Management thought is a little like fashion, it recycles back after see-sawing from one to the other in a new name and under and different packaging.
I mean, take this new hype around Bruce Tulgan's book Okay to Be the Boss: The Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming the Manager Your Employees Need, (and video blogger on Brazen Careerist). Penelope Trunk claims that :
Tulgan is evangelizing a new kind of management — where people actually do it.
This may sound like revolutionary stuff to Silicon Valley and new managers types, but in reality it is just a throwback to the situational leadership approach that Blanchard and Hersey talked about a long time ago.
The gist of the approach is that people depending on their maturity and 'newness' need either direction, coaching, support or delegation. Management thought in the recent past has hovered around the latter two approaches, taking for granted that people know what to do. But that thought masks the assumption that people may not know what to do, all the time. They have to be coached and directed depending on where they are in their career life and in their organizational life.
Yes, management is a complex science and an intricate art. It is something that evolves between two human beings and impacts a larger team. There are no quick fixes to it. One cannot say that "hands-off" is better or that "hands-on" is better.
Much the same way, you cannot say whether a centralised organization structure is better or a decentralised one is. It all depends on where an organization is in its growth cycle, as Griener told us a long time ago, and yet, we all look for an overarching answer.
There are no absolute truths when in comes managing human beings or their collectivities.