“Is radical management really all that radical?” is a question I get asked a lot, most recently by Al Shaw in a comment on an earlier blog post here. “Why don’t we do something really radical, something really spectacular," they ask, "like ‘nationalizing failing corporations that are currently propped up by public finance, and breaking them up into small worker-owned businesses and co-operatives.’”
But if that’s all you do, then those small worker-owned businesses and cooperatives will start to succeed, and introduce management, and then grow into, guess what? More big hierarchical bureaucracies. So we are back to square one.
Robert Pirsig once wrote:
“If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.”
So tearing down the big corporations without changing the rationality which produced them will simply produce more corporations of the same ilk.
So it is in this sense that radical management is more revolutionary than it might look at first glance: it’s radical in the sense that uproots the rationality that created those organizations in the first place and recreates them with a rationality that is fundamentally different.
It is about a revolution that is to be achieved, not by guns or legislation or diktats, but by changing people’s minds and hearts. As a result, it’s a revolution that is capable of producing lasting change.
That’s why it’s the most dangerous kind of revolution, because it can’t be defeated by guns or force or diktat. By changing people’s hearts and minds, the old way of doing things is no longer viable. People see that it makes no sense. They wonder why anyone ever acted that way.
To learn more about radical management, read my article on the reinvention of management or my book, The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century (Jossey-Bass, 2010).