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Our economy is radically changing. Peter Drucker is right—we no longer are in the capitalist and industrial logic. Human beings, referred to in the new management circles as “human capital,” are becoming important again, at least in the positive scenario. The machine becomes secondary and is put into the service of humans. We see a possible rising again of humanism in the heart of business.
Is it not incredible news for industrial ears?
And look at the new strategic approach of business. It refuses warlike strategies and chooses instead to employ new “win-win” strategies. And yesterday’s rivals start sharing the knowledge in networks and in “communities of practice.” In doing so, they shift away from the warlike values of patriarchy. The whole relationship to violence (patriarchal) and exclusion is completely reversed.
And we enter another world.
But before considering the details of this new vision of economy, let’s look at a concrete example of a business that functions in this new vision of the knowledge society.
Consider a company called ASKO, which was recently created with very little initial money. It was performing very well in the construction and management of Internet websites for large businesses and institutions when, a few years ago, it obtained a managing contract from the European Commission. When it received the contract, the value of its stock shot up 75%.
The contract specified that each day all translations of all texts produced by the European Commission must be placed on the Web every day in all official languages of the Union and that the placement must be performed within 48 hours of production of the text and with an impeccable presentation,.
The “factory” in this case is a set of computers and intellectuals who have one or two university diplomas and speak three or four languages fluently. The role of financial capital and technology is 20% at the most. The remainder is human and intellectual capital, which produces knowledge from knowledge.
The director of the company was aware that his function is not one of “conquest, command, and control.” It was simply not possible to control the translators of Greek, Finnish, Slovenian, Hungarian, etc. Instead, the director has six basic functions:
Care for the production tool
The director must take care of the intellectuals who do the work and who are more competent than he is in their respective spheres—namely, the languages that they are translating. They must enjoy their work environment and want to keep working for the firm. In brief, he must motivate them to return the next morning with their production tool, their intelligence.
Control the work quality.
He must control work quality. But how? He is incapable of knowing all languages. To accomplish the task, he put his team members in touch with a network of people outside his organization who have written speeches, are responsible for official translating systems, and/or are ambassadors or associated with political parties, trade unions, media etc. By doing so for each translator (and each language), he created a new system of quality control that manages itself by means of linguistic networks. All of the Greeks inside the Greek network, for example, want the Greek text to be perfect—because it is dangerous for a political debate to be based on inaccurate text.
Make sure that good communication exists within the business and with the outside—that is, with the other translators of other languages.
If there is a problem with one language, it is very possible that some, and perhaps all other languages, have the same problem. It is absolutely indispensable, therefore, that the politic of translation be harmonious and that each translator be in good standing with the corresponding Commission cabinet members and with those producing the documents.
Watch over the human capital.
He must provide them with possibilities for continued education—meetings, trips, contacts, etc.
Watch over the non-material value of the business.
The quality of the surroundings, the staff relations, the social environment of the business must be good.
Attend to the career plan of each person.
His work in the business is part of a personal career plan …within the business itself… and not somewhere else.
This type of management represents a complete departure from the norm… but the story is not finished.
The director of ASKO was offered millions of euros to sell his business. He accepted. The next day, the new director (European) arrived and began functioning along the classic model of industrial management of “command and control”—barking orders. Two days later, part of the staff resigned. One week later, the Commission contract was suspended and the stock crashed!
Under pressure to fix the problem, the new director rehired the previous director who accepted to come back, but only with higher pay! The contract with the Commission was resumed, and the stock price rose again.
This is an excellent example of the transition from the industrial society management to the knowledge society one. It illustrates that one cannot act like an “industrial” business executive in a knowledge business. Those who ignore such advice and do not understand the change must beware! This seems to me the clearest example of management change in the knowledge society.
Ces messieurs ont appelé dame Bess, dit-il; mais dame Bess n’est pas au cottage