Beginning in 1970, therefore, American business executives moved swiftly from an era of confidence, approbation, and acknowledge leadership to one of crisis and anxiety. Before the end of the decade, they would be widely accused of complacency, excessive preoccupation with short-term profits, parochialism, indifference to quality, unimaginative, authoritarian behavior toward their employees, and rigid adherence to outmoded policies of mass-producing standardized products. From their own inner temple, the Harvard Business School, they stood condemned by Professor Robert Hayes and William Abernathy for having lost touch with the realities of manufacturing in their misguided fixation on financial manipulation and analytical models. In little more than a decade, "the American challenge" had been transformed from a saga of superiority to a grim struggle for survival.
This brief summary of the 1970's seems, in many ways, very similar to the economic situation of the present day. In fact, it introduces an interesting question concerning the nature of this unfortunate occurrence - cycle or progression. If it is simply a cycle, there leaves hope for societal progression, in the midst of the natural problems of mankind. If it is a progression, this current period serves simply as a cyclical reminder of our verbal willingness to do the right thing, but our inability to value it. Either way, cycle or progression, Bok recognized a significant problem in our nation some 15 years ago that has either been ignored or grown in severity.