Management for the dark side of the Moon
Management has plateaued, as the time to fly from London to New York. Even Porter's insightful five forces, which has been around for almost half a century, was borrowed from Economics, where it had been lying around for decades.
Management thinking, too closely focused on the trees, has lost sight of the forest. Business leaders still need broadminded advice, but they do not look for it at business schools anymore. The void was filled by organizations like the World Economic Forum.
Nonetheless, business schools have mushroomed in peripheral countries. What for? Even Goleman´s Emotional Intelligence adds little to Don Quixote´s advice to Sancho on how to wisely manage the Island of Barataria. Yet, it is in peripheral countries where innovative management is most needed. In these countries, it should be obscene not to do what it takes to improve productivity. However, productivity growth is not only an issue of good management of individual firms. If it were, why would once high growth countries like Japan and Brazil have stagnated?
High average growth rates are heady, but they can tear countries apart. Management mostly focuses on one business at a time, but economic development is systemic, income, wealth and power change hands during high growth. Since the Second World War, the winners have tended to advocate deregulation and fast insertion in global markets. However, the globalists’ managerial perspectives on the social fabric have shown to be lacking. This is why we have had the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, the Yellow Vests in Paris, the Indignados in Spain, Brexit in the U.K. and variations of shortsighted populism just about everywhere.
Populism has thrown globalization at managers’ faces. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with populists. They have mostly been voted into office, more than we can say of managers. Populists may not have the solutions, but they sure know how to please their constituents; better than managers know-how.
Management should be looking out of the window for greater congruence of business with society, from social inclusion to the environment. Yet, conventional management has endorsed opportunism, which led to the phenomenal growth of freight demand along the maritime routes connecting Asia to the North Atlantic. That fueled disputes in the South China Sea and in the Strait of Hormuz. Those places should no longer be seen as sites for news on fireworks but as expressions of imbalances, that management is also responsible for; much in the same ways, as conventional management is also responsible for tax avoidance at all costs and the consequent ruinous state of public school education, public health, and pensions for that matter.
That conventional management does not get it is an expression of its own myopia, as is the consequent erosion of its intellectual authority to run collaborative work in today’s world. Conventional management may be on its way out in a world increasingly drawn to Big Data and favoring Artificial Intelligence. The managerial agency will lose ground in favor of a now more feasible general equilibrium, all the more sustainable because more capable of delivering welfare for all. If you are a manager and it reads like populism, you are right to be concerned. Conventional management will be ushered to the dark side of the Moon, where it will not be missed.