Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management
by JoAnne Yates
Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989
Caught in the midst of an information revolution, today’s business managers and scholars are trying to assess the likely effects of the sweeping changes now taking place in technology and in organization. In Control through Communication JoAnne Yates looks back to the last major shift in the use of communication and information — and writes the first full and detailed account of the process by which modern managerial systems came to be created within the American business system.
Focusing on the evolution of corporate communication as an integrated whole, Yates examines its functions, technologies, and genres. First in railroads and then in manufacturing firms, managers discovered that they could capture the benefits of growth only by replacing informal and primarily oral management methods with more systematic modes, heavily dependent on written communication.
During the years from 1850 to 1920, with the rise of a new philosophy of management which enrolled efficiency and system, internal communication came to serve as a mechanism for managerial coordination and control. Grounding her work in case studies of the Illinois Central Railroad, Scovill Manufacturing Company, and E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Yates traces how quill pens and pigeonholes gave way to the telegraph and typewriters, stencil duplicators and vertical filing systems that aided in creating, copying, storing, and retrieving documents. Whole new types of communication developed. Without the memoranda, reports, employee manuals, and in-house magazines that we now take for granted, the modern corporation could not have evolved to its present form.
JoAnne Yates teaches management communication and runs the communication program at the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is founder and coeditor of Management Communication Quarterly.