Roland Dürre
Saturday June 23rd, 2012

Mail from Ulf Posé

Ulf Posé sent me another one of his articles!



Hallo Roland,

Please find attached my current managerSeminare column.


Greetings – Ulf


It is about management. Some very simple and just quite wise ideas

As usual, it is well worth reading.

Thank you, Ulf!



Here the post:

Moral misunderstanding: plausible, practical, good.

Managerial methods are terribly plausible. If they are also new and easy to understand, so much the better. Mind you, methods are basically one thing: fashionable. It is perfectly acceptable, because fashion will give us new viewpoints, motivate questions being asked about what we always did, promote a new business model. Besides, they enliven managerial day-to-day affairs. But fashions are often also annoying, for instance when they block energy without purpose, follow upon each other in short succession, and yet are advertised as the only true message.

Over the last few decades, this has been true for many management fashions, for instance balanced score card, business re-engineering or the shareholder value concept. Neuro-linguistic programming, short NLP, was particularly triumphant. The underlying idea is that humans function according to the stimulus-response mechanism and can be re-modelled. New reactions are to be programmed through analysing your own behaviour and through special communication techniques.

In scientific psychology, NLP is not acknowledged. Its theoretical foundation is said to be un-scientific, an analysis involving 315 studies over 35 years clearly shows that its tools are not effective. Regardless, the fashion still enjoys huge support. It is one of the secrets of management methods why they adapt psychological findings so frequently, even if said findings have been proved to be faulty or unusable. But why would this constitute an ethical problem?

To begin with, the very guru-attitude used by many management methods for making their findings known to the public is questionable: “I know what is best for you. Do what I tell you and you will be a success”. These kinds of orders are behaviour-oriented, which means they are basically nothing other than training with the purpose of changing your behaviour by decree.

What we, however, need is an activity-oriented approach. This approach should investigate the basic beliefs of humans and change their behaviour due to their own enlightenment. It is also a question of responsibility. Actual orders for all kinds of situations will delegate the manager’s responsibility to having to abide by the regulation. But what is ethically necessary is more in the way of general imperatives serving as guidelines for your own behaviour, yet still demanding responsibility from the leader.

Another problem is the concept of humanity underlying many methods. They have often originated with psychology, where the procedures have been developed for sick people. If you adapt the same methods for healthy people, you are showing a basic attitude that is amoral, if not evil. Your employee is not psychologically sick, and neither should he be treated as such. For psychologically sick people, a manager would be the wrong therapist, anyway.

Another ethical problem with management models and tools is their apparent plausibility – which camouflages structural deficiencies. For instance, to this day you can read about the Maslow pyramid of need in all the books about motivation. Your motivation will be listed in five ascending levels. A need on a higher level will only be fulfilled after you have reached the step before. This is pure nonsense: if my girl-friend leaves me (level three: social needs), I might well compensate this by buying a beautiful watch (level four: luxury needs) – according to the model, this is not possible. As early as 1980, Maslow himself said that this pyramid is probably a wrong concept. Although it might well sound plausible.

So what can the ethical manager do? The answer is: do his own thinking. We must stop preaching commonplace salvation and instead begin weighing subjective discoveries and knowledge against each other in order to find enlightenment. Our method should be that of a philosopher. With respect to modern managerial methods, a philosopher would ask two questions only: “Why is this so?”, and “How do you know?”. From an ethical point of view, these two questions are quite sufficient.

Ulf Posé (Translated by EG)

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