Preface to the English Edition
On íts publication in March 2000, the German edition of Managing Performing Living attracted great interest and has continued to do so ever since. People obviously fi nd it useful that – and how – this book describes what all managers require always and everywhere in their capacity as managers. I have been particularly pleased about the numerous positive reactions from the not-for-profi t area, from public service, the education and health services, and numerous other non-profi t organizations. The publication of the English edition offers the opportunity to make some additional remarks and clarifi cations. These clarifi cations refer to obviously prevalent misunderstandings on the topic of management, which have emerged in a small number of reviews and letters I have received. One reviewer was of the opinion that the "new era" mentioned in the sub-title receives too little attention in the book – and with it the much-discussed "New Economy" and the new types of company arising in it which, it is believed, require completely new and different management. I consider this opinion to be a misconception and not just since – in the wake of the fi rst bankruptcies of "New Economy" fi rms – the unshakable truths of business and management have asserted themselves. If this has demonstrated one thing in all clarity, then it is that these companies need exactly what I deal with in this book: correct, competent and effective management – much more so than those companies which are somewhat condescendingly assigned to the "Old Economy" – more often than necessary as a result of a lack of knowledge about the business world. Rarely has something been so universally so misjudged as what is known as the "New Economy". It would be easy to avoid: a minimum knowledge of economic history and a minimum of management expertise would suffice.
My reservations about the romantic ideas and the alleged blessings of the "New Economy" do not mean that I attach no importance to change. On the contrary. In my book about corporate governance1, I described in a long chapter on the "great transformation" the changes in progress and their probable signifi cance. They have been recognizable for a long time, at any rate since the beginning of the nineties. I have discussed the problems and the opportunities connected to them with thousands of managers in seminars. As a result of my many years of work on the systems sciences and cybernetics, and on the phenomena of complexity, self-organization, information and communication, I have been fully aware of the signifi cance of the new technologies. It is precisely from cybernetics that the new technologies arose. That this is unknown to most people who try to impress others with the term "cyber" is one of the countless ironies of history.
If one knows one’s way around these areas a little, it quickly becomes clear what demands are to be placed on management in the "Cyber Age". This applies fi rstly to the management of the technologies themselves. That is to say, to their development and use. But, in particular, it applies to the management of organizations which use the information and communication technologies or whose products these technologies are, and it applies to the manage ment of the people who have to work with them. High tech requires an abundant amount of management precision, and what is needed least of all are romantically sentimental or even quite simply naïve ideas, such as unfortunately prevail in much of the literature and in many training seminars. At least half – and probably many more – of the failed "New Economy" companies failed because of unprofessional, sometimes dreadful management.
But high tech and e-business are by no means the most important aspects of the "new era" although most people see it that way. The subject of this book is of greatest signifi cance for the truly constitutive elements of the "new era" – knowledge work and the knowledge worker – that is, for all those people for whom knowledge is their main raw material and who for this reason in reality cannot be managed in any reasonable sense but who must manage themselves. This goes for people within organizations, but also for those who have to cooperate from the outside with organizations. For knowledge workers, management is – as I show in this book – not only decisive for success but for existence.
But the "new era" of the subtitle possesses a second meaning. I believe there is a good chance that we are moving towards an era in which one of the key thoughts of the book – namely professionalism in management – will have the same status as in any other profession – an era in which management knowledge and management practice are relatively free of fads, charlatanism, empty promises, misunderstandings, false doctrines, and extreme stupidity. Quite rightly, we expect from professionals such as doctors, lawyers, auditors, judges, public prosecutors, teachers, and professors professional competence and responsibility. So why not from managers?
It is scarcely imaginable, at any rate it is not desirable, that in a modern society the management of its institutions, their design, control and development should be conducted with less seriousness, soundness, and conscientiousness than has long been taken for granted in other professions and functions of society. This book is intended to accelerate this process and to contribute to the creation of a situation in which nonsense can be revealed as such and is more diffi cult to propagate.
It is occasionally said that the third part of the title of the book – Living – receives too little attention in the book itself. In a certain way, this is correct. In explicit terms, I have written less about this word than its position in the title would suggest. Implicitly, however, the whole book refers to Living. Summarized in one sentence, my opinion is that those who by and large keep to the suggestions made in this book have a good chance not only of being an effective manager but also of having a life in addition to their occupation – perhaps precisely because of success in their occupation. The art of reconciling working and living in a sensible fashion is less widespread than is desirable. Instead, the misconception is all the more rife that the one must be sacrifi ced for the other, that working and living are irreconcilably contradictory, and that it is therefore necessary to decide in favor of one of the two. It is possible to learn precisely from effective people that this is not correct.
Readers familiar with the work of Peter F. Drucker will recognize the infl uence which, through his books and through a few personal encounters, Drucker has exerted on my thinking about management, and a number of people have detected a reordering and further development of Drucker’s insights in my book. Greater praise is hardly possible. After more than 30 years of working on management my opinions naturally result from many sources. However, one of the most decisive is, without doubt, Drucker and I am proud to have a profound knowledge of his work. His contribution to management – in a widely understood sense – cannot be overestimated. Wherever I have the opportunity – in seminars, lectures, and in my writings – I have pointed out to managers for years, how fruitful it is to read Drucker. How important such advice is I experience practically every day, because far too few have studied him sufficiently.
There are a number of others to mention: for example, Hans Ulrich and Stafford Beer, to mention only two to whom I owe much, and on whose work I have built. In contrast to the widespread fashion in management literature of continually reinventing the wheel, I consider it more important, whenever possible, to build on and extend what has already been achieved. I believe that knowledge can progress and that this can happen cumulatively. It is true that this is disputed in philosophy and in some of the social sciences of a particular school of thought which believes it to be better always to start at the beginning again. I do not think much of this approach. As far as possible, I have therefore adopted existing fruitful fi ndings and insights. It is precisely there that I see a contribution to the progress of management and to the establishment of standards for the managerial profession – which incidentally has absolutely nothing to do with its standardization, as one reader insinuated.
St. Gallen, New Year’s Day 2003