Self-Doubt – Comment on the “New Tools” of Management

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The article of our “anonymous guest author” on tools of the new economy (Werkzeuge der Neuen Ökonomie) moved me deeply. After all, it described in a very illustrative way how an “owner-controlled” enterprise became a “shareholder value-oriented” enterprise, as can often be witnessed.

And it showed us quite clearly how you can get the impression that laws of reason and of sensible understanding have been violated and replaced by a system of dogmatic structures of mechanical and deterministic thinking. This is a story that is just too well-known and common – which basically always ends detrimental for all parties concerned.

My first reaction was to spontaneously regret this development and to call it evil. Are we not witnessing how good management technologies are replaced by bad ones? Is it not a pity that a people-centred system becomes a systemic system?

However, my second reaction was that, perhaps, we should not judge and, above all, not over-estimate this kind of development. Is there any reason at all for a “human-oriented” enterprise to live longer than, for example, its founder?

Is it not logical that social systems founded and created by mortal beings should be just as mortal as those who made them? And maybe this dogmatic mechanisation of a social system with an economic purpose – also called “enterprise” – is just the  perhaps even evolutionary attempt to prolong the life of the hitherto founder- or family-oriented enterprise considerably, quasi artificially? To be sure, there is a high price to pay for it.

Perhaps it is totally normal for enterprises to die or be swallowed by other structures after a few generations of humans and enterprises? Because enterprises, too, like all living organisms, have a beginning (birth) and an end (death)?

Consequently, it might be possible that enterprises can only be dogmatically or mechanistically/deterministically controlled after having reached a certain volume or a certain age? Maybe after a certain time span, every enterprise will have to face that decisive moment from which onwards you have to either become dogmatic like the big ones, or else be swallowed by a big one – or die?

Personally, I know only very few firms that, over more than seven generations and, for instance, in the seventh generation, managed to remain both successful and still a nice medium-sized company. Most of them went bankrupt long before or have been swallowed up. Mind you, being swallowed up always means a lot of the old enterprise dies, while only little is preserved.

And perhaps a social system can basically only survive for more than a few generations if it becomes independent and de-personalized and if it develops strict dogmata as behaviour-oriented values? And if it then moves with all the power and strength it has gathered through history?

Perhaps an enterprise actually has to make its own survival the superior goal of its existence in order to survive long. Even if such social systems will quasi inevitably end up creating a fascistoid situation?

However, the result of my deliberations is something else:

It is always a pity if a biophile, democratic, self-organized and self-determined social system dies or mutates into a mechanistic and deterministic system. To be sure, the latter alternative might actually prolong the life-span of the enterprise, but it is not beneficial for the stakeholders of the enterprise. And there will come a day when it will finally die from its own inflexibility.

Under this light, it makes sense to oppose the de-personalization and economization of processes in the enterprises and to try and preserve the pro-human attitude in these social systems. Consequently, as I see it, enterprises should also try to avoid making their own survival the dominant (self-) purpose of their existence as long as possible. After all, it is their main purpose to serve the people they sell their services and/or products to, isn’t it?

How does our famous proverb say:
“Better a miserable end than endless misery.”
or
“You should finish on a high note”.

But then, this would mean to change the “old” system and make something new out of it as long as this is possible, i.e. as long as the old ways have not yet become independent. Because when that happens, it is probably too late.

Consequently:

“Love it, change it or leave it!”

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I was privileged enough to actually meet Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck in person a few times. Like Rupert Lay, the Premonstratensian canon was a famous management coach and consultant for top-echelon German industry in the second half of the last century. I learned to identify both of them as the persons who introduced the term “ethics” in management.

Augustinus was a great orator who enjoyed humorously calling himself a church “lobbyist”. With equal delight, he kept reminding his audience that his enterprise, after all, had already survived almost 2,000 years – and that he knew no other enterprise that had survived as long.

If you look at it cynically, the humorous comment of this great church man might actually prove that dogmata and rigidity are important for the longevity of a social system. Even if the founder of the enterprise himself had a totally different concept of the entire matter. But then, the enterprise “church” certainly has a very special product on offer……

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