A revolution in management theory
“We use closed system theories to ‘manage’ open system realities and the ‘isomorphic law’ of systems informs us that this project must fail”.
People everywhere are disillusioned. Good paying jobs for the majority are hard to find. Housing for the young is unaffordable. Managers seem unable to innovate. The mega-rich are not satisfied and demand even more. Political deceit has reached the point where politicians are universally despised and no one can truly believe what they are being told. Social media is really antisocial and the 'idea' airspace is filled with inanities.
In the New-Radical Thinking series, Steven French explores the reasons for this state of crisis across three domains of theory, management, economics and politics, and society. He describes his meta-theory of open systems thinking to demonstrate why our institutions are failing us and providing the framework needed to revise them.
In the first volume, New-Radical Management, Steven is highly critical of management dogma. He uses his researched knowledge of organisational strategic theory to delve into the core concepts of classical management theory. With the sensibility of the Frankfurt School and a wild sense of humour in order to avoid pomposity, he creates a fictitious world to help explain what is wrong with current management theory and what we should do about it.
New-Radical Power and New-Radical Society continue the theme, castigating current economists and the power systems that have developed as a result of fallacious thinking and the greed of the power elites. The books are sprinkled with light humour and occasional word plays as they tell the story of how institutional power denies the reality of the complex and embraces the idiocracy of the simple.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven French qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant in the UK in 1980 before emigrating to Australia.
He consolidated his experience as a management accountant, before moving in to sales and marketing, human resources management and management consulting specialising in strategy.
Steven completed his PhD in open systems strategic thinking and then rewrote it into a series of nine integrated papers which were published in two special editions of the Journal of Management Development. His 20 published papers have more than 400 citations.
New-Radical Management: A Revolution in Management Theory
As this book is heavily footnoted, it is recommended to be viewed in PDF format which preserves the footnotes.
It is available in epub and mobi formats but both these formats move the footnotes to endnotes making linkages much more difficult to follow.
World in Crisis
This book is provocative. It is purposely provocative. If you believe that something in the ‘system’ is fundamentally wrong, this book, and the books that follow, might just be for you.
Is your world – or the whole world – in crisis or heading that way?
Does your job provide you with all the outcomes and satisfaction you desire?
When we look at the meta-narratives that we, Western civilisation have developed, can we claim to have it all under control? Climate change? Resource depletion? Our relationships, public and private? Economic growth, growth and yet more growth? All under control!
It is a misnomer to claim that we are the guardians of the planet. The planet has been around for more than four billion years and is likely to go on for about the same time again. Our species will become extinct; every single species that has gone before us has travelled down this inevitable road. But our departure doesn’t need to be tomorrow. Current science provides evidence that the rate of species extinction is now as fast as it was during the great extinctions of the past – five of them — and many lesser mass extinctions. The last brought about the demise of the dinosaurs and the rise of the mammals and with them the tide of Homo Sapiens – Wise Man – but are we wise? We do not have to die out. We do not have to go down that road. We just have to… manage the process better.
Management is the domain of knowledge that we use to deliver the results that we want for just about every aspect of human endeavour. Classical Management is a Plan/Control theory that we all use for every second of our waking lives. Management is the domain of knowledge that we use to… well… manage everything, and classical management theory contains a fatal flaw. We can change things for the better if we change our thinking about management. New-Radical Management is a comprehensive process of rich, deep thinking, and then action.
We must take action and we must do it soon. Not to save the planet, the planet can take care of itself. Gaia might just respond with a great universal sigh of relief when the hubristic ‘wise man’ is gone. We must save ourselves and we can do it – we can save ourselves. We have the opportunity to rethink the way we relate to… well, everything, and the process described in this book will help us discover a new world of endless opportunities. We need to take action on everything. We need to think and ask questions – deep, rich questions, especially about the way we conduct our businesses, and then the economy because we live in a world of economic incentives.
First, we must think about the New-Radical Management of our businesses, and then how it is that we apply management theory to everything. We must think about what management is and what our businesses are and our starting point will be an understanding of ‘systems’, which will empower us to think about all these things. Then we must ask ourselves lots and lots of questions. Systems theory is an exploration of how systems behave — specifically whether they are closed or open system. Classical management theory is a closed system theory, but I maintain that a company is an open system and it will self-adapt, and it will do so whether we like it or not. So, the exploration of systems idea is important in order to lay the foundations that we need to justify the argument, but we can keep the discussion light and we will not need any mathematics to comprehend it.
We define the way we see the world by the assumptions we make and the axioms we pursue. We understand closed systems because we are able to examine them using the powerful tool called mathematics. Mathematicians and philosophers have been examining the system for as long as ‘wise man’ has tried to be wise, but we have made an error and that error will be fatal unless we correct it.
The error is that we view the world through a pair of closed system spectacles and they have the wrong lenses. They blind us to the reality of open systems. What is our business, in system terms? Does it behave in the fashion of a closed system like a man-made machine, or more like the open systems of biology? Are businesses like a motorcar – do we construct them? Or are they like an oak tree – do we grow them?
Companies, economies, polities can be either closed or open – or in-between – all at the same time. But our societal theories are all closed system theories; they assume the system behaves in some fashion like a machine. Management is a closed system control theory, economics is a closed system equilibrium theory and polity is the ultimate closed adversarial system. I win and you must lose.
Society requires that you accept these theories. That you do accept them will become obvious to you as you read the first chapter and I start to really irritate you as I poke a bit and then a lot. You will have your ‘Nose out of Joint’ and this will be necessary.
Nose out of Joint
I will poke you, I will poke your sensibilities, I will poke your values and I will poke you some more and then I am going to poke you so hard in your ‘values’ that you will resist, and then I will bloody your nose. But I will also poke your sense of humour and I will try to make you smile. I will introduce you to my Fake World where Simplicio, the Emperor of the WWE, Emperor of all the Enterprises, the very, very, most tremendous, ‘like real GENIUS, believe me’, will help me expose the fallacious nature of closed system management thinking.
And then your nose joint will start to heal and you will have a newly healed facial perch, large enough for your new pair of non-linear spectacles – the book comes with a courtesy ‘free pair’.
The lenses will get thicker day by day as your mind processes the new ideas and self-adapts, and then you will get it!
You Will Get It
You will get it and you will have crossed your own personal Rubicon and be unable to return. Then you might really be pissed off with me, because no one else will get it. Not the managers, nor the economists, and most especially not our political leaders. But if you pass your copy of this book on to the next New-Radical recruit, together we can build a new system: a new interconnected open system with lots of energy, which will self-adapt, we shall have opportunities everywhere to create and fill the niches that will develop. We can forever relieve ourselves from the idiocracy of fiddle-de-dee.
We can fiddle on the periphery and watch as the closed system burns or we can embrace complexity and influence the system to self-adapt. We have closed system theories for open systems realities and they do not work. That is my thesis. If this intrigues you, read the book.