what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Centre Cannot Hold.....

I’m delighted to report – however belatedly – that management guru Henry Mintzberg has duly published his long-awaited pamphlet Rebalancing Society – radical renewal beyond left, right and centre which mounts a strong critique of the direction the Western world has taken in the last 25 years and suggests (but all too briefly) an agenda for change. It is the key part of what is to be a series of pamphlets which he has been encouraged to embark by people like me talking to him as one of the knowledgeable and sane voices in a mad world.

I had contacted him last year after re-reading his 2000 “Management in Government” paper which started with the assertion that it was not capitalism which won in 1989 but "the balanced model” ie a system in which there was some sort of balance between the power of commerce, the state and the citizen. Patently things have got badly out of balance in the intervening 15 years!
The push to privatise everything will, he asserted, lead to the same disease of communist societies. His discussion is particularly helpful for the distinctions he draws - first the 4 different roles of customer, client, citizen and subject. Secondly the 4 types of organisations - privately owned, state-owned, “non-owned” (?) and cooperative. Then four models/metaphors of state management - government as machine, network, performance control and normative. In between he explodes 3 basic management myths. I had the full paper on my website but was forced to remove it when someone from Harvard complained…Oddly, however, some of my blogposts still have a link to the paper which must be buried somewhere inside the hidden intestines of the website. My E-mail to him said simply that
This concept of re-balance is crucial and you are one of the few people in a position to try to pull together all the disparate voices which have been searching over the past 5 years for a coherent programme which will attract a strong and active consensus. Few of those who write on this issue bother to deal with the other writing on the matter in the required detail. We need a proper typology; and critique of the literature to justify the specific steps in any ‘better way’ 

I was amazed to get a positive response and a request to allow him to include the comment in his pamphlet. For a sense of his writings see his article on managing quietly and his ten musings on management.

Mintzberg's analysis is one of the best reads on the global crisis - and will get pride of place in the update of the paper I was writing about earlier in the day whose title I am still disposed to make "Draft Guide for the Perplexed"  .
 He also has an interview about the pamphlet here

The heading is, of course, taken from the famous Yeats's poem which also contains these lines-
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

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