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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited
The End of Management
The End of Management
Kenneth Cloke and Joan GoldsmithJossey-Bass Wiley£20.50ISBN: 078795912X
When Kofi Annan spoke at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UN, he suggested that the previous century had taught that centralised planning does not work. The downfall of communism suggests that we have learned that lesson at the nation level, yet many commercial organisations are still highly centralised, planned economies.
The authors of this book maintain that "management" is an idea whose time is up. The concept was based on an earlier time when serfs and slaves had to be controlled.
Why have we persevered so long with a system that treats people either as idiots or as untrustworthy slaves, instead of as responsible, rational and sensible individuals? Why have we created systems that separate employees from responsibility, decision making, ownership and commitment
Employees are no longer the simple and passive agents they perhaps once were. The days of military command structures, in which orders are announced by CEO generals and barked by mid-level sergeant-managers to docile privates who blindly obey, should be over.
This is because the speed of current day change and innovation is forcing organisations to abandon such top-down processes, at a time when new information channels and technologies allow this to happen. Decisions can now be taken – on sound information – wherever it is most appropriate, whereas once the decision had to be passed "up" to where the information resided. This means, say the authors, that businesses can - and should - become "strategic associations of self-managing employee teams" who collaborate as members of complex networks. Having established this point of view, the authors then go on to explain how these teams and networks actually operate.
Unless we change to this new approach, we are depriving individuals of the chance to develop themselves to their full potential, and depriving the organisation of the talent and productive capacity of these employees, if their commitment is unleashed. Organisations that do not recognise this need within individuals, and thus the need to share power and responsibility with their workers, will lose those workers (or at least the better ones).
Though the views in this book can be regarded as idealistic, they do remind us that the world is changing and we must adapt our organisation structures and our attitude to our employees, if we are to survive and prosper.