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Article - Opinion

THE MYTH OF COMMAND & CONTROL

"A myth underlies our thinking and acting, because it enables the process to create a meaning on the basis of a dogmatic belief ".

by  H.L. Paans

@ Myth -the CHIEF executive officer-
@ Myth -the GAME-

@ Reality -CHANGE management-
@ Reality - RESULTS-
@ Prophecy -the MOVEMENT-
@ Prophecy -the EFFECT-
@ Prophecy -new MYTH-

MYTH -the chief executive officer-

The chief executive officer (CEO) is a god in the Valhalla of private and public business, the only authority in the western hemisphere now religion and also government are increasingly loosing their status more and more.

The CEO is the mythological god of Command & Control.
The myth calls him the ruler of all change. He tells people what to do and judges them.
His mighty voice rules the business world and determines: winning or loosing, the value of the stocks, getting or loosing a job, heaven or hell on earth.
There is a whole hierachy of executives: supreme gods, gods, demigods, but nevertheless there is 'god'.
That is the way he sees it himself (she is less well represented). His self esteem is very high and shows a positive correlation with his salary, of course including options.

The contemporary chief executive officer really shows that he is in Command & Control. He works almost 24 hours a day in performing the tasks of his essential position.
He changes operational processes and gives his approval to reorganizations or projects to cut costs (…yes!). He enables more automation (…still a good point!). He creates a new structure (…not very trendy!). Of course he is an user of the latest management fashion: total quality management, business process redesign, customer relation management, empowerment (…just a must!). He makes use of the media, gets exposed (…very trendy!) and realizes business take-overs (…the jackpot, bull's-eye!).

MYTH -the game-

The supreme gods are happy to see such dynamism and are very pleased if the short time performance is also improved. Meaning: improvement of one or two indicators, which in terms of management, costs, profit, turnover or market share seem to be essential. The rules of the game are clear: realizing such goals means a hit, not meeting the goals means getting the stigma of not being capable or being unmotivated.

Demigods ought to develop themselves in his image and try to become 'as perfect as they are' (..yep) as a democratic, coaching and charismatic leader. However, in their eyes it only means 'showing the desired behaviour': create targets, face your subordinates and say "you fix it, or else..". This way of handling will create a higher productivity of your staff. In the context of management development the best style comes down to 'no-nonsense and macho management'.

The manager fosters the personal power created by his position as a bottleneck in the information flow.
The manager expresses himself dominantly and acts accordingly by almost continuously being in meetings or conferences. He also is very keen on changes which may threaten his status-quo. If so, he mobilizes all his energy and all of his high-quality skills to render the intended change harmless, even if this intended change could be of great importance or even vital for the company.
These threats are most of the time created by other managers, sometimes by external developments (technology, competitors, shareholders, society) and just seldom by the employees.

REALITY -change management-

The preceding myth contains mainly western images and presuppositions.
However, a lot of this myth concerning Command & Control is deceptive. The truth looks more like this:

- The dynamism in companies often only appears to be so. Most of
  the time it concerns spending energy in internal battles and in
   less- effective, most of the time not profitable projects.
-
The creation of excellent companies exists only as imagination
   and exists only in posthumous stories in business magazines and
   stories told by a management guru.
-
Managing a business is not limited to the management. Often
   external/internal experts and especially autonomous
  developments have a lot of influence.
-
Managing itself involves a marginal domain and is mostly limited
  to vague delegation, spinning around decisions and slowly
  building up consensus.
-
A lot of lip-service is paid to desired pro-active acting, but it fails
   to occur even in a so called situation of 'empowered employees'.
   Subordinates fail to change into employees, who really like to
   take responsibility for the business. A half-hearted 'boss -
   servant' attitude is continued by both, boss and servant.

REALITY -results-

The reality shows bad results:
-
Fundamental internal problems are not dealt with out of the fear
   of being unsuccessful. Failures are still not allowed.
   A learning, exploring attitude is not appreciated. Short term
   window-dressing is paid more attention than realizing a
   long-lasting effective change.
-
Companies do not make the necessary distinguishing strategic
   choices ( … risk taking) and simply follow their competitors
   and make restricted operational changes. They go for
   modifications instead of innovation.

PROPHECY -the movement-

This decade is characterized by more and even stronger individualization and information processes. This will lead to:

- an increased change-heartbeat;
- further focus on the visibility of the individual and on a single
  minded judgement of the results of an individual. This means,
  only judging by a narrow scope of cause and effect, by a simple
  input / output model and by a short term target list;
- a more rigorous achievement-oriented payment system will be
  applied, also in Western Europe.

But companies can not handle these changes effectivily. The pressure on the existing and already poorly effective Command & Control mechanism will further increase.

PROPHECY -the effect-

The top of the pyramid will be more populated by extremely narcissistic leaders to extort the nescessary innovation by these 'strong men'. Under the guise of shareholder value these leaders will do more of the same as the pressure rises. With every project they start the fake-dynamics in the company increases.

The individual elasticity of executives, but also of employees, is streched out to the limit. The delusion will increase more and more. Finally this will lead to an increase of the individual rigidity and confusion.

This is not what is needed. We need continious and effective change in the whole organization. In other words, metaphorically speaking: an organization should not operate as a mechanism but as an organism.
The limited success of planned innovative projects in organizations will become more and more clear. Even now can be concluded that planned innovative change is in fact impossible and that we ought to realize such a learning and innovative ability of an organization that planned innovation is made superfluous.

PROPHECY -new myth-

Companies, managers and employees have to sacrifice a lot, if they hold on to the present myth of Command & Control .
Also the social toll of this rat-race will have a heavy impact. There will be an increasing number of people who get stuck and burn-out.

Is this really what we want? Is there really a no more attractive live desirable than being a employer or employee, captivated and tied up in a 'scoring' and 'learning organization', as a member of a 'self-managing team', to be a highly competitive player in a strategic poker game for power and competitive force?.

However, defeatism is not necessary. The contours of a new myth are becoming visuable. The birth can only take place by way of increasing instability. Only then a critical mass can be reached for
the new myth of Negotiate & Collaborate.
You and I contribute to this development and would do well to let go of the old myth of Command & Control.

 

May 2000


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