I’m continuing my series on an in-depth look at a wonderful little book that’s twenty years old this year. The title is Management of the Absurd by Richard Farson. You may want to consider dropping back and reading the previous posts about ABSURD! I think it will put each new one in great context.
Reading this one again was like receiving a body blow. Not so much for the leadership and management perspective but because of the headlines of our newspapers almost every day. Remember, this was written twenty years ago. These statements are not prompted by today’s headlines but look closely at what our author is saying.
“Fighting for the rights of special groups has contributed to an erosion of civility that none of us anticipated. When people are treated as representatives of special groups, society is fragmented.”
“It may even be that progress on rights has been made at the expense of the common welfare. Enmity grows between groups at they compete for rights. “
“Rather than looking after community, each group looks after itself. The common welfare suffers.”
From a business perspective I think we deal with this issue (sometimes well and sometimes not) by emphasizing the team. Many leaders try to optimize each aspect of the business but in so doing set up (and sometimes even encourage) competition between divisions. In the end this never works well. The concept of systems thinking and optimizing the whole rather than the individual parts always works better. To quote Bo Shembechler, the football coach at Michigan when I was in school, “The Team, The Team, The Team.” The name of my business is Team Leadership Culture which puts building team at the forefront of any good organization.
I always keep my comments directed at the business world but this one has so many implications related to the community issues of our day. Farson simply says “It may even be that progress on rights has been made at the expense of the common welfare.” I do worry that all of our labels that start with (fill in the blank) “________ American” lead us down this path.
The issue in the business world seems so simple and trivial by comparison, just take off your functional hat and put on your company hat. The Team, The Team, The Team. Team first.