Hierarchy the only hope in crisis? LO23025

Roy Benford (roy@benford.demon.co.uk)
Wed, 27 Oct 1999 10:23:29 +0100

Replying to LO23013 --

Malcolm posted the following:

>In reading Peter Drucker's introductory comments on "why assumptions
>matter" in _Management Challenges for the 21st Century_, p. 11, he makes
>(apparently as an assumption that isn't to be 'suspended') the following
> "Hierarchy," and the unquestioning acceptance of it by everyone in
> the organization, is the only hope in a crisis.
>He writes this in the context of saying that "other situations within the
>same institutions require (different approaches, such as teamwork,
>deliberation, etc.)"
>What say you? Are there alternative structures / systems that are
>effective in managing crisis? Or do we agree that at some critical
>moments, every organization requires there to be a single decision maker
>who, to use Drucker's language, "can expect to be obeyed."
>And if we have an alternative, how would frame the inquiry for those who
>accepted Drucker's model?

Well, it seems to be generally accepted that authoritative power is
acceptable by the majority of people in an emergency situation and a
hierarchy is an effective way of delegating this authoritative power. I
suspect that this acceptance of authoritative power is ingrained into most
people, but not all, from childhood within the family, within school, and
within society at large.

Looking at authoritative power from a group dynamics basis, this would fit
into what Bion called the fight/flight group. The members of such groups
requiring a leader who can readily identify the danger and respond
positively (fight or flight) to it. In Bion's experience, a if the leader
does not satisfy the group's needs, then the group will elect a leader who
exhibits the appropriate behaviour which could be judged as the most
paranoid of those within the group.

So from the viewpoint of authoritative power and groups, Druckers
viewpoint would seem to hold. However, there is the question of a crisis
or emergency. Whose crisis is it, the organisation's or the management's?
If, in management's perspective, there is a feeling of not being in
control. By manufacturing a crisis, they give themselves the opportunity,
and permission to, exercise authoritative power. By exercising
authoritative power, they regain a feeling of being in control. The
question is, was there ever an organisational crisis or was it just a
personal crisis of confidence of the senior management team?

>From my personal experiences within an organisation that was being
downsized, it was obvious that the organisation was being downsized
because the management team could not manage it at the size it was. The
management team was new and relatively inexperienced at managing that size
of business. It is interesting to look at the organisation now, because,
having got control, the business has grown, by acquisition, to a larger
organisation than it was! In other words, the management team downsized
the organisation to their level of capability and then grew the business
as their capability grew.

Still these are just my personal views on a crisis. Jurgen Habermas in
his book 'Legitimation crisis' comments:

"Crises in social systems are not produced through accidental changes in
the environment, but through structurally inherent system imperatives that
are incompatible and cannot be hierarchically integrated."

Roy Benford
Fulmer, UK

Just a view and a reminder that managers are only people and not gods.


"Roy Benford" <roy@benford.demon.co.uk>

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