Mary Parker Follett

The newest addition to the collection of books about Mary Parker Follett is a contribution by Joan C. Tonn entitled Mary P. Follett: Creating Democracy, Transforming Management (BUS stack HN57.T695 2003) The press release for this book is available here. Recently a new book about an older management theorist arrived in the Business Library. Published by the Harvard Business School Press, the contributors included Drucker, Mintzberg, Bennis and Kanter. Perhaps it was because the book was published by that press with comments by those people, that the subject attracted more attention than usual.

The title of the book is Mary Parker Follett - Prophet of Management: A Celebration of Writings from the 1920s (BUS stack HD31.M334 1995) and the subject is obviously Follett who was a social theorist earlier in this century.

A considerable amount has been written about Follett and her theories concerning organizations and management. Since the material is scattered over a long period and across different academic disciplines, this brief introduction and bibliography is designed to help you quickly find material relating to the "mother" of management theory.

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Obviously the place to begin is with the new collection of her writings mentioned above. It also contains evaluations of her positions, a useful epilogue by Paul Lawrence and a bibliography of Follett's writings. For a brief biographical sketch see the appendix in Integrative Management: Creating Unity from Diversity, by Pauline Graham (HD 38.G68) as well as the essay by Graham in Mary Parker Follett - Prophet of Management (BUS stack HD 31.

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M334) which she edited. For an earlier biographical piece see Vol. 4 of theInternational Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, "Follett, Mary Parker" (DBW reference H 41.I58).

The University of Western Ontario has a solid collection of material by and about Follett and there have been some works about her that were produced on this campus. In 1992, David Hurst wrote an article for Business Quarterly with the title: "Thoroughly Modern - Mary Parker Follett" (Vol. 56, No.4, Spring). Two masters theses have also originated here and they reflect the inter-disciplinary nature of Follett's work: Science and Service: M.P. Follett and the Profession of Educational Administration by A.M.H. van den Heuvel (EDU stack AS42.L85.V265) and Mary Parker Follett: An Application of Her Management Theories to Educational Administration by Lorraine Vanderkerckhove (EDU stack AS 42.L85.V29).


Creative Experience (BUS stack BF 57.F6 1951; DBW stack BF 408.R67 1970) Dynamic Administration: The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett [electronic resource] (BUS stack HF 5547. F6). Weldon has an additional copy of the 1941 edition. Additional copies can be requested from storage, including 1 copy of the 1965 edition. Freedom & Co-ordination: Lectures in Business Organization (BUS stack HD 57.7.F66 1987). This work contains 6 lectures: "The Illusion of Final Authority"; "The Giving of Orders"; "The Basis of Authority"; "The Essentials of Leadership"; "Co-ordination" and "The Process of Control". The last essay is also found in another volume available here at Western: Papers on the Science of Administration, ed. by Gulick and Urwick, p.159 (JF 1351.G8). The New State - Group Organization, the Solution for Popular Government (DBW stack JC336.F57 1918).

The Speaker of the House of Representatives [electronic resource] (DBW stack JK 1411.F67 1896). For recent samples and discussions of Follett's works see: Management Theory: From Taylorism to Japanization (BUS stack HD31.S22); Writing About Business and Industry (DBW stack HF5718.3.W74 1995);Management and Gender: Issues and Attitudes (BUS stack HD6054.4.U6K37 1994); Management and Organizational Behavior Classics (BUS stack HD31.M2917 1993); Great Writers on Organizations (DBW stack HM131.P74 1993); International Management Handbook (HD62.4.T47) and Classics of Organization Theory (DBW stack HD31.C56 1992).


In addition to some of the sources noted above, articles about Follett may be found by searching electronic databases such as Proquest. Articles that pre-date the electronic databases may be found by searching a variety of print indexes; some articles are noted below and others may be found quickly by looking at the M.A. theses noted above. Follett has also been the subject of many doctoral dissertations and they may be quickly located by searching Proquest's Dissertations & Theses.

Two dissertations that can be consulted are: Mary Parker Follett: Pioneer in Organizational Theory by Linda Brown (HD31.F667B76) and Scientific Management and Administrative Reform in Education... by Kathleen Schwartz (HD 30.12.S39). "Sibyl of a Modern Science", Business Week, Nov. 21, 1964, p.96 "Mary Parker Follett, Civic Leader Dies", obituary, New York Times, Dec. 21, 1933, p.21, col.1 (DBWMFM AN 2.N5) "Mary Parker Follett: The Enduring Contribution", Public Administration Review,Vol.28, No.6, 1968, p. 520 (DBWPER JK1.P85) "No occupation can make a more worthy appeal to the imagination either from the point of view of service it can perform, or from the tremendous interest in the job itself, than business management". MPF.

Mary Parker Follett Facts:

Known for: pioneering ideas introducing human psychology and human relations into industrial management Occupation: social worker, management theory writer and speaker Dates: 1868-1933

Mary Parker Follett Biography:

Modern management theory owes a lot to a nearly-forgotten woman writer, Mary Parker Follett. Mary Parker Follett was born in Quincy, Massachusetts. She studied at the Thayer Academy, Braintree, Massachusetts, where she credited one of her teachers with influencing many of her later ideas. In 1894, she used her inheritance to study at the Society for Collegiate Instruction of Women, sponsored by Harvard, going on to a year at Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1890. She studied on and off at Radcliffe as well, starting in the early 1890s. In 1898, Mary Parker Follett graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe. Her research at Radcliffe was published in 1896 and again in 1909 as The Speaker of the House of Representatives. Mary Parker Follett began working in Roxbury as a voluntary social worker in 1900. In 1908 she became chair of the Women's Municipal League Committee on Extended Use of School Buildings.

In 1911, she and others opened the East Boston High School Social Center. She also helped found other social centers in Boston. In 1917, Mary Parker Follett took on the vice-presidency of the National Community Center Association, and in 1918 published her book on community, democracy, and government, The New State. Mary Parker Follett published another book, Creative Experience, in 1924, with more of her ideas about the creative interaction of people in group process. In 1926, she moved to England to live and work, and to study at Oxford. In 1928, Follett consulted with the League of Nations and with the International Labor Organization in Geneva. She lived in London from 1929 with Dame Katharine Furse of the Red Cross. In her later years, Mary Parker Follett became a popular writer and lecturer in the business world. She was a lecturer at the London School of Economics from 1933. Mary Parker Follett advocated for a human relations emphasis equal to a mechanical or operational emphasis in management. Her work contrasted with the "scientific management" of Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915) and evolved by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, which stressed time and motion studies.

Mary Parker Follett stressed the interactions of management and workers. She looks at management and leadership holistically, presaging modern systems approaches; she identifies a leader as "someone who sees the whole rather than the particular." Follett was one of the first (and for a long time, one of the few) to integrate the idea of organizational conflict into management theory, and is sometimes considered the "mother of conflict resolution." In a 1924 essay, "Power," she coined the words "power-over" and "power-with" to differentiate coercive power from participative decision-making, showing how "power-with" can be greater than "power-over."

"Do we not see now," she observed, "that while there are many ways of gaining an external, an arbitrary power —- through brute strength, through manipulation, through diplomacy —- genuine power is always that which inheres in the situation?" Mary Parker Follett died in 1933 on a visit to Boston. After her death, her papers and speeches were compiled and published in 1942 in Dynamic Administration, and in 1995, Pauline Graham edited a compilation of her writing in Mary Parker Follett: Prophet of Management. The New State was reissued in a new edition in 1998 with helpful additional material. Her work was mostly forgotten in America, and is still largely neglected in studies of the evolution of management theory, despite the accolades of more recent thinkers like Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker called her the "prophet of management" and his "guru."

Updated: Jun 05, 2020
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Mary Parker Follett essay
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