In their article on labor relations Ellen Dannin and Ann C Hodges remind us that when companies compete on price the most prevalent approach is to cut wages and benefits—globalizing labor is the latest means to this end. Labor (aka employees, people) is viewed as a cost against the business of business that is profit. Correlatively to ensure that employees remain powerless individuals and not become a powerful collective voice they inhibit (and even obstruct) the formation of unions. Why? Continue reading
In spite of the persuasiveness of the business minded about both the management prowess in business and superiority of markets to serve the needs of citizens—privatize society—there are a few contradictions hidden in plain sight that we must heed.
The business minded contend competition is required for a business enterprise to innovate and/or to provide quality to its’ customers. That is to say, business leaders need to be forced to foster creativity and provide quality. The underlying assumption is that the business minded do not care enough or are responsible enough to provide the organizational environment for creativity and quality to emerge—they need to be acted upon to do the right thing.
Business leaders, at times vehemently, resist regulation claiming they don’t need someone (especially government) overseeing to ensure they conduct business in a socially responsible way. That is, they claim they are quite competent and should be trusted to conduct business responsibly—only they know what’s best—hence they don’t need others to act on them to do the right thing.
The contradiction is striking! Out of one side of their mouth business leaders say they need outside forces to do what’s right and yet out of the other side they say they don’t need outside forces to do what’s right.
What underlies this contradiction is an addiction, where profit is the substance of choice and the measure of (their) life. And as with all addictions greater and greater quantities are needed to bring satisfaction. It is this self-serving compulsion for increasing level of profit that is the basis of both arguments. Hence to them there is no contradiction—it is all the same and quite rational.
Yet another contradiction advanced by the business minded is that (free) markets are efficient and most effective, except of course when it comes to what business leaders desire. The captains of business/industry know full well their wants mustn’t be left up to the market to satisfy—markets aren’t as efficient and effective as they tout—hence their quid pro quo lobbying to fix the market in service to their particular desires.
Can the captains of business/industry be trusted to act responsibly or to provide sound guidance in the governance of society and the providing social services to citizens when the business of their business is their very own profit? Should capitalistic principles dictate the practice of democracy–a grand contradiction?
It should not be surprising that this manner of governing society is as irrational in regards to the common good as it is, given the influence profiteers have upon policy. A system—be it a society or a business enterprise—led or governed in this way is an addictive system and thus not sustainable. All addictions have the same future, thus continuing with such contradictions is self-destructive.
How do you maximize the performance of an organization?
Wait, wait…don’t tell me!
I went to business school, I know! Continue reading
A recent essay about eliminating targets by John Wenger caused me to think again about the all too common misguided practice of setting and managing numerical goals. What I am coming to understand more deeply is that most if not all in management aren’t doing the wrong things—such as managing by the numbers and by results—on purpose they are doing them on cue. What do I mean by this? Continue reading
Today, America’s captains of business and industry command increasingly vast sums as compensation for their services. Accordingly, there is an enormous disparity—on the order of 325-to-1—between what the average paid-worker in an organization gets and what the CEO gets. We refer to these captains of industry as business leaders: But are they really? Continue reading
There appears to be an enormous amount of interest in using data (a.k.a. analytics) as a management tool for gaining some degree of certainty of performance through better control of the tasks and the task doers of an enterprise. In fact analytics seems to be the beginning and end all of management these days. After all, as Lord Kelvin asserted ‘to measure is to know” and “when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.” This is all well and good if we are dealing with pure mechanical systems, systems with no inherent will or self-initiation and that function according to laws of physical science. Continue reading
Just imagine if those you managed were more self-acting and self-directed, had greater levels of creativity and had (really) good interpersonal skills. Wouldn’t this make for a higher performing team enhancing organizational performance, not to mention having a positive influence on your effectiveness? Obviously, for many, the next questions are do such people exist and how do I get them to be my team? Continue reading
In an HBR Blog Network article Gianpiero Petriglieri, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Director of the Management Acceleration Programme at INSEAD, spoke to the question are business schools clueless or evil? Professor Petriglieri’s answer is “business schools are neither clueless nor evil. They are—like most students that flock to their classrooms—in transition. Overtly working to improve their competence and image and covertly wrestling with questions about identity and purpose.” Continue reading
A recent HBR Blog post by John Kotter speaks to the confusion surrounding management and leadership. He continues by outlining three key mistakes people make in confusing management and leadership: 1) using the terms interchangeably; 2) using leadership to refer to those at the top of the hierarchy; and 3) thinking leadership is about personality characteristics (i.e. charisma). Let’s critically think about these mistakes to better understand their likely causes. Continue reading
Many elected public officials formulate legislation favoring those who provide large sums of money to them (in support of their election/re-election) irrespective of the legislation’s impact on the citizens—the collective ‘we’—they are elected to represent. What is the consequence of such action? Essentially there is no consequence! Why? Because those who could take action are reticent to do so since they too benefit from this quid pro quo system. So they cooperate—if not collaborate—with special interest. If lobbying weren’t effective, why else would the number of lobbyist have grown?
There are corporate executives who create and manage an organization that behaves in environmental and/or socially damaging (if not fraudulent) ways. More often than not this way of managing provides the executives and their minions significant material gain and the citizens of the country significant devastation. What is the consequence of such practice? None to very little! Why? Because those who could take action are reluctant to do so since they too benefit from the way things are. So they cooperate keeping things as they are. This is likely why regulating agencies and corporate boards overlook rather than provide oversight.
What’s operative in each? Self-interest maximization; a what’s in it for me orientation. In a socio-economic system that concerns itself primarily if not solely with self-interest—not the collective ‘we’, the interdependence of living systems and society at-large—the resultant quid pro quo arrangements determine the future we all will likely experience. It is no surprise that follow the money often leads investigators toward identifying the puppeteers.
We cooperate with the system—no matter how dysfunctional. In a democracy voting is the primary means for individuals to participate and thus cooperate with the system of government thus ensuring its continuance. In organizations striving to meet the measureable goals cascaded down from the top of the hierarchy is the primary means for individuals to cooperate with the system. A profit making and maximizing system, exclusively for those directing the game, is the order of the day—so fall in line, play the game.
We Can All Hope
So we cooperate while hoping that changing the players directing the game will change the game—hence our obsessive focus on leadership. Or is it we keep the game going thinking that once we get to the top of the hierarchy we will some how change the game. Unfortunately it hasn’t and it likely never will happen!
Hope involves seeing/envisioning a way for things to get better so many have hope for change. Some hope to return to the imagined better times of the past and others imagine a new reality. In either case, people hope that the future will be better than the present. Both are holding steadfast to an imaginary reality and thus not seeking to understand the why of what is. It is the present that is most correlated with the future, yet many seem to run from it.
Game Change Requires Mind Change
Nothing will change unless the system itself is fundamentally changed! You don’t change the game by continuing rolling the dice on your turn; this just keeps the game going. Cooperating with a system ensures its continuance.
We aren’t independent individuals whose sole purpose in life is to amass as much material wealth as we can—bumping into each other as we each strive to have it all for ‘me’. It is not that self-interest is not within our nature it is that self-interest is not the essence of our nature. However those directing things would have us believe that we are at base self-interest seeking because it best serves their self-interest—they benefit most when we all are concerned about what’s in it for me. This keeps people from coming together as we—divide and conquer works most times, but only in the short-term.
I remember (many years ago) being in a meeting where the president of a division of a company I was working for said, “look to your left and look to your right because 1 in 3 people won’t be here next year. “ What’s the message? It is not I want you all to work together, but rather I want each of you to worry about yourself. This president wasn’t seeking to foster an inspired collective we but rather bunch of me’s that could be easily controlled by fear.
I left the company within several months of that meeting. Eventually the division floundered, not because I had left but because the division was never able to actualize the potential among those it employed.
Unfortunately when individuals act out of their self-interest, when there is little to no concern beyond what’s in it for ‘me’—when a sense of caring stops at one’s own skin—then the destruction of either the organization or society (which includes all individuals) is inevitable.
So why is there hope? Could it be that because the absence of hope ushers in despair and so everyone is simply deluding him/her self to avoid feelings of despair? Rather than being hopeful, I suspect we’d all be better off if we got heretical.