory of human interaction that tion, the name of the healthy process, is a means
retained a remarkable consistency over a of bringing differences together so as to create a
wide range of applications. new synthesis. The "law" of the situation means
acting in accord with present integrations and an-
Her philosophy was acclaimed by men like
ticipating those that still need to be made. The
Bernard Bosanquet and Viscount Haldane, theory has practical applications in the areas of
while successful industralists like Henry S. order giving, conflict resolution, the exercise of
Dennison, Robert B. Wolf, and B. Seebohm authority and leadership, the proper use of ex-
Rowntree praised the practicality of her rec- pertise, the coordination of individuals and de-
partments in an organization, and much else.
ommendations.' In the current literature on
management and administration, her ideas are
cited frequently, if briefly, and articles ex-
pressing appreciation of her pioneering con- her own day, although they are often ex-
tribution appear from time to time. Moreover, pressed without acknowledgement to her.
anyone familiar with her ideas cannot help Yet, much of Mary Follett's thinking re-
but notice that some of the things she was mains unappreciated, perhaps because her con-
saying 25 and even 50 years ago have now tribution lies in the area of "human relations,"
begun to be more popular than they were in a subject that is more nebulous than the pro-
This essay is based on the author's doctoral disserta-
cedures for getting work done that made Tay-
tion in progress at Columbia University. lor, Gantt, and Gilbreth famous. Also, Follett

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MARY PARKER FOLLETT 521

was never a very systematic writer, she threw Follett first used this phrase in a paper pub-
out interesting ideas more or less randomly, lished in 1919, and while she seems to have
and the thread of consistency is hard to find had no premonition of the extent to which this
and harder to follow. Finally, one of her great- expression was to be used later, her usage of it
est virtues serves to obscure the full impact of here was already consistent with the whole
her contribution: she almost always expressed body of ideas that she was developing.2 It
herself in simple, fairly commonplace terms. was also consistent with her own previous ex-
Perhaps she would be more carefully studied perience in volunteer social service which had
if she had developed a jargon that invited begun in the Roxbury section of Boston around
periodic efforts at interpretation. As it is, her 1900. Four years before, she had already
phraseology was so ordinary that few feel the published her first book, The Speaker of the
need to explain it. House of Representatives, which appeared in
1896 while she was still an undergraduate at
The Law of the Situation Radcliffe. This work was based on a thorough
job of scholarly research-to which was added
An excellent example of the last point is her the distinctly Follett touch of interviewing
frequently cited admonition about following former speakers-and its perceptive under-
the law of the situation. Here is an ordinary standing of congressional operation was praised
kind of expression that reminds us of a whole by no less an aficionado of things political than
repertory of cliches about keeping your ear Theodore Roosevelt, who thought that Miss
to the ground, getting into the swim of things, Follett understood the operation of Congress
etc. Follett, too, had in mind these common- a great deal better than Woodrow Wilson,
place notions, but also a great deal more. whose Congressional Government had ap-
Her practical recommendations were always peared the previous year.3
part and parcel of a whole theory of human
interaction which grew out of her experience, The Women's Municipal League of Boston
reading, and endless conversations with people
in all walks of life. It was, however, her social work rather
One of her most engaging talents was the than her early scholarship that played the
ability to draw other people into cooperative greatest role in determining the direction of
dialogue; this coupled with the rare ability to Follett's subsequent thinking. After several
appreciate the other person's experience al- years of work with boys' clubs which met in
most as if it were her own means that her ad- local schoolhouses, she was asked in 1908
vice was drawn from experience-not the to become chairman of the Committee for Ex-
experience of the old hand in the field who tended Use of School Buildings of the newly
has personally tried everything, but an eclectic formed Women's Municipal League of Boston.
experience that has been translated into gen- The aim of Follett's committee was to get
eral principles and then retranslated into prac- young people off the street at night by open-
tical advice. Her theory, distilled out of so ing the schoolhouses for recreation. A care-
many sources, was necessarily an interdis- fully conceived campaign was launched to
ciplinary one. It is relevant to political ques- secure permission to use the schools and event-
tions like sovereignty, representation, power, ually to have the school system operate eve-
and freedom. It is relevant to, indeed it is de- ning centers as one of its regular functions.
rived from, the study of the group process in In 1912 the school system did take over the
its many forms. It has something to say about operation, thus beginning a service to the peo-
the resolution of conflict and the establishment ple of Boston that is now in its 57th year of
of control. It deals with management and ad- continuous operation.
ministration, social investigation, leadership, By the time the evening centers were well
and the proper use of expertise. All this is lurk- established, the situation had changed in a
ing behind the guileless phrase, "law of the way that admirably illustrates part of what
situation." Follett was later to call the law of the situa-

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522 PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REVIEW

tion. Her progress reports to the League show with the child once he no longer comes to
us how the situation developed in fact and in school. But he does come to the community
her own thinking. Begin with the idea of getting center, and the adult leaders there can keep
young people off the street. Next, recognize their ears open for the job problems of their
that the school has the needed space and being club members. Placement bureaus should there-
a public building can welcome the young citi- fore be attached to the schools and to their
zen without making him feel patronized as he community centers.
might, for example, in a settlement house. He At first it was possible to get a bureau
comes in for recreation, but it turns out that established at only one school. But that one
recreational activities teach the participant soon began to attract inquiries from quar-
how to cooperate, and when the members of a ters of the city beyond its immediate neigh-
group have learned how to cooperate with borhood, so that the beginnings of a central-
each other they have begun to learn how to ly coordinated, citywide bureau began to de-
govern themselves. velop of its own accord. Not that things turned
Thus, by 1913, Follett is telling the man- out exactly as Follett's committee had planned
agers and leaders of the Boston school centers it. The situation changed abruptly on them
that the main purpose of the drama coach, for a couple of times, and there were one or two
example, is not to produce good plays nor of false starts-experiences that may have under-
the basketball coach to win games. The basic lined the principle that Follett was later to
purpose of both of them is to give people emphasize so often, namely, that you cannot
practice in cooperating with each other, and impose purposes upon a situation from the out-
practice in the process of self-government.4 side. Nevertheless, the situation in Boston dur-
So getting young people off the street event- ing those years did contain the potential of a
ually turns into training for democratic citizen- centralized placement bureau that could enlist
ship. The situation has evolved and the pur- the cooperation of employers and educators.
pose has evolved along with it. The hopes and With persistence and with appropriate alliances
anticipations of the leader are themselves ele- with other groups such as the Girls Trade
ments in the situation and play their part in Education League, the Vocation Bureau of
its evolution. In this case, Follett expressed Boston, the Chamber of Commerce, and others,
some hopes for citizenship training at the the potential was found and cultivated, so that
beginning, but its outlines remained vague eventually the placement bureaus, too, became
until the situation developed further. It is a part of the regular activity of the Boston school
process of cultivation, not imposition. system.
A similar story emerges from Follett's
establishment of the Boston placement bu- Principles of,.Human Interaction
reaus. Several years earlier she had seen city-
wide, centrally coordinated placement efforts Follett once said that discovering a purpose
in London and in Edinburgh which had been in a situation could be like finding an un-
set up through the cooperation of the boards familiar plant and cultivating it without know-
of education and of trade. She hoped for a sim- ing what kind of flower or fruit to expect. Only
ilar arrangement in Boston, but she went about after it appears do you know what you have
it by working within the situation that was been working for.5 It is interesting to note
already developing around the community therefore that her work with community cen-
centers. Those whom we now call "drop-outs" ters bore fruit also in the development of her
-at that time they could quit school at the theory of human interaction. This theory came
age of 14-needed help in choosing a trade, initially out of her observation of the group
in keeping a job once they had found one, process. Recreational clubs teach people how
in finding a new one if they quit or got fired, to govern themselves. People together produce
and they needed encouragement to return to results that could not have been produced by
school if possible. Placement bureaus can do any of the participants acting or thinking sep-
all these things, but you lose regular contact arately. Group experience moves the action

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MARY PARKER FOLLETT 523

tendencies of each member in a direction of the other returns it, but the nature of the r
mutual compatibility and harmony. The group turn is determined not merely by the other
process thus appears at once as a source of player but also, in part, by the nature of the
social creativity and of social control. The term original serve. As the volley proceeds, each
she used most frequently at first to cover the motion of the ball reflects the composite his-
consequences of group activity was the word tory of all the preceding motions. So it is
"unifying," and in this usage the process of with any other human interaction. I never
"unifying" became the epitome of democracy. react simply to you. It is always, in Follett's
It was with all these things in mind that she formula, "I-plus-the-interweaving-between-
started to write an account of the Boston com- you-and-me meeting you-plus-the-interweaving-
munity center movement, but the more she between-you-and-me, etc."
thought about the nature of the "unifying" There is a circular response for each person
process the more she became interested in its in the interaction producing what Follett calls
implications for the rejuvenation and puri- variously: interweaving, interpenetrating, inter-
fication of society and politics in general. The lacing, interknitting, intermingling. Other
result was a full-blown political treatise called terms are: functional relation, reciprocal re-
The New State: Group Organization the So- sponse, and activity-between. She was never
lution of Popular Government, published in one to limit herself to a single term if she
1918. The political solution proposed in this could gain a nuance or two by using a dozen.
book and its critique cannot be dealt with in The principle of circular response, or what-
an essay of this length; however, large sections ever you like to call it, applies to all levels
of the book are devoted to describing the and combinations of human activity-between
healthy group process. two individuals, in groups, between groups,
This is the aspect that makes the book im- among and between the various aggregations,
portant, and it is this aspect, rather than the institutions, organizations, and nations. It
proposals for founding politics on the neighbor- could be seen, for example, when the delibera-
hood group, that Follett picked up to develop tions of a minimum wage board to which
further in subsequent work.6 This further de- Follett belonged triggered actions by employers
velopment began to study the group process as which in turn affected the further deliberations
a means of understanding human interaction in of the board. It can be seen when customer
general whenever two or more people got to- acceptance of a product makes possible a
gether or play any kind of a part in influencing lower price, which improves acceptance to a
each other. At the same time, a better distinc- point where the price can be lowered further.
tion emerged than had existed before between It applies to the relations between nations,
interaction in general and healthy interaction between labor and management, farmers and
in particular. This distinction was implicit in middlemen-whatever the context, whatever
portions of The New State, but it came out the identity of the interactors.
more clearly six years later in Creative Ex- When the numbers in the interaction multi-
perience, where we find interaction in general ply, so do the interrelationships between the
described in terms of the principle of "circu- responses, and it is the totality of all the inter-
lar response" and healthy interaction in terms weaving relationships relevant to a given time
of "integration."7 When we have examined and place that constitutes the "situation."
each of these principles we shall see that the Sometimes Follett used the term "total situa-
integration of the circular response is the tion" to underline the fact that we are never
same as following the law of the situation. dealing merely with the circular response
As soon as two people perceive each other relatings between this party and that party, but
their behavior begins to be determined, in also with all the other relatings that apply to
part, by that perception, so that each is react- both of them while they are interacting.
ing, in part, to the other's reactions to him. The principle of circular response and its
Her most graphic illustration of this point is a interweaving relationships is not difficult to
tennis game.8 One player serves the ball and appreciate, but we often overlook its implica-

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524 PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REVIEW

tions, for example our common practice of administrators she often talked about coordi-
making judgments of each other-and we have nation or cooperation, by which she meant
whole formalized systems for doing this. We the principle of integration as it applies to the
need to remember that when we react to a problems of managing people in an organiza-
person-whether in a formalized judgment or
tion.
in any other way-we are reacting in part to The Healthy Social Process
ourselves. As Follett put it: "You say, 'When
I talk with Mr. X he always stimulates me.' Follett never gave a concise definition of
Now it may not be true that Mr. X stimulates integration, but if we try to reduce all of her
everyone; it may be that something in you comments and illustrations to a single sentence
has called forth something in him." 10 Or, we might say that integration is a harmonious
suppose you want to know what your people marriage of differences which, like the nut and
have been thinking. You can never find out- the screw or the parts of a watch, come to-
exactly-because the situation will change by gether in a way that produces a new form, a
the very fact that you have entered it. There new entity, a new result, made out of the
are implications here, too, for our way of old differences and yet different from any of
viewing individual behavior in general. Follett them.12 Very often when she wrote about the
never denied that individual behavior is a interaction process in general she seemed to
function of individual personality. But more be implying that integration is a natural out-
than most of us, perhaps, she insisted that come of any interaction, and it appears indeed
individual behavior is also a function of the that she believed that on many occasions an
situation. Change the situation and you change integration takes place quite automatically.
behavior-not always easy, but more realistic Perhaps it is integrations of this kind that
than trying to change personalities. account for the underlying health in a society
Most important, every situation is in a at any given time-the very foundations of
continual process of change. One moment of our existence that we are unaware of because
interaction produces the next in a progression they give us no trouble. But integrations, in
measured not by simple but by compound any event, are not permanent. As situations
interest-the increment of the increment. We keep evolving new differences continually arise,
have always an evolving situation, and every and those that are not automatically integrated
purpose evolves along with the situation that remain in conflict, denying the satisfaction of
generates it."1 desires to individuals and handicapping the
We are thereby warned against trying to be ability of the society to function. It is then
simplistic in our approaches, categorizing that the situation calls for study, effort, in-
people and groups, thinking we can predict genuity-consciously applied leadership for
how they will act, as if they, like the leopard, producing an integration.
will never change their spots. Follett's message Anyone who wishes to help this process
is that within every total, evolving situation of along must keep in mind two principal pre-
interpenetrating circular responses there are requisites for a successful integration. First,
many powerful factors operating to erode the differences must be susceptible to change.
established interests, positions, and prejudices; When two whole differences confront each
to effect changes in the direction of wishes; other, they must each be broken apart and
and to make possible the unifying of previously analyzed, reevaluated, added to, put back to-
separated elements into new and integrated gether in a new way. Second, in order for
wholes. The nature of human interaction is that to happen, all the factors, the full details
such that healthy solutions to its conflicts are of all the differences, must be brought into the
possible. The healthy solution is called an open; there must be full, free, and honest
"integration," although she used the word contribution from all sides. Follett tells us,
"unifying" more in her earlier writings, as for example, that in forming a committee she
we have seen. Sometimes, too, she called it a would tolerate neither the potential member
synthesis, and in her advice to managers and who was willing to come and give his advice

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MARY PARKER FOLLETT 525

without changing his opinion nor the man who have been anticipated exactly. The law of the
was happy to come and learn but who had situation also includes those aspects that deter-
nothing to contribute. She gives a number of mine what is possible and what is not. Follett
examples of successful integration. One man acknowledged that integration is not possible
was taken to court for a debt that he could not in all cases,'4 and she is clear that we are
pay without ruining his business. The judge always talking about real factors, real action
could have followed precedent and ordered tendencies or motor impulses in the various
the business sacrificed to pay the debt. In- participants, actual possibilities.
stead, he followed the law of the present Whenever an integration is not possible or
situation and worked out a way of paying by for any reason is not accomplished, there are
installments so that the creditor got his money a number of alternatives-all of them unde-
and the debtor was able to stay in business. sirable.'5 One common alternative is domi-
The members of a creamery cooperative nation or "power over," where one of the
changed the direction of a loading platform unintegrated differences takes the field to the
so that those coming in from different direc- exclusion of the others. Power, according to
tions could unload at the same time instead Follett, is the ability to make things happen.
of fighting about who should unload first. Most In an integrated situation you have "power
interesting from Follett's point of view was with," because all action tendencies have been
the Workmen's Compensation Act, which pro- mobilized into compatible and mutually co-
vided better compensation to injured workers operative directions, thus consolidating all of
and at the same time encouraged action that the power available. The trouble with domina-
reduced the number and severity of injuries.'3 tion, therefore, in addition to the discomfort
Each of these examples shows a confron- experienced by the individuals being domi-
tation of differences that did not automatically nated, is that the repressed action tendencies
integrate. They were initially of an "either- are neither changed nor killed. Like the
or" character-either the man will be paid or repressed wishes of Freudian psychology, they
not, this group will load first or not, etc. In are still there, ready to work against the
each case the matter was resolved not by intentions of the dominator whenever possible.
deciding for one side or the other and not The available social power is thus divided
by giving each side half of the original demand,
against itself, and the power of the dominator
but by coming up with something new that -while it seems great because it is the only
satisfied the real requirements of both sides. power visible-is in fact severely handicapped
But each side had to contribute its point of by the contrary tendencies of the dominated.
view and each side also had to adjust its This was Follett's objection to any authori-
thinking somewhat from its original position. tarian organization that operates on the basis
Thus, if the "situation" is the total network of "power over."
of reciprocal responses surrounding any point In lectures to business groups during 1926,
at which we are involved or in which we have Follett began to apply her theory of authority
become interested, then the "law" of that situ- to business organization by taking issue with
ation consists of those aspects of it that are the common assumption that the authority in
integrated, healthy, and worth following, an organization resides in the head and is
together with those that are still in conflict and
filtered down from there by a process of
require our conscious and deliberate attention "delegation." The authority or power of every
to resolve. The "law" is concerned both with person at every place in the organization, she
what is and with what might be. We put maintained, belongs to him because of his
ourselves into harmony with the former and knowledge and because of the opportunities
work to make the next situation by integrating for action that his situation presents. The real
the latter. As we do so, the new situation authority is the law of the situation at any
builds upon the old according to the incre- given place, and the real leader or effective
ment of the increment and creates something manager is the one who can understand that
that had not existed before and that could not law and get the most out of it.'6

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526 PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REVIEW

Another alternative to integration is one cation. In its terms, sovereignty, for example,
that has been favored as a solution to inter- is the basic power and control over itself that
national problems, namely, the balance of is established by any integrated group. Uniting
power. Here there is, ideally at least, no (integrating) with other groups-or nations-
domination, simply two or more persons, therefore does not detract from the real sov-
groups, classes, or nations, each with its own ereignty or power of the original unit, but
internally developed power that is not in rather adds to it. This view has implications
principle diminished but merely balanced off for federalism and for centralization and de-
by the confrontation of equal strength. The centralization in government and industry.
trouble with this arrangement, of course, is Order giving, according to Follett, must not
that it never stays that way. Since there has be a form of "power over" if it is to be a
been no integration, each party retains the healthy process; rather both the man and his
action tendencies that led to the confrontation subordinate must look at the same situation and
in the first place, and as soon as it can over- obey it, although the superior may have a par-
whelm the balance it will do so. ticular responsibility for pointing out what that
A third alternative is compromise, which is situation is.
often recommended as a solution to the evils Conflict is to be welcomed, since integration
of domination or power balance. But in com- requires the full contribution of all sides to a
promise, each party is obliged to repress part question. Follett no doubt felt that a decorous,
of what it wants, detracting from the total intelligent meeting of minds was more con-
power of the whole. Compromise, moreover, ducive to integration than a violent exchange,
offers no chance for progress. It creates noth- but she insisted that conflict could be con-
ing new. It merely rearranges the old positions. structive and that it should not be avoided
Whether it comes in the juridical garb of "com- for the sake of a spurious peace.
pensatory equalization" or in the legislative The exigencies of modem living require
process of "log rolling" or in the everyday more and more the facts, figures, and consid-
practice of each making a sacrifice for the ered judgments of the expert, but this does
other, the result is the same-reduction in the not mean that we must turn over the direction
effective social power, detriment to the indi- of our affairs to him. Rather, we must find
vidual, and a store of unintegrated differences ways of integrating his contribution with the
lying in wait for the first favorable opportunity experiences and insights of ordinary people.
to rise again.
Finally, there is an especially undesirable Final Contributions
form of interaction that Follett called crowd
manipulation. Crowd manipulation, at any Most of the concepts referred to thus far
rate, is unintegrated on both counts: it does were fully developed in Creative Experience,
not ask for the contribution of each in search which appeared in 1924. The book attracted
for a common idea, nor does it propose that considerable attention from businessmen be-
anyone change his position on anything. Its cause of its frequent reference to problems of
main technique is an emotional appeal designed business administration, and broadened Fol-
to obscure such differences as may exist. In its lett's contact with the business community, a
benign form, it smooths over unresolved dif- contact begun while working with placement
ferences and helps the society to settle into a bureaus and continued later as a represen-
superficial status quo. In its virulent form it tative of the public on the Massachusetts
taps the waiting reservoir of unintegrated and Minimum Wage Boards. She used her business
uncontrolled power which has been repressed acquaintances as sources of information and
by domination or compromise and which is experience, and then, as time went on, she
ready to be called forth by the first demagogue became a kind of consultant to them in the
or agitator who can find a suitable formula. area of personnel problems.
Follett's theory was interdisciplinary in its Her contribution to the field of management
origin and it is interdisciplinary in its appli- and administration might have been confined

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MARY PARKER FOLLETT 527

to personal conversations, however, if it had United States. It contains all but one of the
not been for Henry C. Metcalf and his Bureau papers given to Metcalf's lecture series.
of Personnel Administration in New York, The last series of lectures that Miss Follett
which over the years boasted of a long list ever gave was at the London School of Eco-
of distinguished lecturers including Frank Gil- nomics early in 1933. These were included in
breth, Elton Mayo, Stuart Chase, Ordway Freedom and Coordination under Urwick's
Tead, Morris Cohen, Harry Overstreet, Nor- editorship, and he has been responsible also
man Thomas, Roscoe Pound, Floyd Allport, for a number of other important references to
and many others. Mary Follett lectured first Follett's work.'7 The last lecture of this series
in January 1925 and periodically thereafter contains a four-point statement of the funda-
until 1932. mental principles of organizational8 She had
Her debut as a lecturer to the business com- used substantially the same points a few
munity was followed by another significant months earlier in New York, when she was
change in her career. In January 1926 her speaking more specifically about social plan-
lifelong friend, Isobel Briggs, with whom she ning on a broad scale. However, the prin-
had lived for some 30 years, died at the age ciples of organization remain the same, and
of 75. Follett felt this loss very keenly and they have become almost as well known as
it marked the beginning of the end of her long the law of the situation. These principles are:
residence in Boston. She spent more and more 1. Coordination by direct contact of the
time away after 1926, much of it in England, responsible people concerned
which had been Miss Briggs' homeland and 2. Coordination in the early stages
where she herself had many pleasant associa- 3. Coordination as the reciprocal relating
tions going back to her student days at Newn- of all the factors in a situation
ham College, Cambridge. She did some lec- 4. Coordination as a continuing process.'9
turing in England, especially to the Rowntree Coordination, as the word is used here,
Lecture Conferences for managers and super- means the process of integration as it applies
visors, which were held periodically at Oxford within a given organization. It implies, as all
under the sponsorship of B. Seebohm Rown- integration does, the full, willing, and honest
tree of the Rowntree chocolate works. She contribution of each party involved, the mutual
also spent some time at Geneva studying the alteration of activities and desires toward the
League of Nations. She returned to the United formation of a cooperative whole without sacri-
States in 1932 to give what was to be her fice by any party.
final lecture to the Bureau of Personnel Ad- In this survey of the main outlines of Fol-
ministration in New York, and then in the fall lett's law of the situation and of the theory of
of the next year she was back to look after human interaction that underlies it, we have
some personal business affairs. While staying necessarily had to omit many of its conceptual
in Boston, the scene of so many of her accom- and practical applications and have had to be
plishments, her health, which had been causing content with only brief indications of limita-
concern for some time, took a turn for the tions. Still, perhaps we have seen enough to
worse, and she died following an operation form some conclusions with regard to the ex-
on December 18, 1933. tent and the value of her contribution. She has
At the time of Miss Follett's death Lyndall nothing useful to tell us about organizational
Urwick, who had known her both in England structures or administrative devices, and it is
and at Geneva, where he was director of the a question that we will have to leave open
International Management Institute, contacted as to how much her own ideal of integration
Henry Metcalf to suggest publishing a collec- may have depended on certain structural char-
tion of Follett's papers. After some difficulties acteristics that she took for granted. She was
of editorial collaboration across the ocean, concerned only with the activity of people
Dynamic Administration: The Collected Papers and with the process that takes place when
of Mary Parker Follett appeared first in En- people interact with each other, quite apart
gland in 1941 and the following year in the from any formalized circumstances that may

NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 1968

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528 PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REVIEW

surround them. Even in the area of inter- resolution of conflict is part of the natural
action, her view was limited by a complete process of human intercourse.
preoccupation with the healthy process. She Even as she recognized the difficulties
had no place for second best. Even when she inherent in the route she was recommending,
admitted that integration was not always pos- she retained a fundamental optimism with
sible, she gave us no guidance as to what to regard to human potentiality. "Experience
do in such a case. may be hard," she admitted, "but we claim its
Perhaps she felt that the philosophies of gifts because they are real, even though our
domination, power balance, compromise, and feet bleed on its stones. . . . I see no golden
crowd manipulation had already been so fully age in the past or in the future, but I believe
developed throughout the ages that they in the possibilities of human effort, of dis-
needed no help from her. Yet these are the ciplined effort, in truth in its Anglo-Saxon
only alternatives that she gave for integration, meaning (tryw) of faithfulness, and in the
and to whatever extent integration is not pos- essence of relation from the amoeba and its
sible we might expect her to at least acknowl- food to man and man, as the release of
edge that some substandard devices may be energy, the evocation or the calling forth of
justifiably resorted to. But she did no such new powers one from the other." 20
thing. She was like a salesman who knows
only too well that he has competitors, but
who usually finds it quite impossible to enter- Notes
tain the notion that anybody would think of
buying from one. She merely insisted that 1. The fundamental statement of Follett's ideas is
although integration is not possible in every contained in two books (still in print) and a
case, it is possible in more cases than we realize posthumous collection of her lectures on busi-

And perhaps if it is not possible now, it will ness management which has become one of the
standard works in that field. See, Mary Parker
be later.
Follett, The New State: Group Organization the
So the use of substandard processes is quite Solution of Popular Government (New York:
irrelevant. They are already there in any case Longmans, Green, 1918; reprinted, Gloucester,
and will inevitably be used until something Mass.: Peter Smith, 1965); Creative Experience

better is developed. The important thing is to (New York: Longmans, Green, 1924; reprinted,
New York: Peter Smith, 1951); and Henry C.
work for something better. That is what Fol-
Metcalf and Lyndall Urwick (eds.), Dynamic
let cared about, and it is here that she made
Administration: The Collected Papers of Mary
her contribution. Admittedly she had nothing Parker Follett (New York: Harper, 1942). The
to say about many areas of human concern, editors' introduction to the last contains much of
but she does direct our attention to one of our the biographical data used in this article. In ad-
dition, Colonel Urwick has very kindly furnished
most important concerns. In an age of in-
personal reminiscences and other materials.
creasing change, the old devices-even if they
2. "Community is a Process," Philosophical Re-
were well integrated at one time-must be view, Vol. 28 (November 1919), pp. 576-588.
replaced. We have increasing need for new The "law of the situation" appears on p. 586.
social invention. At the same time we are This article contains a number of ideas that
arose out of Follett's thinking in The New State
continually being confronted with new dif-
and which were to be developed further in later
ferences and new conflicts. In the midst of work.
all this, Mary Follett told us that we need not 3. Book review by Theodore Roosevelt in the

be afraid of difference, but rather should wel- American Historical Review, Vol. 2 (October
1896), p. 177. Follett was an undergraduate for
come it as the opportunity for new social
ten years, from 1888 to 1898, when she grad-
creation. She gave us a theory of human inter- uated, summa cum laude from Radcliffe. This
action that shows how the same factors that period included time out for writing The Speaker
of the House and a year in England at Newn-
cause change also provide the means for solv-
ham College, Cambridge. She also studied for a
ing the problems presented by change, a theory while in Paris, probably after leaving Radcliffe,
that tells us that the possibilities for the healthy although that is not well established.

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MARY PARKER FOLLETT 529

4. Evening Centers-Aims and Duties of Managers Lecture Conference, Proceedings, October 1,


and Leaders Therein (Boston: City of Boston 1926, p. 73.
Printing Department, 1913). 15. As with integration, the discussion of its unde-
5. Creative Experience, op. cit., p. 83. sirable alternatives appears in various places
6. The ideas from The New State that came in for throughout her writing. Her principal observa-
later development appear mainly in the first tions on power are contained in a chapter in
half of the book. Creative Experience, pp. 179-194, and in a lec-
7. The principle of "circular response" and illus- ture in Dynamic Administration, pp. 95-116.
trations thereof are mostly in Chapter III of 16. Follett developed her ideas about authority in
Creative Experience. business in substantially the same form in three
8. Follett used the illustration of the tennis game separate lectures. The most accessible version at
first in The New State, pp. 25-26, and again in present is in "The Meaning of Responsibility in
"Constructive Conflict," Dynamic Administra- Business Management," Dynamic Administration,
tion, p. 44. pp. 146-166.
9. Creative Experience, op. cit., p. 63. 17. In addition to Freedom and Coordination, there
10. Ibid., p. 62 are: L. Urwick and E.F.L. Brech, The Making
11. Ibid., pp. 64-65, 75. For a discussion of the re- of Scientific Management, Vol. 1 (London: Man-
lation between the situation and its purpose see agement Publications Trust, 1945); Lyndall Ur-
ibid., pp. 84-87. wick (ed.), The Golden Book of Management
12. Mary Follett died before the word "integration" (London: Newman Neame, 1956); and several
became popularly associated with Negro-white articles. Also, see note 18.
relations, but the integration of the races as the 18. This last lecture, "The Process of Control," was
phrase is now used is quite compatible with her actually published before any of the other
concept, and that concept has a number of in- business lectures (except "The Illusion of Final
teresting implications that bear on present racial Authority"). It was included in Luther Gulick
problems. and Lyndall Urwick (eds.), Papers on the
13. References to and illustrations of integration are Science of Administration (New York: Insti-
to be found scattered all through Follett's writ- tute of Public Administration, 1937).
ings. Some of the principal places, including the 19. The version here is the one in Dynamic Admin-
illustrations just cited, are: The New State, p. 29; istration, p. 297. In the other version, point three
Creative Experience, pp. 43-46, 157-160, 184- has been moved to point one, which is a bit
185; Dynamic Administration, pp. 32-33. more appropriate, since it underlines the general
14. Creative Experience, p. 163; "Constructive Con- importance of reciprocal relating (another term
flict," Dynamic Administration, p. 36; "Some for circular response, etc.).
Methods of Executive Efficiency," Rowntree 20. Creative Experience, pp. 302-303.

Plan Now to Attend ASPA's

1969 National Conference on Public Administration

May 19-21

Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida

NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 1968

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