The word 'management' is insufficient to describe the behavior and intent of those who seek to meet the challenges of the profession. It is also a word that provides those who do not wish to meet these challenges a place to hide.
Language is important.
‘We should have a great fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves’. John Locke
What is the idea that ‘management’ is a sign of? Who is the person that ‘manager’ is a cypher for?
The debate of leader vs manager is a little too simplistic for me. It seems we focus on the one because of the deficiencies of the other.
In the hands of the committed and creative there is no difference. In the hands of the uncertain and prosaic the difference is plain for all to see.
So lets take the word away. For the purposes of this post I’m going to replace ‘manager’ and ‘management’ with [.].
I’m interested to see if we can discuss [.] and find meaning and instruction. Because if we can we might then find another word.
The word is the shadow of the thing it describes. So what is the idea that [.] describes?
I don't believe we can satisfactorily describe the idea through the activities that [.] undertake.
The profession has become too encumbered with dead weight to make a useful examination of purpose through its actions.
We have all, to some extent, found ourselves to be [.]. Our work institutions have transformed into knowledge organizations.
Because knowledge work does not submit to the work practices of mass production we have become to some extent self-directing.
Most of the time we [.] ourselves. I’m not going to get drawn into the holacracy debate here. By inclination I’m an historian and I’m interested in the history of organized work.
Holacracy has antecedents and appears applicable to a limited set of service models. I do not believe it is the penicillin for our organizational woes.
In our fast paced world we forget that humanity has changed little over the centuries.
Work is a complex social phenomenon and there are natural limits to the self-organizing principle for groups. I’m mindful of the tendency of groups without stable authority structures to degrade when stressed.
I’m open to being wrong.
The role of the [.] is different from the form it took when it emerged from the Great War. The identity of the line [.] in the mass production organization is disappearing.
We have yet to construct a reasonable philosophy to inform the productive and achieving behavior of the post-line [.].
Which is the task I’m interested in.
We owe sympathy to the [.] who find themselves unprepared for the journey of reinvention that lies before them. The language of disruption does not appeal to everyone.
And they have some cause for concern. Not everything should be ‘disrupted’. The word has broadened in its use and not entirely to our advantage.
This is another reason why the leader vs [.] discussion does not help.
Unless we give serious consideration to the turmoil that besets the professional [.] all we do is fuel the creation and consumption of empty platitudes and woolly headed slogans.
I believe the central organizing principle that impels the progress of the modern [.] is responsibility.
Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.
Booker T. Washington
Important elements in the idea of responsibility include to obligate oneself, to promise , to be answerable and to maintain upright behavior.
All these things come together in the intent of the modern [.]. In part we have the GFC to thank for this realization. It demonstrated how wrong headed we had become.
We were fortunate. The gift of the GFC was that it acted as circuit breaker. Things could have been much worse.
The GFC gave us the opportunity to contrast the business world we had with the one we wanted. We could sense that some large and complex pattern had broken and been found wanting.
The business model generation found its voice and opportunity from the same moment. When confronted with such a palpable failure, it is the human response to look for something else, something new.
To be human is to be creative. And business is first and foremost an act of creativity.
The business world had become too analytical, too reductionist, too restricted by laws that we accepted as self-evident.
We fell off a cliff. But only broke our leg.
The GFC gave us the contrast to meditate on the importance of responsibility as an organizing principle for the modern [.].
What does it mean to make responsibility the core organizing principle? It means standing up and being counted to make something happen.
But what is this particular something? Can it be anything?
No. It can’t be just anything.
There needs to be something of importance associated to what we do. It is possible to take in the great sweep of modern human existence and be struck by how trivial much of it is.
Seems that when some innocents die All we can offer them is a page in some magazine. Too many cameras and not enough food Sting
What I believe to be important in business is bringing into being sustainable, responsible, productive and humane businesses.
I’m driven to try and improve the human condition and it is my genuine belief that business, responsible enterprise, is the means for doing so.
Note I didn’t say ‘free enterprise’. I said ‘responsible enterprise’.
Because the GFC helped us see the impact of several generations of imperfect theory enabling bad behavior.
The GFC was a truly historical event. It was a meltdown of an ideology that had been triumphant for many decades.
There is much foolish fuss made of Taylorism these days. His contributions to scientific management were great and few of us can hope to have so great an influence on a profession.
We cannot know what he would have thought of extending the principles of manual work to knowledge work. I’d like to think he would have cautioned us more than a little.
It’s not that we misapplied his lessons that is instructive. It was the utter certainty with which several generations of thinkers and doers misapplied them.
And continue to misapply them. And will probably continue to misapply.
Because it’s easier that way. It’s easier to apply an heuristic than apply a clear mind. More importantly, it is easier to protect a sunk cost than to abandon one.
This is one of the thoughts that bothers me the most. Could it be that much of what existing business does just doesn’t matter?
It may be that many of us in existing organizations are contributing little to solving the great issues of society.
And there may be some who are comfortable with that. Part of our existing ideology of business permits us to step away from ethical issues and say its nothing to do with business.
Fortunately there are plenty of people who are starting to recognize that ethics is everything to do with business.
That ethics may be all that business has.
That ethics is what business must embrace.
Business provides an excellent vehicle for people to be the change they want to see in the world. It’s generative, creative.
It’s also demanding. It’s not for everyone.
And that is probably a good thing. What we don’t need is an abundance of poorly conceived marginal businesses.
Responsible enterprises define themselves by the contribution they make to community, society and humanity. They define themselves based on the difference they make.
And those differences will be notable only by the effects they produce.
My sense is that for a business to become a responsible enterprise it will adopt a policy of growth as being ‘better’ rather than ‘bigger’.
We’re living in a quality world.
Quantity is important but only where quality already exists. Just what quality means is determined by the person for whom the service is being delivered.
Responsible enterprise is defined by its contribution to people, by the difference it makes.
I am not writing for those who wish to make the big bigger or who equate big with good. People who aim for big soon forget what it means to be small.
In the context of business, small means people can relate to the company. When something gets of a size that we struggle to place ourselves in meaningful context to it, we cannot relate to it.
Businesses which aim for landing somewhere on the continuum of big to massive won’t be taking people with them.
I’m standing for people who wish to make their aspirations productive. I’m standing for people who want to make a sustainable impact on the world.
People for whom a humane work place is meaningful. People for whom productive and achieving business is the best expression of their vision.
It’s these people for whom the term [.] means nothing in its present configuration. But it means everything to them in terms of the journey they wish to take.
They wish to take responsibility for making something important happen. And they want to build a business around it.
They want to ensure that business takes responsibility for the impact it has on the world.
They want to ensure the business grows better to ensure that they can create as much positive impact they can.
These people aren’t [.] in the tradition of that profession, but they are the inheritors of the intent.