Integrated management is a socially defined concept that is interpreted and understood in a variety of ways.
Integrated management is widely accepted as recognizing “nonlinear processes and connectivity between problems” in a managerial context. Integrated management has been defined as encompassing the “effective direction of every aspect of an organization so that the needs and expectations of all stakeholders are equitably satisfied by the best use of all resources”. Characteristics of integrated management are consensus-based decision-making, search for optimal efficiency and the co-existence of both uniformity and diversity within systems. This type of management is holistic and cross-disciplinary in its approach to balancing potential gains and losses.
“Integrated management faces the tensions of different perspectives on value to formulate and implement strategies that transcend rather than accept trade-offs. It implies ensuring coherence among the various business functions as well as harmony between the organization, society, and the natural environment.”
“Integrated management not only combines the efforts of individuals and groups in ways that achieve unity, but also unifies these efforts into a larger coherent whole.”
Management can be an individual, as well as a collective activity, and is generally viewed as an organizational phenomenon. Integrated management promotes equilibrium between different interconnected spheres: the organization, society and the environment.
Integrated management uses new and existing managerial concepts and tools, while putting emphasis on the systemic processes, stakeholder culture, real-world leadership and emotional intelligence at play within an organization. In contemporary organizations, this approach to management is valued as a strategy to reconciling complex cross-functional challenges . Integrated practices, as opposed to unilateral, specialized practices, are proven to foster open-mindedness and flexibility in individuals and communities. Integrated management promotes a flattening of traditional organizational silos while encouraging a context-sensitive approach to understanding individuals, systems and organizations.
The global challenges people face as a society and as managers are interrelated. Social, economic and environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, nor are they affixed to one discipline or sector. As societies evolve and become more complex, organizations and management education will need to adapt and offer new modes of learning and managerial knowledge. Hence, the importance of integrated management education – one that tackles issues from a holistic, interdisciplinary perspective – in contemporary institutions cannot be underestimated.
“Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies criticized the lack of functionally integrated curricula in higher education, particularly in business and management programs. During the same period, it became increasingly clear that business activity had become dangerously disembedded from the social and ecological systems on which it depend, and linked causally to a series of major societal problems – from global climate change and widespread ecological degradation to childhood obesity and financial instability, among others. As a result, whether one considers the relations between different functional specialties inside an organization or the relations between the organization and different external stakeholders, the requirement for managers who can articulate and reconcile issues from multiple perspectives continues to grow.”
Management is a social phenomenon “where art, science, and craft meet”. Keeping this in mind, management education is expected to reflect human creativity, complexity and multidimensionality. Integrated management in education differs from conventional functional management education, as it is characterized by the incorporation of: teamwork and team-building exercises; real-time processes (such as simulations and role-playing); team-teaching and guest speakers; multidisciplinary case studies; service learning projects; fieldwork and experiential learning; as well as international and online collaborations.
Furthermore, according to research from the Odette School of Business, a holistic, integrated approach to management theory improves business students’ critical thinking and reduces their materialistic and individualistic tendencies.
The Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management (MDIIM) was established in 2008 by a donation from Marcel Desautels, a Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist. The MDIIM is one of the eight on-campus research centers housed in the Desautels Faculty of Management which is one of the constituent faculties of McGill University. The faculty offers a range of undergraduate and graduate-level business programs including the Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration, and Doctor of Philosophy in management degrees.
The MDIIM aims to develop an integrated approach to management education – one that breaks down disciplinary barriers, embraces multiple perspectives, and encourages holistic, context-sensitive thinking about organizations. The MDIIM focuses on five thematic priorities. Two derive from activities which constitute integrated management: “Innovation” and “Robust Metrics and Risk Management.” The other three derive from values too often juxtaposed and assumed to be in conflict with economic value: “Health”, “Social Well-Being”, and “Sustainability”.
“The MDIIM has several goals, which are to:
Reflecting upon the similarities and differences between uses of the adjectives ‘integrated’ and ‘integrative’ to describe various management phenomena is useful when thinking about integration. At the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, the Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking defines integrative thinking as the “ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model that contains elements of both models, but is superior to each.”