Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, was first published on December 19, 1843. So it’s close enough to republish this article on Medium. Happy Holidays to all!

The First Edition of A Christmas Carol

Management gurus have drawn lessons on leadership from diverse sources, ranging from the practices of Attila the Hun to the fictional events in Star Trek. Yet they seem to have missed one of the finest accounts of transformation and change familiar to us all. It is Charles Dickens’ best-loved story, A Christmas Carol. He said that he himself laughed and cried over it more than anything else he wrote, and it can still…

The Binocular Mind

“And twofold always… May God us keep

From single vision and Newton’s sleep!”

(William Blake, Double Vision)

I read with great sadness of Rabbi Lord Sacks’ sudden, untimely passing on November 7. His writings have been a source of inspiration and really helpful ideas to me. I discovered them only a few years ago, while continuing to work on my ecological perspective on management. Sacks’ thoughts on the moral and social ecologies that underpin the ability of human beings to cooperate and work together have been especially useful. …

Why does so much management advice sound reasonable but turn out to be of little value? Most readers will know what I mean. Take the following guidance on how companies can ‘accelerate their agile transformation’:

1. Create a C-suite with an agile mindset

2. Hire and develop the right mix of talent

3. Foster an agile-friendly culture and organizational structure

What’s not to like? Well that’s the problem. The first test of any management advice is to ask, “Is the opposite also true?” If not, then the statement is a simple truism like each of those above. …

British politics is in a real mess. Mired in the Brexit debate, its current predicament is best captured in the poetry of the Victorian writer Matthew Arnold; “Wandering between two worlds, the one dead, the other powerless to be born.” The British public, Remainers and Leavers alike, seems to be thoroughly sick of the whole topic and just want it to end. But it won’t. The UK and its parliament are caught in a social/systems trap.

This predicament can be visualized using the ecocycle, which is an ecological/complexity perspective on how complex adaptive systems function:

The Ecocycle

Enterprises, economic, social and political…

Master gardeners at work

Management is notoriously faddish. Managers can reflect on a long line of management innovations that attracted huge attention, were widely adopted and then gradually dropped as management attention wandered to shinier tools. Richard Pascale in his 1990 book Management on the Edge identified over thirty of them, beginning in the 1950s. He began with the managerial grid and decision trees, progressed through t-group training and zero-based budgeting and ended up with the mega-fad, business process re-engineering (BPR).

The situation since the 1990s has not changed much. BPR collapsed for reasons to be explored shortly but the balanced scorecard, six…

Texas Cattle Drive

Language is rooted in metaphor. In their popular book, Metaphors We Live By (1982) George Lakoff and Mark Johnson showed the pervasive role that our embodied experience plays in our understanding of how the world works, or might work. We excel at grasping how one abstract object or experience is like another, more concrete one. Thus happy is ‘up’ as in “I feel up”, while sad is ‘down’. Sometimes the meaning has to be determined by context. When I say, “It’s all downhill from here,” it means that things are going to either get worse or get easier. Whatever the…

The Essence of Life, Management and Leadership

Management: a Noble Practice

The theme of the 2017 Global Drucker Forum to be held in Vienna later this year is “Growth & Inclusive Prosperity — The Secular Management Challenge”. Dictionary definitions of prosperity mention a condition of being successful or thriving, especially economic well-being — a desirable accompaniment of living. What’s the essence of living then? Three Viennese psychotherapists came up with three distinctly different answers:

· Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) claimed that it was the ‘will to pleasure’

· Alfred Adler (1870–1937) argued that it was the ‘will to power’

· Viktor Frankl (1905–1997) contended that it was the…

Over the decades organizational culture has devoured hundreds, if not thousands of strategies. One of the most recent examples is the case of Wells Fargo, where culture not only ate a long-standing, apparently successful strategy but last week also consumed its CEO, John Stumpf, who resigned under enormous pressure. The headline story in the business section of news in the past few weeks has been that over the past five years the bank has fired 5,300 employees (10% of whom are branch managers or higher) for opening new accounts without the customer’s permission. Apparently this was the unintended consequence of…

Changing Our Models of Change: Nothing Lasts Unless It is Incessantly Renewed

Recently Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts commented that “ Ideas about social and economic reform are only as useful as the model of change that goes with them.” I agree completely. We need to look at our current models of change and develop more useful ones.

A review of our mainstream models of change (at least those in the private sector in the West) would reveal that, for the most part, they are firmly embedded in a modernist, utilitarian view of organizations…

David Hurst

Speaker, Writer and Educator on Management. Hope to change the world with my book The New Ecology of Leadership (Columbia University Press, April 2012)

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