Participative Management LO17556

Tadeems (
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 23:51:03 EST

Replying to LO17534 --

Chris asked a good question re: whether or not there really is such a
thing as participative management.

I agree that participative practices occur along a continuum; there aren't
many places that can make the huge transformation from hierarchical
structure to one that is e.g., self-directed in the full sense of the term
(though some appear to have done so). Just recently, I was at a 'teams'
conference where most of what I saw seemed to illustrate what P. Block was
discussing in the Nov. AQP newsletter: that many of today's reform efforts
are more likely to reinforce the existing culture than to rearrange it.
Change practices (such as the empowerment language, teams, etc) that rely
on top manager sponsorship, rely on one answer, and are targeted to change
the behavior of others, are not changes at all.

The changes are effective, oftentimes, at least in terms of creating the
'perception' of involvement and participation. When this is what occurs,
then yes, it's simply a more sophisticated and subtle ploy to keep people
happy and attempt to manipulate their commitment to the organization.

But that does not mean that there is no such thing as a participative
workplace; there are companies where participation is real
(problem-solving, decision-making, as well as feedback and other types of
input) and not simply fancy rhetoric. The most notable ones to me are
those that are naturalized and predominantly self-directed. If
interested, Chris, you might check out a couple of the past issues of
FastCompany, or some of Omar Aktouf's work, or even Ricardo Semler's
self-report book Maverick.


Terri A. Deems DAI/Center for WorkLife Design

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