That’s Why We Need Managers! (But Only a Few)

I recently saw the movie Gomorra (based on the best-selling book “Gomorrah” by Roberto Saviano). It tells the raw and harsh story of people who live their lives inside and alongside the mafia. The movie makes it painfully clear what happens when government fails to guarantee people’s freedom and safety.

In an anarchistic society, freedom and safety are merely things that you can acquire, like cars, houses, iPods, and Obama t-shirts. You can buy them, sell them, and lose them. And you can be robbed of them, and nobody will feel responsible to protect you. (Unless you have the means to pay for such protection.)

Self-organization is an important principle in any complex system. But for us, in our human society, self-organization is not enough. The mafia and Al-Qaida are also self-organized. Self-organization by itself doesn't bring any of the participants any securities. In free and safe societies, people require protection. As a libertarian I hate to say this… but that’s the whole point of having a government.

Self-organization is not enough. A society needs government.

The current crisis in the financial markets is an example of failed government. One of the prime directives for any government should be to protect those who are robbed of their possessions. It doesn’t matter whether the thieves use a gun, a bad mortgage contract, or a bankruptcy to get away with your money. Unfortunately, bad governments have created environments where such thievery is legal, supported, and even rewarded. They supported the thieves who tempted the innocent to throw away their safety with bad mortgage contracts. And they rewarded the crooks who squandered people’s life-savings. And when the markets crashed, and society was in turmoil, and its victims cried out for help, the governments respond by blaming free markets and absolving the thieves

It’s as if the government first encourages your rapist and then blames your misery on sexual nature!

Good government should bring freedom and safety to a society.

There seems to me there's no real difference between bad government and lack of government. Either way, there is no “free market”, just survival of the fittest, meanest and greediest. Does it matter whether the mafia, the government or the sales person next door is allowed to run away with your savings? Good government takes care of the freedom and safety of you and your livelihood, and not much else. Good government understands that a free and safe market can take care of everything, but it cannot take care of itself.

System theory tells us there is no such thing as a closed sustainable system. A system cannot manage itself without a continuous flow of energy from the outside. Deterioration into chaos can only be prevented with ongoing management. Any system that is not controlled will end up looking like the slums in Naples.

We need government, but we require as little of it as possible.

Once the controls are firmly in place to keep a system safe and free, then the government has (more or less) finished doing its part. The markets can take care of just about everything else that people need. And government should step back and let self-organization do the rest.

So, what has this to do with management…?

I firmly believe that managers can learn a lot from economics and politics. Your organization is just another complex system which is in need of (some) control. And since we usually live in only one organization, we had better take good care of it. Because if you don’t take control, your office manager’s big Italian boyfriend might…

This Is Why We Need Managers… (But Only a Few)

1. Self-organization is not enough. An organization needs management.

2. Good management should bring freedom and safety to the people in an organization.

3. People need managers, but they require as few of them as possible.

Would you agree?

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