Organizational Design and free markets

February 18th, 2009

I would like the world and our organizations to realize that organizational development is closely aligned with human development. At the root of every management or leadership issue is the theme of two people unable to work together, resulting in conflict (Wheatley, 2006). One of the ideas that have stayed with me from Hesselbein & Goldsmith is the Handy essay on philosopher leaders. Handy frames philosophy not as an answer to life’s problems, but a framework to think about them (pg. 132). I agree with this belief that organizations should model the same beliefs and theories internally that they expect for themselves externally. “One cannot have one law for themselves, and another for the rest.” (Hesselbein & Goldsmith, Pg. 133). I’m not sure exactly what this is called – transference? Essentially it is the idea that we should do for others what we want/need for ourselves. Handy discusses the ways in which organizations that want to be treated as autonomous from government controls, with few regulations and a strong belief in the corrective power of the market should model that same philosophy in their organizational culture- giving their employees a great deal of autonomy, no regulations, and the faith that their intrinsic motivation to preserve themselves will ultimately result in the right decisions for the organization. What would the result of such an unregulated market be? Would it really self-correct?

While I believe in self-regulation and that employees function more efficiently and effectively within an organization when there are low controls, I can’t quite conceive of an organization with no controls, no management or supervision, a “freedom” that allows anyone to work from only their intrinsic motivation to do what’s best for them. In this scenario I can picture too many ways that “what’s good for the goose” won’t be good for the gander. I’d like the world to see this macro paradigm of how our economy functions and decide together what the right limits and controls really should be at the governmental level, and how those controls would filter down to the organizational level, and finally the personal level.

1. Hesselbein, Frances, and Marshall Goldsmith. The Leader of the Future 2 : Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the New Era. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006.

2. Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

3. Wheatley, Margaret J. Leadership and the New Science : Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. New York: Berrett-Koehler, Incorporated, 2006.

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