The authors of a recent HBR article, Wells Fargo and the Slippery Slope of Sales Incentives, provided the answer “to meet sales quotas and earn incentives” to the question “why they (they being the lower level employees of Wells Fargo) did this in the first place.” The “this” being unethical if not illegally selling and charging customers for services they did not need or request. It seems that the perspective here is that the employees where at fault, after all they are the ones who acted fraudulently! Continue reading
What happens when the larger-scheme-of-things is ignored and denied out of existence? Continue reading
The worldview underlying the capitalist system requires a way-of-being-in-the-world that has us believing that we each are independent competing entities each destined to pursue as much material gain as one can in our individual lifetime—the measure of life is the material gains accumulated. Accordingly we are led to think of our self and each other as separate independent entities, each seeking his/her own gain—there is no ‘We’ just a bunch of ‘Me’s’ consumed by getting and spending. Accordingly we seek dominance and control over everything out there in order to exploit them in service to the satisfaction of our immediate wants. It is all in the name and game of material self-interest gain and wealth accumulation. According to this worldview the only significant value is material value. Consequently, when value means material value, it is no wonder the reality we’ve created is one of strife, chaos and suffering. Continue reading
Let’s imagine that we surveyed people asking them whether they are in favor of quality. What would we likely find? There is little doubt that overwhelmingly their response would be yes. What does this mean, what does this imply? Continue reading
As we learned that GM had waited until 2014 to recall vehicles having a defective ignition switch which causes the car to suddenly shut off rendering brakes, steering and airbags non-functional which can lead to accidents killing people I am reminded of a brief discussion about GM’s tunnel vision in the post Gravity of Vision.
“It is unfortunate that many believe that it is not what the vision is, but what the vision does that makes it so important. For many having a goal is all that matters. Accordingly most visions are in effect mission statements—what some might call BHAG (big hairy audacious goal).
As illustration consider GM’s vision, “Design, Build and Sell the World’s Best Vehicles.” This speaks not of people but of things—yes the objects—the organization makes. While GM’s statement offers a far-reaching noble goal it does not offer guidance to people toward developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with each other and the work.
When results-only becomes the thing then meaning is lost as everything becomes objectified. Moreover as concern for results dominate relationships all interaction among people become mere transactions. Unavoidably, motivation turns to movement caused external authority and people become disconnected from the work. Because engagement in the work turns superficial keeping people on task toward results guides the approach of management.”
I think it speaks to why GM acted as they did—choosing not to incur costs in recalling and replacing the defective part—and likely will continue to act similarly in the future unless management changes the profit-only intent and correspondingly the morally bankrupt vision of the business.
Have you ever wondered why so little improvement can be found even though the vast majority of people—almost all—are in favor of improvement? Have you ever wondered why almost everyone would like the future to be better but yet very few actually do anything—like learning anew—to affect it? Why do these contradictions emerge? Continue reading
Reflecting on “America’s Descent Into Madness” by Henry Giroux, we most certainly don’t but need to provide learning experiences in and through public education that will facilitate every person’s development. What should we all seek to develop? Our personhood, our humanness! That is, we should all strive to become fully human in support of us—each other and all others—realizing progress toward becoming a more humane society. How could we have a more humane society without its constituent members expressing the human qualities of kindness, care and concern for others? Obviously we can’t, and clearly we haven’t!
Preparing people to become instruments for wealth accumulation was never right but it surely is effective for preparing people to be objects for exploitation. James Boyce in Pursuing Profits – or Power?, asserts, “although corporations could benefit from the bigger pie produced by a better-educated labor force, there’s a tension between what’s good for business and what’s good for the business elite.” As currently framed the conduct of business is designed for wealth accumulation not to further human progress. In other words, maintaining power over others is central to the practice of American capitalism, which has also captured society and colonized democracy.
The Incompatible No Alternative
Thus efforts toward educating people alone will in all likelihood fail. Why?
As Giroux said quite succinctly, “rather than work for a more dignified life, most Americans now work simply to survive in a survival-of-the-fittest society in which getting ahead and accumulating capital, especially for the furling elite, is the only game in town.” So it is the way we’ve tacitly learned to roll. Seemingly most have accepted the there–is-no-alternative argument (TINA), remaining unaware that we will all lose as each seeks his/her own gain.
David Kristjanson-Gural, professor of economics, said it best “Capital will continue to corrode democracy, as certainly as oxygen corrodes iron, as long as a few hold sway over investment and jobs and are committed to using the wealth that we generate to undermine the will of the people.” It is designed into the system!
The incongruence between our system of economics and a (humane) democratic society is far too significant—it is oil and water, both figuratively and literally. Specifically, it is the central precept of our egoistic capitalistic system of economics—that people are primarily if not solely driven by material self-interest—that is the primary cause of the circumstances we are experiencing. The vast majority have tacitly learned to believe they are at base the most intelligent animal whose aim is to have it all for one’s self—the one with the most toys wins!
People unconsciously assume that to be human is to structure life as the pursuit of one’s material self-interest, so they unceasingly strive to have more, thus forsaking them being and becoming more human. Unfortunately the getting of the toys in all likelihood will only be realized by a privileged fortunate few—as Adam Smith himself had essentially acknowledged in The Wealth of Nations that while the many won’t gain (in this system) it does keep them industrious to the benefit of the few.
There Are Alternatives
People must acknowledge that for a viable and sustainable (humane) society there are alternatives to oil but not for water! So clearly we need people to awaken to their human potential in order for the critical mass necessary to affect a fundamental transmutation of society—piecemeal reform will not do. Again Giroux astutely asserted, “It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the stories we are told. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves.” Educating people in an effort to develop their capability to think critically is paramount, but more is needed!
We must also understand that unless the system of economics is re-cast to serve all humankind then the system will continue descending us into madness. We can’t continue with making it fit! Because the conduct of business is deeply interwoven throughout the lives of so many a self-serving and narrow focus of attention creates a broad swath of destruction. In a recent report on a decade of historic rising profits and stagnant wages, Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute state that “an economy that does not provide shared prosperity is, by definition, a poorly performing one.” It is poor performing for the many because it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t serve!
Again we can’t continue with trying to make it fit, as if there is no alternative. Simply, we can’t continue to be so myopically focused on profit and shareholder value—which serves but a few—if we wish to be a sustainable society. Exploitation and extraction as a means of wealth accumulation must end!
It should be clear that the intent of business must change to where concern for people’s development and wellbeing are paramount. What should be placed ahead of the development and wellbeing of people? The answer should be obvious, nothing!
Moreover, because we are so deeply interdependent, individually and collectively we need everyone to actualize his/her potential as a human being—developing toward becoming more fully human—and correspondingly to be stewards of our natural environment. Given that the future is where (our) life and those who come after us (yes the children) will be lived, we mustn’t waste a single moment. That is, the future begins now in this moment hence it is imperative that what we enact in this moment be a life-enabling and life-furthering act. Decisions and actions that diminish our viability are wrong decisions and actions, so we must cease making and taking them.
A Place To Begin
If only the leaders of business organizations took the long view and critically thought about businesses’ place in society and thus businesses’ responsibility they could change the why and how of business. They would clearly see that there are alternatives.
We can realize a changed-for-the-better society by changing our practices—we can realize change by enacting it now, one decision at a time one business at a time. If those in authority of a business enterprise are in deed leaders then they ought to exercise (their) authority over the resources they oversee for the betterment of all those they affect. If they can’t or won’t do so then they must cease trying to selfishly influence the future of society. They must either exhibit the courage to lead or get out of the way of human progress. Let’s ask again, what should rightfully be placed above the development and wellbeing of people; what’s more important than a human life fulfilled?
When Deming proclaimed costs are not causes he was trying to make quite obvious and clear (to those willing to listen) that focusing on outcomes is no way to manage and improve a system. Focusing on results will not cause better results; only focusing on and understanding the system of causes will lead to lasting improvement. However, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of business minded people attending his seminars, to this day management of and by outcomes (aka metrics, analytics) remains the go-to practice. I suppose Yogi Berra was right, if people don’t want to come out to the ballpark nobody is going to stop them! Continue reading
How do you maximize the performance of an organization?
Wait, wait…don’t tell me!
I went to business school, I know! Continue reading