25 Apr 2005

Corporate Culture Revisited

The following is copied and pasted from a paper on Management. It is in the same area, generally speaking, of research that I have an interest in. A recent post here on blogs being infantile may be placed in a better context if you read the following extract. Yes I know the paragraphs below are out of context. I am exploring... The idea that if Eric Ellis' claim is correct, that Singapore is run like a large corporation...

"The system functions like a big corporation, designed to maximise profit. The Government maintains an upbeat information department, frequently holding press briefings lauding economic achievements but rarely or publicly discusses substantive matters of policy and politics." by Eric Ellis

...and coupled with the following article and references to 'infantilism' being the result, then is this the case in Singapore? Are Singaporean bloggers willing to accept the label and argue that they have in some way accepted the corporate culture, or do they reject the label but behave childishly? It's an idea, that's all...



This is not the place to review the myriad of ways in which corporate culturist thinking has seeped into contemporary prescriptions for management. Increasingly, there is a requirement that employees, at all levels, are “team players”—which effectively means demonstrating a willingness to play the game according to managerially favoured values and norms. In its most extreme, doublethink form, this thinking commends and anticipates the very demise of management. Here I will consider one, comparatively articulate example of such thinking: Cloke and Goldsmith’s The End of Management and the Rise of Organizational Democracy (2002). «Management», Cloke and Goldsmith (2002: 3-4) argue, is becoming redundant as «organizational democracy» (note the relevance here of Orwellian “newspeak”) ostensibly supersedes its historical function; «Managers are the dinosaurs of our modern organizational ecology. The Age of Management is finally coming to a close… Autocracy, hierarchy, bureaucracy and management are gradually being replaced by democracy, heterarchy, collaboration and self-managing teams… This is not just wishful thinking but a reality in many organizations, where strategic associations of selfmanaging employee teams are collaborating as members of complex, matrixed, high-performance networks…».

The claim, repeated by a number of other advocates of management’s demise (e.g., Koch and Godden, 1996; Purser and Cabana, 1998), is that organizations are evolving from an outmoded bureaucratic form— in which managers exist and operate as «overseers, surrogate parents, scolds, monitors, functionaries, disciplinarians» (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 3)—to a more mature, less infantile form where «responsibility is a prerequisite for growing up» (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 5). On this account, the existence of management as a top-down, coercive function is irrational and anachronistic as: «All forms of managing other people’s work hinder their responsibility, creativity, flexibility, responsibility, effectiveness, and growth, even in small, subtle ways. They prevent employees from being deeply connected and passionate about their work and keep them in a state of childlike dependence»
(Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 17, emphasis added).

What Cloke and Goldsmith characterise as “managing” and “management”, I submit, very closely resembles what Peters and Waterman (1982) mean by, the rational model of management (Ch. 3) which, they argue, «causes us to denigrate the importance of values» (Peters and Waterman, 1982: 51, emphases omitted), and for which a very similar remedy is prescribed.Cloke and Goldsmith (2002: 122) follow Peters and Waterman in stressing the centrality of values, arguing that «values, ethics, and integrity play a defining role in every aspect of organizational life». But, in addition, their advocacy of “organizational democracy” emphasises the importance of employees’ active participation and consent in the choice of values. They retain Peters and Waterman’s basic thesis that maximising the performance of employees can be most effectively accomplished through the development of an appropriate culture but Cloke and Goldsmith move beyond Peters and Waterman’s top down specification of the normative framework by stressing that employee value commitment involves complex and paradoxical social processes; and that gaining commitment necessitates active employee involvement in the process of choosing values.

Accordingly, Cloke and Goldsmith reject the (simplistic) view that values can be readily imposed or imprinted from above. «Any effort to manage values [recall here Cloke and Goldsmith’s restrictive and pejorative conception of “manage” and “management”] will quickly become counterproductive», they argue (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 117), as it will elicit the kinds of infantilism. Contra Peters and Waterman, winning hearts and minds is understood to involve more than identifying and institutionalising a set of values that managers believe will be attractive to employees, as well as effective in improving performance. Cloke and Goldsmith (2002: 125) advocate a more subtle, seemingly dialogical approach to the development of culture in which «consensus on shared values» is accomplished through a process of constructive debate: «We need to stop trying to manage values through coerced uniformity and instead encourage employees to take responsibility for defining and implementing their own values in concert with others» (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 117, emphasis added). Cloke and Goldsmith are responsive to the criticism that the imposition of a managerially specified organizational (mono)culture—the approach commended by Peters and Waterman—tends to impede the creativity, flexibility, etc. deemed essential for securing and maintaining innovation and competitiveness. For them, the nurturing of «diversity, autonomy, and a respect for individuality [is directly connected to] the idea that employees need to develop their own values» (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 117). Yet, at the same time, we are told that «[Organizations] can bolster value-based relationships by recognising and encouraging the behaviours that uphold their values and discouraging and eliminating those that undermine them» (Cloke and Goldsmith,
2002: 125).


M@n@gement, Vol. 6, No. 3, 2003, 73-87
82
Hugh C. Willmott


To read the entire article click here.

7 comments:

Gilbert Koh said...

Steve

First you quote something which says (*yawn*) that Singapore functions like a corporation.

Then you quote something which says that in corporations, top-down management hinders responsibility, creativity, flexibility etc.

Where does the infantilism come in?

Surely you're not saying that people who work in corporations in any country are all infantile.

soci said...

According to the style of management within the organisation. And the term management is also seen as pejorative.

Oh and I am not saying it, that is why it's a quotation...

Take your issue up with Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002. I am sure they would love to get involved in a high level intellectual, 'yawn' discussion.

Anonymous said...

ya lah you, don't ask him lah, ask the original people, he only copy and paste what.

Gilbert Koh said...

Plainly I have no issue to take up with Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002.

They didn't use the word "infantile" anywhere.

You did.

Surprisingly, you saw a link between their article, and "infantilism".

I am just asking you what you think that link is.

Gilbert Koh said...

Plainly I have no issue to take up with Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002.

They didn't use the word "infantile" anywhere.

You did.

Surprisingly, you saw a link between their article, and "infantilism".

I am just asking you what you think that link is.

soci said...

have you actually read the article...

"[...]overseers, surrogate parents, scolds, monitors, functionaries, disciplinarians» (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 3)—to a more mature, less infantile form[...] "

and then again...
"[...]pejorative conception of "manage" and "management"] will quickly become counterproductive», they argue (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002: 117), as it will elicit the kinds of infantilism."

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