Management as we know it is not working anymore

(suite de l’Article précédent)

Drucker used to say that 90% of management as we know it prevents us from actually doing the work!

I can hear the pundits!

  • “Is it that bad? It has always been like this…”
  • “But it makes so much sense!”
  • And sadly, “What are the alternatives?”

Let’s joyfully destroy all those arguments!

“Is it that bad? It has always been like this…”

Nope. Is fact this is fairly new if you consider our history. Humanity as we know it has been present on the planet for roughly 300,000 years. The oldest known civilization occurred a mere 5000 ago : The Sumerians and the first known city-states. Lest’s assume they had some kind of hierarchical structures.

King Hammurabi created the first laws round 1760 BC

Solon “invented” democracy in 650 BC … a thousand years later … laws created by the kings were apparently not subtle enough to make people happy.


Magna Carta in 1215 was maybe the next great step in trying to make things right and remove some power form the powers that be…nice try but …

I jump now to 1911 to go back to work structures when our Friend Taylor promoted a scientific method to this madness…

Taylor stated four principles to make his method work. (By the way, if you reading this, please take an hour or two to read Taylor’s book … the ebook is available for less that 2$)

The four principles behind the Scientific method of management

  1. Science, Not Rule of Thumb: 
  2. Harmony, Not Discord:
  3. Cooperation, Not Individualism:
  4. Development of Each and Every Person to His / Her Greatest Efficiency and Prosperity:

The first principle was widely applied. Procedures, norms and regulation, audits, inspections and the reign of the “experts”, the scientist and the rise of business Schools around the world that eventually created the now famous, or rather infamous Command and Control motto that is now the norm almost everywhere.

The other three principles…

“What, wait … there was something else?”

Indeed.  Taylor was a humanist. Not a tyrant.

He was an engineer, with a very systematic mind but the goal of the “method” was to make humans more efficient and he knew that an unhappy human is NOT a productive human. He proposed a raise in pay as an incentive (oh boy … Don’t start me on incentives and bonuses…) to stimulate workers and make them responsible for their success.

He dived the workforce in two those who did the work and those who planned the work but he never intended to create organizational or mental silos, or to quote my friend Jon Husband semantic straight jackets that would prevent further evolution of his principles.

So no … it has NOT always been like this…

Before civilization there were organic structures and ecosystems that did not require human intervention to succeed. There were and still are herds of animals roaming in plains and forests without any complicated rules and norms albeit with some implicit principles and some benevolent leadership. Wolf pack provides us with interesting models, where the leader is the last one in line when the pack moves, always watching the lagging members and protecting them and in control of the direction.

Canadian Geese offer another example of “rules” without being associated to Power. 

So this brings me to 

“This makes so much sense.”

Does it now?

Only human thrives on making others suffer. We know very well that the current work conditions do not make sense. As early is the 1920s Mary Parker Follet was advocating for better management … only a decade after Taylor! The 20th century is filled to the brim with Thinkers who sought to improve management practices, Lewin, McGregor, Drucker, Duran, Deming and so many others tried to demonstrate that the misinterpreted Taylorism was actually not improving human performance. 

But stable markets, Roosevelt’s New deal and the postwar abundance proved them wrong.

Things started to change after the Glorious Thirty ended with the first oil crisis and the globalization of free markets. Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market economy was now showing its teeth in a surprising way. Once Reagan and Tatcher deregulated their economy, once The Berlin Wall fell, the new capitalism exacerbated what had been simmering…

New thinkers like Toffler, Senge, Crosby, Wheatley, Hamel, Pfleaging, Husband, Jarche, Snowden, Pinchot, Dignan, Semler saw it coming.

  • No, it did not make sense to have so much abundance in the hands of so few.
  • No, it di not make sense to work so much for so little.
  • No, it did not make sense to have a new workforce more educated than ever before be as little in control as in the 1910s…We used to be artists and craftsmen and we became cogs in a huge machine.

No, it did not make sense. It never did. It never will.

So finally… “What are the alternatives?”

Literally thousands of business books are published every year.  THOUSANDS!!

Mostly from two countries: the USA and China. Those books focus on case studies and encompass a few companies each time. Successful companies. Or formerly successful companies. I remember reading (sorry I cannot provide a reference) that most business books covered Fortune 500 companies, most of which used to be Americans and that those companies represented 500/5.6 million companies. Or …0.001%.

So business books covering the best of the best represents 0.001% of actual companies.

And somehow, the whole world thrives to imitate this.


Aren’t there alternatives?

Of course!

FAVI, Gore, Semco, Morning Star, G-Soft, and many, many, many others do have alternative way of managing and, more importantly, succeeding!

However, as with any cooking book, recipes, even very well illustrated recipes, do not ensure a good meal or even a meal that resembles that idealistic picture from the cooking book!

Cooking books a chef do not make!

Business books are an inspiration … not a road map. Mimicking the success of those companies cannot work. The results described in those books are circumstantial, contemporaneous (that word again) and people specific. They cannot be reproduced.

As Niels Pfleaging wrote, “culture is the shadow of an organization.You cannot grasp it, you can only observe.”
Similarly the success of an organization described in a book cannot be achieved

It worked for THIS organization,

during THIS period,

with THIS team and

under THOSE circumstances , THIS context under THESE market conditions

for THOSE specific reasons

THEREFORE …it cannot be reproduced.

What can be reproduced are the principles behind the success.

What can be reproduced is the way it was orchestrated … starting with a profound reflection and a new mindset.

“The only to predict the future is to create it”, as Drucker once said.

And the problem we face today cannot be resolved with the same mindset we hat when we create them … as loosely quoted from Albert Einstein. So … we cannot solve our current problem with the mindset that creates the machine organization that create this computer, this smartphone, this stock exchange.

Command&Control will continue to work and create successes until people stop accepting to be controlled and commanded.

The Wireless World Wide Web now allows us to see alternatives and learn from them.

Our education system created to promote and help the Industrial Revolution by creating mindless and obedient workers is faltering and nowhere is it more evident than during the current pandemic … the old way of learning with a hierarchical teacher/God in front of the classroom never really worked … the new learning network is Youtubed!

Management as we know it is not working anymore

So, where do we go from here?

Yes… the end next week!


Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

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