Re: Traditional Wisdom... LO9032

From: John Conover <>
Subject: Re: Traditional Wisdom... LO9032
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 1996 20:54:52 -0700

Brock Vodden writes:
> Replying to LO8898 --
> Who is accountable for this defective traditional system of management
> development?

IMHO, Harvard Business School, and its reliance on contemporary
extensions of the time motion studies of Taylor, (the so-called
"American Management.") The conceptual paradigm is to analyze the
temporal relationship of cause and effect in human organizations.
Analytical methodologies can by applied to this paradigm, for example,
the conceptual frameworks like MBO, where organizational objectives
can be defined in a time-line fashion.

In sufficiently complex systems, cause and effect can not be isolated,
from each other, ie., the cause is the effect, which is the cause, and
so on, ad infinitum.

Whether human organizations are such a "sufficiently complex system,"
or not, remains to be seen. However, if you refer to the diagram on
page 81 of the 5D book, and assume it adequately "models" an
organization's sales process, then you would have to assume that the
sales organization is such a "sufficiently complex system." (The
diagram, with its positive feedback system exhibits "increasing
returns," and if there is any random variability in the process, it
would be termed a "fractal process," which is the simplest of a large
family of "sufficiently complex systems.")


BTW, I do not mean this to be interpreted as a "cheap shot" at
HBS. The average company, in the US, has 17 people, or less, (see for the demographics,) and I would assume
that HBS would define its academic curriculum to provide the simplest
concept that was applicable to the largest "market" available. MBO may
be adequate for a such a simple system as managing actions of 17
people. However, I seriously doubt that the applicability of MBO can
be extended to a large organization, since, as organizational
complexity increases, the ability to discern the temporal relation of
cause and effect decreases, from both a systemic and
information-theoretic analytical standpoint. (ie., from the
information-theoretic standpoint, the system may be operating on cause
and effect principles-however, because of entropic limitations, you
will never be able to prove it, or analyze it. Physicists are familiar
with the concept-an electron may, indeed, operate in a deterministic
fashion-ie., we could measure both its velocity and position-but
because of entropic uncertainty, as defined by Heisenberg, we will
forever remain uncertain whether the electron operates on
deterministic principles.)


John Conover,,

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