Philip Whiteley's Blog

February 11, 2011

Why no call for ‘management reform’?

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 2:04 pm

It is a common call from IMF economists and representatives of the neo-liberal community that there should be ‘labour market reform’ to assist ‘the supply side’. They have a point, sometimes, where there are high levels of restrictive practices – such as bureaucratic union recognition laws, or unnecessarily strict licence requirements for certain professions.

But why is there never a call for ‘management reform’?

It is extraordinary to suppose that relatively low-paid workers, with little or no influence upon business strategy, should alone shoulder the burden of improved performance; and that the policies, practices and beliefs of those who make the decisions can be just accepted as un-improvable. This even includes the example of banking, which has just failed almost as completely as the Soviet Union. Going back further, the entire British car industry was destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s by a toxic mix of short-termism, obsession with merger activity and neglect of skills and teamwork. The unions were far from blameless, but the managers escaped with impunity, and a chance for reform was lost.

Ironically, the neo-liberal emphasis upon labour market reform serves to bolster union power, by handing them a permanent grievance. Public sector inefficiency in recent years has been caused at least as much by introducing business process re-engineering and similar examples of nonsense from the Chicago school, as it is by union privileges.

But no change. No reform; nor even a call for reform. We are supposed to put up with bad management, like the weather.

In the national media, management and leadership have been dropped as subjects. This is a problem on the left just as much as the right. As I blogged on 26 January, there is not a single management correspondent left on the ‘quality’ media in the UK. We will do everything to reform economies and businesses, it seems, except challenge the beliefs, behaviours, attitudes and decision-making processes of the people who run them.


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