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myth of managment

myth of managment

Making decision is, om the one hand, one of the most fastinating

mamifestations of biological activity and, on the other hand, a matter

of terrifying for the whole of the human race. Althought this activity

is both fascinating and awesome, it is difficult to find a satisfactory

name for it in any of the common languages. In English we use terms as

manager, administrator, executive or simple decision maker. Yet each of

these terms fails someone to capture the true significance of the human

being. Because we need a label to conduct our discussion, I shall risk

choosing the term manager and being to say some things that will

generalize on this term beyond its ordinary usage in English.

The manager is the man who decides among alternative choises. He must

decide which choise he believes will lead to a certain desired

objectives. But his decision is not an abstract one, because it creates

a type of reality. The maneger is the man with the magic that enables

him to create in the world a state of affairs that would not have

occured except for him. We say that the manger is one who has the

authority to make such choices. He is also a person who has the

responsibility for the choises he has made in the sense that rest of

his fellow men may judge wheter he should be rewarded or punished for

his choises; he is the person who justifiably is the object of praise

or blame.

So broad a description of the manager makes managers of us all. It is

a common failing of the labels that language applies to things that

they may be generalized to encompass everything, as philosophers have

long recognized in the case of such labels as matter and mind. It takes

no great sophomoric talent to see that the world is basically matter

and that everything could be reduced thereto. Nor does it take any

great astuteness to see that everything a human being recognizes any

great astuteness to see that everything a human being recognizes as

natural reality os the product of some mind or collection of minds. So,

too, the label manager may become appropriately applied to practically

everything or at least to every human, once we describe the manager as

someone having the authority and responsibility for making choises. I

am interested in the broad aspect of desicion making, but for present

purposes I want to add one more stipulation that makes the label

manager less general. This is the stipulation that managerial activity

take place witthin a “system”: The manager must concern himself with

interrelated parts of a complex arganization of activities, and he is

responsible for the effectiveness of the whole system...

But even this further stipulation concerning the use of the label

manager permits us to discribe many activities as management. It is

true that in history of England and United States, the term management

has often been narrowed to mean tha managing of mean the managing of

industrial activities especially for the purpose of generating profit

for an enterprise. In the connection management is contrasted with

labor. In government actievities our use of term manager is often

labelled administrator, and the term executive is often used to

describe people who are given the legal authority to put into practice

the law of the land. All these activities, wheter they be at the level

of goverment or industry or education or health, or whatever, have a

common groind which we wish to explore. The common ground is the burden

of making choises about system improvement and the responsibility of

responding to the choises made in a human envirovement in which there

is bound to be opposition to what the manager has decided. Thus the

head of a labor union, the state legislator. The head of a goverment

agency, the foreman of a shop are all managers in our sense. So is a

man in his own family a manager; so is the captain of a football team.

Probably all of us some time or other in our lifes become managers

when, because of oppointment to a committee or because of our

political activities, we take on the authority and responsibility of

making decisions in complex system. Managing is an activity of which we

are all aware, and its consequences concern each one of us.

I said that managers must bear the burden of the burden of the

decisison they make. I could have added, in more optimistic tone, that

they enjoy the pleasure accompanying to make decisions. And certanly

many managers in today`s society do find a great deal of phychic

satisfaction in the role they play which society so clearly recognizes

as important and which it credits with a great deal of prestige.

Noe managing is a type of behavior, and since it`s a very important

type of behavior, you might expect that we know a great deal about it.

But we don`t at all. We could also explore the many ways in which

managers often think they manage, but observes of their behavior often

from them quite radically. The manager is frequently astonished to hear

sociologist`s description of his activities, which he believes he

himself knows so well, and he resent the inclination on the part of the

“detached” scientist to try to describe the activity that he performs.

Imagine an observes carefully trained to study such activities as bees

in a hive, or fish in a school, or birds in a flock, and suppose such a

student of nature becomes curious about the behavior of judges during a

trial. How might such a scientist describe what the jugde actually

does? He might learn a little bit from some of the reflective judges,

and perhaps a little bit more from the sociologist and other scientists

who have attempted to describe legal behavior, but he would find that

most of the activity remains a huge to the whole of humanity-a mystery

that no one has ever felt inclined to investigate in detail.

The whole activity of managing, importrant as it is for the human

race, is still largely an unknow aspect of the natural world. When man

detaches himself and tries to observe what kind of living animal he is,

finds that he knows very little about the things most important to him

and precious little about his role as a decision maker Few managers are

capable of describing how they reach their decision in a way that

someone else can understand; few can tell us how they feel about the

decisions once they have been made. Of course, despite our ignorance

about managerial phenomena, a great deal is written on the subject in

popular magazines and managerial journals. It appears that the less we

know about subject, the more we are inclined to write extensively about

it with great cinviction. Some writings describe the variuos rituals

folowed in organizations proir and posterior to the actual managerial

decision. But most of these description pay little attention to the

very puzzling question of when a decision actually occured and who made

it. A great deal is said about committee deliberations and other aspect

of organizational rationality that go into the making of a decision,

and the many checks and control that are exerted to determine whether

the decisions have been made properly. Much attention is paid to these

aspect of organizational decision making, because they show up on the

surface, so to speak. But the facts that a committee deliberated for

three hours and then a decision emerged do not tell us who made the

decision, how it was or when it was made. It might be added that the

verbal assertion of the committee often do not tell us what decision is


So there is a great mystery of the natural world: the who, when, how,

and what of man`s decision making.

But even if we were to succeed in discovering a great deal more than

we have about management, the result would be at best descriptive. It

would be merely the background of the basic problem before us, namely,

the question of how the manager should decide.

Am I right in claiming that we know so little about management? After

all, most of us are quite willing, even eager, to prise and complain.

We don`t hesitate to say that some men are better managers than others.

We are constantly criticizing our political leaders. Biographers are

accustomed to choose the most “outstanding” leaders of the age as the

subject of their texts. These leaders may be great political leaders,

leaders of industry, leaders of social movement, of religion, and so

on. What is the quality these men of success have that less successful

colleagues lack? Since we believe we can identify “successful” leaders,

surely we also believe we know a great deal about what a manager should

decide. For example, in the case of the President of the United States,

we are told in our school-boy text that we can readily recognize that

some of these Presidents were “great” and some of them far from great.

What is the quality of greatness that we are led to ascribe to some of

these presidents?

A ready answer is at hand-the succesful and great Presidents were

those who made decisions that today we clearly recognize to be correct,

and those who made these decions in the face of severe opposition. We

are led to believe that the activity of great presidents is a marvelous

example of succesful decisin making in large complex systems.

But the skeptics among us will find this answer quite unsatisfactory

as an explanation of what constites greatness in a Pesident. In the

first place, history has no record of what would have happened had the

opposition`s point of view succeeded or if serious modifications had

been made in the choises of the so-called great Presidents. What if the

Union had not been saved, or or our independence declared? History

seems only to have recorded the episodes that followed upon the

particular decision that was made and does vot provide us with an

analysis of event that might have occured if an alternative had been


More curios still is the implict that assumption that a successful

President made his great decision on the basis of his own particular

abilities. Since evidence is so often lacking that great Presidents of

the past had these abilities, there is a natural inclination on the

part of many of us to ascribe either determinism or randomness to the

activities of so-called successful managers. In the case of

determinism, we might argue that the events of the world occur by the

accidental conglomeration of many forces unknown to man these forces

produce “decision” that man in his innocence believes that he himself

makes. The decision of independence in 1776 was, according to this

view, simply the outgrowth of many complex human and physical

interrelationships. Those who adopt the idea of randomness simply add

to the physical determinism of events a random fluctuation of the sort

occuring in a roulette wheel or in the shuffling of cards. The would

then be willing to admit that other decision might have been made in

1776 or later, but that these decision would be very much like the

outcome of another spin of the roulette wheel. In either event, wheter

we choose to describe the world of decision making as determinism or as

randomness, we conclude that ascribing greatness to the decision makers

in Independence Hall would be a mistake unless one meant by greatness

some recognizable features of the determined or randomevents occuring

in the world. By analogy one might say that the man who spins the

roulette wheel is its “manager” who decides nothing about the outcome

of spins; a multitude of hidden physical forces determine where the

wheel will stop. Calling a President great is like calling the spinner

of a roulette wheel that happens to have a satisfactory result a great


This is certainly a crass and impolite way to describe the great

managerial minds of the past. Surely we can do more for their memories

than describe them as irrelevant aspects of the history of society. We

might try ro look into the story og their lives to find evidence that

they really had superior methods of deliberation. We might try to show

that they had the sort of brilliance and courage that creates an

ability to handle confusing pieces of information and to reach

approprite decisions. Perphaps the great manager is an extremely adept

information processor who can act so rapidly that he himself is not

even aware of the comparisons and computations he has made.

Indeed, this last is more or less the the popular image of the great

manager. For example, many scientists who advice politicians, corporate

msnsgers, and other decision makers often state that they cannot

possibly attempt to tell such men what decision should be made. At best

they can merely tell the decision maker about certain outcomes if the

decision are adopted. Thus the more among the advisers believe that

they have mo intent of ‘replacing’ the managers they advise. And yet

if these scientific advisers are capable of discering at least some

aspects of the managerial decision, what is it they luck? What are they

incapable of doing that the politician and corporate manager are so

succesful in accomplishning? What is this secret ingredient of the

great president of vorporations, universities, and countries that no

scientiat or ordinary man could ever hope to acquire?

The answer usually given is that the president has information about

many different aspects of the world and has ability to put these aspect

together in a way that no analysis could possibly do. In other words,

he has a vision of the whole system and can relate the effectiveness of

the parts to the parts effectiveness of the whole. The hidden secret of

the great manger, so goes the myth, is the ability to solve the

puzzling problems of whole systems that we have been discussing so far.

This answer is myth, because it is totally unsatisfactory to reasoning

of intellectually curious person. Are ‘great’ managers fantastically

high speed-data processors? Do great managerial minds outstrip any

machinery now on the market or contemplated for decades to come? From

what we know of the brain and its capabilities, the answer seems to be

no. Indeed, it is doubtful whweter the great manager in reaching

decisions uses very much of the information he has received from

various sources. It is also doubtful wheter the manager scans many of

the alternatives open to him.... We describe how the scientist, when he

comes to grips with the problems of decision making, discovers that

they can only be reperesented by fairly complicated mathematical

models. Even in fairly simple decision-making situations we have come

to learn how complicated is the problem of developing a sensible way of

using available information. It seems incredible that the so-called

succesful managers really have inbuilt models that are rich and

complicated enough to include the subtleties of large-scale systems.

Suppose for the moment we descend from the lofty heights of the

decision makers in Independence Hall and the White House and begin to

describe a very mundane and easily recognized managerial problem

cencerning the nember of tellers that should be available to customers

in a bank. All of us have experienced the annoyance of going into a

bank in a hurry and spending a leisurely but frustrating half hour

behind the wrong line. How should the manager decide on the allocation

of tellers at various times of the day?

This is fairly simple managerial problem amd its like is encountered

by thousands of middle managers every day. Furthermore, this problem

has been studied quite extensively in operation research and its

“solution” is often found in the elementary texts. The texts say that

the scientist should try to answer the managerial question by

considering both the inconvenience of the customers who wait in the

lines and the possible idle time of the tellers who wait at their

stations when no customers. Thus the “succesful” manager can be

identified in an objective way, and we need not take a poll of

greatness or lack thereof to ascertain wheter the manager has performed

well. The succesful manager will be someone who has properly balanced

the two costs of the operation of servicing customers in a bank: the

cost of waiting customers and the cost of idle tellers. He will insist

that the cost of a nimute`s waiting of a customer in a line must be

compared to a minute`s idle time of the teller. On the basis of this

comparison, together with suitable evidence conserning the arrival rate

of customers and the time service each customer, the succesful manager

will determine the policy concerning allocation of tellers to varios

stations during the day. Perhaps no one will feel inclined to write the

biography of so ordinary a man as the manager of a branch of a local

bank, but in any case if this manager decides according to the rational

methods just outlined, his biographer may at least be honest about his


Nevertheless, the analysis just outlined leaves much unanswered. For

example, an idle teller need not be idle while waiting at a station

where are no customers. Instead he may be occupied with other routine

matters requiring attention in the administration of the bank.

Consequently, if the manager can design the entire operation of his

bank’s many function properly, he may be able to decrease the cost of

idle time of professional who are servicing customers. If we look on

the othwer side of the picture, that is, the inconvenience to a

customer, we may find that in fact waiting in line is not an

inconvience at all if the customer happens to meet an acquaintance

there. Perhaps the manager should serve coffe and doughnuts to waiting

customers. Furthermore, if the manager could somehow or other hope to

control the behavior of his customers, he might be able to recognize

their arrivals in such a way that inconvenience costs are vastly

reduced. Add to these considerations other innovations that might be

introduced: For example, in many cases banks set up Express Windows to

handle customers who would normally have very low servoce times. Hence,

an overall average waiting time may not make senese if there are

different types of service tailored to the various needs of the


But then another, broader consideration occurs to us: Handling the

public’s financial matters by branch banking methods may be completely

wrong. Modern technology may of developing financial servicing methods

far cheaper for both bank and customer. After all, handling cash and

checks is an extremly awkward way for a person to acquire goods at a

price. With adequately designed information centers, the retail markets

need only input information about a customer purchase, and the

customer’s employers need only inputinformation about his income. Thus

every purchase would become simply a matter of centralized information

processing as woulod a man’s weekly or monthly paycheck. There would

therefore be no real need for any of us to carry money about and no

need to go to a bank and stand patintly in line. But this idea of

automated purchasing and income recording is followed by another

thought. We realize that any such automated finacial sysytem would

probably end in eliminating a number of clearical and managerial jobs.

Consequently we must examine the social problems of displaced personnel

and the need for retraining, otherwise total social costs of automated

banking might be far greater than the convenience gained by introducing

new technology.

Before we can decide whweter the manager of the branch bank is

performing “satisfactorily”, we must decide a much broader issue-wheter

the particular system that the manger operates is an appropriate one.

This question leads to deeper consideration concerning the potential of

modern technology and their inplications with respect to automation,

job training, and the future economics of many lives.


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