Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mushrooming numbers of managers may actually be stifling UK enterprise…

In a very perceptive article Simon Caulkin, Management Editor of the Observer points out the litany of unintended consequences arising for the professionalising of management, as in MBAs, and the unquestioning adoption of flawed theories in the social realm. He argues that 'it can seem that the principal role of management these days is to make life a misery'.

In explicating his argument he draws on the work of Russ Ackoff:

'Russell Ackoff, the distinguished systems and management theorist, memorably described the self-set trap as “doing the wrong thing righter”. Most of our current problems, he maintains, are the result of managers and policy-makers trying ever harder to make something come right that they shouldn’t be doing in the first place. “The righter we do the wrong thing,” he notes, “the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right.” The wrong thing that managers have been striving to do righter — and in support of which a whole industry has grown up to amplify the wrongness — is, not to put too fine a point on it, central planning: an amoral, dysfunctional (and dangerously self-reinforcing) command-and-control management model that would not have been out of place in the Soviet Union.'

He concludes:

'In every sense, today’s dismal discipline is not economics but management.'

I hope there are folk out there taking notice of Simon's insights!

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