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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Art of Management: Command and Control vs Open and Adaptable

Agile, Scrum, Kanban, whatever - those are all cutesy management buzz-terms, programs or processes that have become as trendy in business as different schools of fighting are in martial arts.  The same holds true for health and wellness systems, schools of cognitive exercise, even policy - what starts off as a system to improve a process becomes a cult, a faith to be practiced in exclusion of all others.

Any practice or series of approaches becomes codified, idealized or set against, it becomes hierarchical, closed and a target for authoritarianism.

Taxonomy gets created that is opaque and exclusionary, meaning that only a few are its masters.  Wall Street, with all its jargon, works the same way as the polling industry current does - smoke and mirrors and assertive personalities.

Penalties for not staying in line or not feeding the management beast need to be established, lest the people get it into their beans that they can accomplish an end goal more effectively or with greater individual benefit (or less loss) than under the current system.  Original sin can only be forgiven one way; only Party A can keep troubles off shores or boots off your streets.

It's common for one person to be set up as the headman, infallible, omniscient, incorruptible and incapable of error.  This is a fiction, obviously, one that takes a lot of internal management and scheming to maintain.  The people that do this propping up of the illusion tend to have a lot of power and a lot of cash; it's in their best interests to keep the fiction alive at all costs.

Of course, all fictions fall when faced with facts; in reality, facts are kind of hard to do away with.  Empire builders can call themselves history's actors, but this is simply another fallacy, one they sell themselves.  We are all but players on the stage.

As reality creeps in on ideological fiction, the stakes get higher, the broken rules or cynical manipulations made to stay in power become more egregious and inevitably, the public becomes suspicious.  It's in people's best interests to know when we're being played for sheep.

This is why command and control always, always fails.  

The people at the top delude themselves when they assume that consequences are things faced only by lesser creatures.  As more and more people at the top look at the bottom with increasing cynicism, the more likely they are to fall into the social traps that opacity inevitably leads to.

Invariably, someone who is not of the elite will come along with a new approach that isn't steeped in tradition and that has no entrenched advocates.  By sheer force of will, through determination, the power of their idea or the charisma of its champion, the people will be exposed to an alternative that strips away the layers of tribal ideology, showing to all that the Emperor is truly naked. 

History's Buddhas or Mohammeds or Jesuses fit into this category.  So do the Martin Luthers, the Martin Luther King Jrs, the Bruce Lees and the Albert Einsteins.

There is no reason why these little people should change the world - they don't belong.  Of course, that's their strength.

History's catalyzers do belong - not to a tribe, an ideology or a culture, but to all people.  They are not common, but they are not Other, either.  What they bring - what they, in particular, bring at a time when people are seeking it - is change.  

This is a key point - there are countless Einsteins or Lincolns or Churchills out there right now, going nowhere, because they were in neither the right place nor the right time.  People need to be open to something different for these diamonds in the rough to have the opportunity to shine.

That's the key.  As we see increasing talk about flat organizations and open government, there's a natural assumption that leadership will come from the top and trickle down to the people. Transparency
 will flow from enlightened leadership.

There's not much precedence for this, but you're welcome to dream.  It's a dream those at the top would love for you to hold on to; when we're dreaming, after all, we're not acting.

The truth is this; management does not and never has had all the answers, nor the best solutions, nor the divine right to rule.  Bosses are not leaders.

Leaders recognize that their role isn't to be Commander-In-Chief, but a conduit for the people.  What they express is a philosophy that, more than anything else, reminds folk that what makes any system work is the equitable participation of all its parts, functioning as a greater whole.

That whole is adaptable, when it is open to change.  

This is the big secret that commanders and the operators who support them conceal, if they're even aware of it themselves.

We don't need them; they rely on us.  They are part of us.

Which is why openness and flexibility isn't something the people at the top can provide the people; it's something we've had all along.  We simply need to own up to that.

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