The increasing specialization of business administration into isolated sub-disciplines such as marketing, human resources, production and accounting led to productive dissatisfaction at the University of St. Gallen in the 1960s. From a fruitful examination of systems theory and cybernetics at the time emerged the St. Gallen approach to systems-oriented management theory. The aim driving these efforts was to develop an integrative perspective on the core tasks of managers and their overall business responsibility. The St. Gallen Management Model (SGMM) was developed in order to make research findings available in a form that was appropriate for practice and practical application.

Like the current version, the first-generation SGMM by Hans Ulrich and Walter Krieg (1972) was characterized by a systems-theory and entrepreneurial orientation. The second generation (Bleicher, 1991) deepened the explicit differentiation of management into operative, strategic, and normative aspects. The third generation (Rüegg-Stürm, 2002) illustrated how organizational value creation for a dynamic environment needs to be understood as a complex interplay of value-creation processes. The fourth generation (Rüegg-Stürm & Grand, 2017) emphasizes the communicative and reflective function of management, and accordingly reconceives management as a reflective design practice.