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images resized 600At one point in the twentieth century we thought that management would fix all the ills that we faced.  In the 1960’s we thought that management could fix all problems.  The poster child for this thought was Robert S. McNamera.  He was President Kennedy’s secretary of defense and truly thought that systematic management could solve any problem and help us make all of our decisions. 

He focused on the internal and forgot that there were external forces that also needed his attention.  His problem was he forgot to think and take into account these 4 issues:

The value proposition

McNamera thought that all Americans would support the war in Viet Nam because if we didn’t the Communists would take over our country.  He never stopped to think about whether there were enough people to support this proposition.

It appeared that this was the country’s belief.  As we learned in later years this wasn’t true.  There were enough people who were going to have to fight in the war thought it was a bad idea.  It was their lives that would be risked.  Enough Baby Boomers thought the risk was so poor that it ended up bringing down Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency.

The people involved

There are always different constituencies in every decision that gets made.  It’s easy for us to think only about the ones that we know about.  I can tell you that unless you’ve thought about what or more specifically who can ruin your day, there is a good chance this will happen to you.

When I owned my vending business we had a food borne illness problem that would have put us out of business had we not thought about the different groups a problem like this would affect.  Because we looked outside and didn’t just concentrate on inside issues we avoided the death knell a food borne illness often brings to a company.

The social dimensions

The mid 60’s was a time of huge social change.  A new generation was moving into adulthood.  They were a different generation and had different ways of living in the world.  Blindly following those in authority was out and questioning authority was in.

We need to look at what changes generational issues are bringing.  Today we have issues with gay marriage and our views on immigration.  These social issues seem to have a different focus and belief by different generations.  Groups that ignore this difference will do so at their own risk.

The external and society

Management is not only about looking inward at what your organization needs.  Good managers or more accurately, good leaders are always looking outside.  Spending time understanding what others want that think differently than you is important.

When was the last time you looked outside your company, your tribe, your church, or your social group?  If you haven’t, you might find the world has changed and you’ve been left behind.  There is nothing new or different here.  We’ve been making these changes for generations upon generations. 

In the mid 60’s we thought management would solve all our ills.  I think we’ve likely moved on, but I’m not sure that we’ve moved on enough.  What about you, how much time do you look at those who disagree with you?  Do you think their crazy or do you try to understand where they’re coming from?

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Topics: cultural change, lessons learned, Change

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