Making Business Accountable
Whole Society Improvement
By the end of WW2, people at all levels of society had had their full of unprincipled, extreme capitalism, exploitative business and ruthless management. The commercial world had become seen by many as a necessary evil, to be endured rather than enthused in. The brightest students were streamed into “academic”, whilst “commercial” streams were regarded as more suited to the lesser grades. The field of management was ready for a comprehensive upgrade.
In 1954, visionary Peter Drucker wrote the book The Art of Management, that would set the direction and standard for Management for several decades. He regarded management as the innovation of the 20th century, and from the 1950s to the 1990s, released a series of highly respected bestsellers, delineating the principles of modern management and establishing the responsibilities of professional management, which prevailed for many decades. He advocated competent, responsible business practice through:
- clearly defining the mission and purpose of the organisation;
- making work productive and suitable for human beings;
- developing workers to become achieving;
- managing social impacts and accepting social responsibilities.
“Free enterprise” cannot be justified by being good for business. It can only be justified as being good for society. The business enterprise must have a concern for the quality of life, for the physical, human and social environment of modern man and modern community”.
Advanced Executive Practices
Drucker knew how to lift executives to new heights of ability, capacity and effectiveness:
“Executives are knowledge workers, responsible for effectiveness, in contrast to manual workers, who need only be efficient. Effectiveness is getting the right things done. Working on the right things is what makes knowledge workers effective. Knowledge workers must direct themselves, and must direct themselves towards performance and contribution, that is, towards effectiveness.”
“The executive who asks, “What is the most important contribution can I make to the performance of the organisation?” asks, in effect, “What self-development do I need? What knowledge and skills do I have to acquire to make the contribution I should be making? What strengths do I have to put to work? What standards do I have to set myself?”
“The executive who focuses on contribution also stimulates others to develop themselves, whether they are subordinates, colleagues or superiors. He sets standards that are grounded in the requirements of the task. At the same time, they are demands for excellence, high aspiration, ambitious goals and work of great impact.”
“The executive who wants his organisation to be effective, always asks, “Is this still worth doing?” And if it isn’t he gets rid of it, to concentrate on the few tasks, which if done with excellence, will really make a difference in the results of his own job, and in the performance of his organisation.”
In contrast to the ruthless and often unprincipled work ethic for centuries prior to world war 2, the work ethic throughout the 1950s became increasingly fair, honest and decent. Egalitarianism was at an all time high and valued dearly, encouraged by the recent war experience as the great leveller.
The improving business ethic was increasingly that the customer really mattered, and shareholders returns were a derivative of a healthy company, and had no priority over customers or workers. Virtually all school leavers were able to find suitable employment immediately upon leaving school, with plenty of choices. Apprenticeships, cadetships and career paths were embedded into employment conditions in many jobs to ensure progressive development of workers. The future was looking good.