Will Sr. Managers Change? LO7549

Thu, 23 May 1996 06:11:40 +1200

Replying to LO7523 --

Joan Pomo wrote:

" One of our clients has, through improved leadership to empower
employees, increased per person productivity by over 100%. More
improvement will come, possibly beyond 300%. His competitors are feeling
the heat as he gains market share at a steady rate and it appears that one
of them will go out of business soon. In the process, our client has
learned how to handle situations similar to the one you related and to
spend the time to successfully resolve them since he cannot afford not to
solve them.

" There is no other reason to do LO, BPR, TQM or our Leadership other than
a better bottom line. Business is not some social experiment. Any company
which cannot reduce costs and increase productivity will fail to meet the
expectations of customers for increased quality at lower cost, of
employees for higher compensation for the same number of hours or of
stockholders for a reasonable return on their investments."

I am always struck by the paradox and the paradox within the paradox that
is contained in statements such as these.

It seems to me that if the first of Joan's paragraphs is true then it
disproves the descriptions of purpose contained in the second. If the
second paragraph is true then the behavioural changes described in the
first paragraph would not happen.

Joan's own evidence of what sorts of things increase productivity
demonstrates that people are motivated by more complex forces than merely
more money for less work, etc. For example there is much research evidence
that power and control issues are a greater determinant of management
behaviour than are rational assessments of what will produce profits,
efficiency - or even business survival. Similarly analyses of stockholder
behaviour are quite clear in demonstrating that their actions individually
and en masse are driven by highly complex non-linear and non-rational
processes, and not just the calculation of what will give them a fair

Human behaviour in work systems can be quite startling. Take, for example,
the number of first officers on airliner flight decks who have gone to
their deaths rather than challenge what they knew to be a fatal error by
the captain. Cabin crew members died in the Air Ontario accident at Dryden
because none of them would tell the captain what they could all plainly
see outside the pasenger cabin windows - that the wings had iced during
the taxi. In cases such as these firms suffer economic loss and people die
because the non-economic determinants of behaviour within pathogenic work
systems suppress even the survival instinct - a sort of organisational
immune deficiency syndrome.

The paradox within the paradox appears to be that if a business is NOT
involved in social experiments, and is NOT mindful of social purposes
beyond economic purposes, then it will not long continue to make a profit.
It seems to me that Joan's own evidence about what people in work systems
do and do not respond well to, is evidence which supports this

Phillip Capper
Centre for Research on Work, Education and Business
New Zealand



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