The Rat Race—It’s Not Metaphor

When those in authority over an enterprise employ/hire someone they give him/her work to which he/she is to apply his/her labor in support of aim of the business enterprise.  This employer-employee arrangement is consistent with a basic principle of capitalism where capital employs labor.

 

We speak of being employed and being an employee without much further thinking about just what this could mean.  Continue reading

Oil And Water Don’t Mix

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?

Stupid Is, As Stupid Does

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

Unsustainable Contradictions

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.

The Cure

Cancer cells don’t know they are cancerous!  Though this may be an obvious fact even a so what fact to many, if we think more critically about this we realize that it is quite significant.  Why?  Unlike other cells, cancer cells grow uncontrollably and without limit and in so doing attack the viability of the body they live in thus leading to the death of both their host and themselves.  So if they knew they were cancerous then they’d stop killing the body upon which they so much depend.  No reasonable cell would behave in a way that diminishes its viability. Continue reading

Act On Cue Or Take The Lead

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

Leadership or Dictatorship

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

Toward Higher-Level Performance

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

Business Management Education—Think Again

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