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Corporate culture

Ideas of Man in Management

Camus\' \From Camus' "Myth of Sisyphus", I have particularly taken a control question to throw it against theoretical-abstract interpretations of the world and strategy recommondations derived from them: And if it were so, what does that turn men into? That resonated with the computer engineer in me, who knows that above a certain level of complexity, you can no longer understand software line by line, but instead have to test and evaluate its output.

Whenever I sit in management seminars or read management literature, I throw this question back at the content. With unfortunately quite unsatisfactory results at the moment: the idea of man behind current management ideology seems to be quite consistently – despite different topics and approaches – one that conceives man as exclusively good (and good-natured). One would still face obstacles to live up to this – lack of acceptance of emotions or poor reflection on humanity or bad organization – but if these obstacles were overcome, then the good and right would always win (and companies would then, of course, be even more successful).

It is a thoroughly naïve view of humanity that, confronted with Büchner's question of what it is in us that goes whoring, lies, steals and murders, can only turn away and cover its ears. This is interesting because the image of the classic manager is that of a rational decision-maker who cannot avoid a realistic image of man as a precondition for his rationality. The current management literature stands in fundamental opposition to this.

Assessment Center

School and university examinations have something artificial: never again in professional life will the performance evaluation be so compressed to a very concrete examination situation. There is no equivalent for exams in professional life.

The closest thing to university examinations in professional life are assessment center before hiring or a promotion. However, if the university exams are about a specific subject whose performative knowledge is being tested, assessment center are about something different: can the applicant (1) recognize and (2) fulfil the expectations placed on him. Already the first task poses a challenge: Different corporations with different officially announced cultures also have different requirements for the habitus of their new recruits. Expectations can also shift above hierarchical levels. It is the job of the applicants to know these expectations. And then it is also necessary to fill this recognized expectation spontaneously and possibly in an artificially induced stress situation through demonstrated behaviour.

Thus, the assessment center has the artificial situation in common with the university examination, but unlike the latter, skills are tested that are decisive for professional success: Being able to recognize and fulfil expectations is an essential cornerstone of a corporate career. In the subject matter of the examination, the assessment center is therefore true-to-life.

Endgame Fallacy

Being able to reduce complexity and thereby make facts discussable and, above all, problems solvable is one of the core skills in modernity. There are various tricks for this. One trick that I encounter from time to time is what I call endgame analysis: Sometimes developments are complex, but one can describe relatively well what kind of state there is at their end. So you describe this final state and then derive actions from it without having to discuss every intermediate stage.

But this reduction in complexity is usually accompanied by the loss of temporality. And that is often problematic. For in most cases it does play a role whether the end state is reached very soon or in the distant future - and above all whether its occurrence is brought about earlier or delayed.

An example: "In the long run we're all dead" (Keynes) is undoubtedly correct. But whether one dies sooner or later is not unimportant. "If I'm dead in the endgame anyway, I can actually (today) also stop eating" is therefore also an obviously stupid suggestion. However, relatively often I encounter endgame considerations, where exactly such a thing is derived.

So be on your guard against this fallacy. Unless you want to cheat - for that, endgame considerations are relatively well suited...