Leadership : Myth of Command and Control

By Henk Paans, Partner of NoCureNoPay "performance based" Consulting based in the Netherlands. He can be reached at http://home.planet.nl/~paans040/ or via e-mail to henk@nocurenopay.com


“A myth underlies our thinking and acting, because it enables the process to create a meaning on basis of a dogmatic belief”.   
* Myth - the CHIEF  executive officer
* Myth - the GAME
* Reality - CHANGE management
* Reality - RESULTS
* Prophecy - the MOVEMENT
* Prophecy - the EFFECT
* Prophecy - new MYTH  

MYTH - the Chief  Executive Officer

The chief executive officer (CEO) is a god in the Valhalla of public business, the only authority in the western hemisphere, especially now religion and also government are loosing their status more and more.

The CEO is the mythological god of Command & Control.

The myth calls him the ruler of all change. He tells people what to do and judges them.

His mighty voice rules the business world and determines winning or loosing, the value of the stocks, getting or loosing a job, heaven or hell on earth.

There is a whole hierarchy of  executives: supreme gods, gods, demigods, but nevertheless there is ‘god’.

That is the way he sees it himself ("she" is less well represented). His self esteem is very high and shows a positive correlation with his salary - of course, including options. 

The contemporary chief executive officer really shows that he is in Command & Control. He works almost 24 hours a day in performing his essential position.

He changes operational processes and gives his approval to reorganizations or projects to cut costs (…yes!). He enables more automation (…still a good point!). He creates a new structure (…not very trendy!). Of course he is practitioner of the latest management fashion: total quality management, business process redesign, customer relation management, empowerment (…just a must!). He makes use of the media, gets exposed (…very trendy!) and realizes business takeovers (…the jackpot, bull’s-eye!).

MYTH - the game

The supreme gods are happy to see such a dynamic, and are very pleased if short term performance is also improved. Which means some, limited and in time changing indicators, which in terms of management, costs, profit, turnover or market share seem to be essential. 

The rules of the game are clear: realizing such goals means a hit, not meeting the goals means the stigma of not being capable or being unmotivated.

Demigods ought to develop themselves by his image and try to become "as perfect as they are"  (..yep)  as a democratic, coaching and charismatic leader. However, in their eyes it only means "showing the desired behavior": create targets, face your subordinates and say “you fix it, or else..”. This way of handling will create higher productivity in your staff. In the context of management development the best style comes down to "no-nonsense and macho management".

The manager fosters his power, created by his position, as a bottleneck in the information flow.

The manager manifests himself and really "goes for it" by almost continuously being in meetings or conferences. He also is very keen about changes which may threaten his status-quo.  If so, he mobilizes all his energy and all of his high-quality skills to render the intended change harmless, even if the intended change could be of great importance or even vital for the company.

These threats are most of the time created by other managers, sometimes by external developments (technology, competitors, shareholders, society) and just seldom by the employees.

REALITY - change management

The preceding myth contains mainly western images and presuppositions.

However, a lot of this myth concerning Command & Control is deceptive. The truth looks more like this: 

- The dynamic in companies often only appears to be so. Most of the time it concerns spending energy in mutual battles and in less- effective, most of the time not profitable projects.

- The creation of excellent companies exists only as imagination, and exists only in posthumous stories in   business magazines, and stories told by a management guru.

- Managing a business is not limited to the management. Often other professionals and especially other autonomous developments have lots of influence.

- Managing itself involves a marginal domain and is limited most of the time to vague delegation, spinning around decisions and slowly build up consensus.

- A lot of lip-service is paid to desired pro-active acting, but it fails to occur even in a situation of empowered employees. Subordinates fail to change employees, who really like to take responsibility for the business.

 - A half-hearted "boss – servant" attitude is continued by both boss and servant.

REALITY - results 

Fundamental internal problems are not handled out of fear of being unsuccessful. Failures are still not allowed.

- A learning, exploring attitude is not appreciated. Short term window-dressing is paid more attention ttan realizing a long-lasting effective change.

- Companies do not make the necessary distinguishing strategic choices ( …  risk taking) and go for following their competitors and making restricted operational changes. They go for modifications instead of innovation.

PROPHECY - the movement 

This decade is characterized by more and even stronger individualization and information processes. This will lead to an increased change-heartbeat, to further focus on the visibility of the individual and on a single minded judgment of the results of an individual.  This last item means only judging by the scope of the cause and consequence and by the means and target models. One thing is for sure, a more rigorous achievement-oriented  payment system will be applied also in Western Europe.

But companies can not handle these changes effectively. The pressure on the existing and already poorly effective Command & Control mechanism will further increase.

PROPHECY - the effect

The top of the pyramid will be more populated by extremely narcissistic leaders to extort the necessary innovation by these "strong men". Under the guise of shareholder value, these leaders will do more of the same as the pressure rises. With every project they start, the fake-dynamic in the company increases.

The individual elasticity of executives, but also of employees, is stretched out to the limit. The delusion will increase more and more. Finally this will lead to an increase of the individual rigidity and confusion.

This is not  what is needed. We need continuous and effective change in the whole organization. In other words, metaphorically speaking, an organization should not operate as a mechanism but as an organism.

The limited success of planned, innovative projects in organizations will become more and more clear. 

Even now it can be concluded that planned innovative change is in fact impossible, and that we ought to realize that such a learning and innovative ability of an organization that plans innovation is made superfluous.

PROPHECY - new myth 

Companies, managers and employees have to sacrifice a lot, if they hold on to the present myth of Command & Control . Also the social toll of this rat-race will have a heavy impact. There will be an increasing number of people who get stuck  and burn-out.

Is this really what we want? Is there really no more attractive living desirable than being an employer or employee, captivated and tied up in a ‘"scoring"’ and "learning organization", as a member of a "self-managing team", to be a highly competitive player in a strategic poker play for power and competitive force?

However, defeatism is not necessary. The contours of a new myth are being seen through. This birth can only take place by way of  increasing instability. Only then can a critical mass be reached for the new myth of  Negotiate & Collaborate.
You and I contribute to this development and would do well to let go the old myth ..now!

e-mail to henk@nocurenopay.com.

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