Will Sr. Managers Change? LO7487

jack hirschfeld (jack@his.com)
Sat, 18 May 1996 13:21:52 -0400

Replying to LO7482 --

Brock Vodden wrote:

>All of my postings on this topic have been focused on a subset of
>organizations which I have encountered, whose senior managers for various
>reasons learn very little about management and think very little about it.
>What they do learn, they pick up by osmosis in an environment that has few
>good role models. These organizations are not likely to have heard the
>word empowerment, let alone consider it a useful concept.
>Yes, I am pessimistic about the future of these organizations and the
>ability of their managers to see what is going wrong. I have observed
>several of these companies collapse and disappear, in spite of being long
>established businesses with several hundred employees. I see many others
>grossly under-achieving because of poor management practices.
>It is difficult to get consultants into a serious discussion about such
>organizations, perhaps because they don't believe that such companies
>exist, or that they are few in number. My hunch is that in Canada, in the
>companies with up to 1,000 employees, such companies are in the majority.
>If my hunch is correct, this represents a national problem. Even if my
>observations are quite exagerrated, it is still worthy of our concern.
>We can talk and talk and talk about empowerment, leadership, about
>management theories, about excellence, about learning organizations -- all
>good stuff, that I am excited about sharing with my usual clients -- but
>it does absolutely nothing for this segment of the business community that
>isn't listening.
>I am still waiting for one person to begin a dialogue - or even a
>discussion - on this matter.

That one person of course is you, Brock. The difficulty I see in the
dialogue that you propose is that your assumptions do not seem to be
widely shared among the correspondents on this list.

In a global economy dominated by monster mega-corporations and a web of
entangling corporate alliances that make pre-WWI Europe look like a slip
knot, the fate of small companies appears irrelevant, except to the poor
souls who make their living through such agency. I don't share your
pessimism, however.

For one thing, I don't think you're speaking from good data. There are
many more small companies starting up and staying in business in North
America than ever before, and the survival rate is actually on the
increase. No one has done any work to correlate this survival rate with
management practices, but even if they had, the evidence that management
practices of one type or another are critical to corporate survival is
very slim. And such evidence as there is has mostly been gathered since
the emergence of the paradigm that gives it value, that is to say in the
last two to three decades. Now for some people, "Established in 1973" may
seem a good sign of longevity, but that speaks more for the times than it
does for organizational health.

One of the themes which has been raised in this list repeatedly, but has
seldom been the center of conversation, is the capability of organizations
to learn independent of what the nominal leadership does or thinks it's
doing. Some of us think of organizations as organisms, with learning
phenomena emerging from all of the circumstances and dynamics of the
organization, most of which we know very little about.

In my view, it's possible that one critical component of the survival and
growth of companies with 1,000 employees or less is the unwillingness of
their managers to listen to consultants who bring tidings of the new
paradigms, and their ignorance of "sound management practices." [Not
necessarily likely, but possible, and worth considering when wondering
about the fate of such companies.]


Jack Hirschfeld Do figures of authority just shoot you down? jack@his.com Is life in the business world a drag?

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>