Sunday, February 06, 2005

Is Management obsolete?

Is the concept of Management obsolete?

Management,both as a discipline and as a part of any organisation (business or otherwise) ,rests on two foundational assumptions.The first assumption is that resources are scarce and therefore they require to be husbanded and judiciously allocated among various claimants (departments or functions) in order to optimise overall returns.The second assumption is that any problem (in management science,any issue that calls for decisions is called a problem) needs to be thought through ,alternative courses of action generated and ultimately an optimal solution that ensures achievement of objectives be arrived at.In other words,managerial wisdom requires that any problem is carefully and deliberately analysed,pros and cons of alternative solutions are weighed and the best solution chosen for implementation.This typically leads to a non-intuitive and time-consuming circular decision-making process.

The first assumption regarding scarcity of resources is further buttressed by Malthusian theory which postulates that increase in population (assumed to be in geometric progression) consistently outstrips the growth in availability of resources.As a consequence,per-capita availability of resources is constantly on a downward spiral which automatically renders the managerial process of 'allocation' more significant with each passing day.Malthus also hypothesised that nature assumes a self-regulatory role whenever the pressure on natural resources reaches a critical inflection point and activates natural disasters like earthquake,cyclone and tsunami to cause a noticeable drop in human population.

Geologists now believe that natural shocks like earthquake are essentially acts of self-renewal which result in restoration and even augmentation of resources.Such cataclysmic events cause new mountains to come up;tsunamis are known to improve land fertility over a period of time and also to mobilise minerals from various areas and shore them up in certain places where they become more cost-effective to mine,on account of higher concentration.Therefore,the assumption that resources per-capita keep declining on a secular basis is misplaced.

The second assumption implies that decisions/judgements made after a detailed analysis are better than snap decisions or intuitive judgements.Malcolm Gladwell,in his recently published book entitled "Blink:The Power of Thinking without thinking" describes what he calls 'The Theory of thin Slices' according to which quick and instantaneous decisions are as good as informed/laboured decisions which consume a lot of time and resources.The DNA of any problem manifests itself in any and every part of the problem.Hence doing a detailed analysis results only in information overload and consequent obfuscation of the real problem.Therefore,the traditional concept of management as an allocator of scarce resources through a comprehensive and time-consuming decision-making process has become obsolete.There is an urgent need to re-conceptualise management.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Time issue dt.7th Feb 2005

The pictures in your special report on the tsunami said it all. What a colossal tragedy! The eastern coastline of India, long admired for its scenic beauty, is now feared for the ocean's potential fury. We are reminded of what Hindus call Pralaya—an overwhelming destruction and natural catastrophe. The only consolation, if you can call it that, is that another tsunami of similar magnitude is unlikely to occur in our lifetime.Kizhanatham R. SrivarahanMadras, India