I went ahead and skimmed more of the New Management Network’s materials. The following is from “PTOLEMAIC PARADIGM: Motivation, Negotiation, Power and Communication” by Terrence Heath.
The Ptolemaic-Copernican example is useful, I think, in our trying to look at the present situation in management theory. For we are in a very advanced stage of the paradigm, perhaps even witnessing its collapse. The post-industrial, post-capitalist, post-modern time we proclaim as ours may, in fact, be more correctly described as post-paradigmatic. But where is the new theory? I don’t think it has made its appearance, in spite of all the ‘clover leaf’ organization, leadership razzmatazz, matrix management, flattening hierarchies, and the much heralded information revolution. No one has as far as I know, brought it all together.
The point is one that I’ve been making lately. Post-modernism isn’t anything new. It doesn’t represent anything more than the last ridiculous gasps of modernism. It’s not that there isn’t some wisdom among the post-modernists, simply that there isn’t anything compellingly new. Which even they tend to admit, although none of them will argue like I do that deconstruction is just another form of reductionist nonsense, or at least an only slightly useful tool. Construction has always been difficult for reductionists of any type, which is why Frederick Taylor (at times a genius) and Le Corbusier (again, at times a genius) gave us so much pain. Their building was incomplete and therefore fatally flawed.
Certainly I would agree with Mr. Heath that the time is ripe for something new, even though I am more uncertain about the reality of paradigm shifts rather than normal science. I’m pretty sure that putting together the new paradigm isn’t that hard. All the pieces are there, lying on the table. It helps to ignore most of what’s gone before. I’m tempted to agree with Elliott Jaques here: we are at the same point in understanding organizational health that medicine was at the start of the Renaissance, when leeches and blood letting ruled. Of course, not that medicine has progressed that much, either. Maybe both are really at about the same place: lots of knowledge about individual subsystems but not systemic understanding, little understanding of the whole, of the interactions.
Any volunteers to create the new management paradigm?