5. The keys to managerial ingenuity

Submitted by Spassmaschine on January 19, 2010

5.1 A Managerial Habit: Give Us This Day Our Daily Fix
Coffee is the quintessential managerial drink. A managerial magazine's attempt to understand how coffee really affects our body produced the following results :

There is an interesting parallel between the symptoms of coffee consumption and body's physical response to fear : increased pulse rate, heart rate, blood pressure, sensory acuity, muscle contraction and alertness. The reason contem-porary society would find this pattern desirable instead of pathological is that our society has enshrined fear-producing competition. And caffeine is the little dose of fear with which we inoculate ourselves against the monstrous terror of what we are doing to ourselves. We constantly deny our limitations ; we refuse to listen to the message of fatigue the body sends us as a result of living under the near-continuous assault of what we call stress.1

5.2 Another Managerial Habit: Culture of Perpetual Note-Taking
Perpetual managerial coffee drinking is paralleled by perpetual managerial note-taking. For those not accustomed to this manic behaviour, it appears to be a pathological condition.

They make notes while they talk, they make notes while you talk, they make notes while they wait, they make notes while you wait for them, they make notes while they wait with you, they make notes while they do not wait, they make notes on small bits of paper, they make notes on big pads, they make notes while travelling, they make notes while at home, watching children, watching mothers, watching TV, they make notes as a matter of being alive, they make notes on death beds, in hospitals, watching nurses, watching doctors ...

This note-taking spree, which has engulfed our times, has produced some extra-ordinary systems. We give you a few examples of the managerial avant-garde.

5.3 A Managerial Insight: The Mother Cult
Total Productivity Management (TPM) takes the cake as a case of managerial observation, note-taking and insight. It also has the advantage of confirming to the fashion of the day - management research here takes an oedipal twist.

It is an everyday, commonplace fact that domestic slavery forces women to work 365 days a year, without any leave, without any breakdown and without any maintenance shutdown. Great minds are great because, unlike ordinary minds, they have the ability to see the everyday and the ordinary from a radically different perspective.

While ordinary minds strive to figure out ways to end domestic slavery (most have fallen into the trap of advocating wage-slavery) the great managerial minds see in it yet another model for managements to emulate.

Their observation is that as a part of preparing food, women also clean the kitchen and the utensils. While doing this cleaning up women also know the condition of their workplace, the equipment and raw material. As a part of their work they know when sugar has to be bought and when salt or rice or the gas or kerosene is going to finish and when the rubber pipe or the stove nipple needs to be changed. This has been theorised, as that simultaneously multiple jobs are done by women in the kitchen.

Total Productivity Management is the attempt by companies to implement such systems in factories - systems which are modelled on the manipulation of a mother's instinctive love for the child and the perforce internalised devotion towards the family.

Nippon Denro, Toyota group company was among the first to execute Total Productivity Management, and the results were so amazing that a Plant Maintenance Institute has been set up in Japan and it has given certificates of excellence to 51 companies by 1982. Total Productivity Management strives to do away with the division of work between operation and maintenance of machines. This division had earlier allowed, sometimes, a little breathing space for both the operators and the maintenance workers.

The modelling of work in factories according to women's work in the kitchen combines the tasks of machine operation and machine maintenance. Also intended is that men and women workers should give their body and soul to the companies they work in, the way women do for their families and children. The Escorts management in Faridabad has such a re-engineering scheme on the anvil in which the machine operators will also be responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the machine. This scheme plans to extract a production of 215 tractors per day instead of the present 140. The plan also envisages a retrenchment of 10,000 workers out of the 24,000 permanent workers in the group through similar measures in other plants..2

5.4 Another Managerial Insight: Permanent Panic
This managerial insight is a result of a $5 million funding by the U.S. Dept. of Defence, and was spearheaded by an auto-manufacturers' body for management research - the Agile Manufacturing Enterprise Forum (AMEF). The Iacocca Institute of Lehigh University in Bethlehem participated in the research. This enterprise is an example of the inter-linkages between industry, military, and knowledge producing factories working for the purposes of work intensification.3

The researchers focused on the conditions of panic in which doctors, nurses and other hospital workers work during emergency duties. Every action is crucial for life and death. Researchers observed these conditions in detail and, of course, took notes. This insight is being moulded into a new mode of production to be called the Agile Production (also Mass Customisation or Rapid Response Manufacturing). Not satisfied with coffee's mimicry of panic, managements would now attempt to create a continuous, everyday and twenty-four hour panic - the permanent panic.

To create these conditions of panic, and to maintain them every minute, every hour and every day, Agile Production calls for Virtual Enterprises . Such enterprises will form to achieve specific tasks, and then dissolve when the task is finished. These enterprises will employ workers from many physical locations, and only for a short time that they exist. There will be a handful of permanent workers who will be experts in diverse fields and will have to undergo constant training to remain experts. Temporary and contract workers will be the norm to create conditions of permanent panic and continuous insecurity.

The other method in this system of production, to squeeze more work out of fewer people, is the creation of Virtual Offices. This is made possible by the confluence of powerful and portable computing and communication technologies - high-specification lap-top computers, portable printers, digital mobile phones, fax and internet modems, and sophisticated software. That will mean that people will have offices wherever they are. The aim of the champions of the virtual office is simple : "to make sure no one has any excuse any time for not working". And their confidence is wilfully blind to the resistance that it will provoke : "people will have to do it, if they have to keep their jobs."

To provide a gloss to these stratagems, the advocates of agile production intend to use the concept of empowerment much more widely than it is used by the Just-in-time productionists with their production teams. The increase in work-loads because of taking decisions besides implementing them, and the conversion of lower management into workers is to be promoted as 'empowerment' of workers. To make the concept of empowerment more seductive, some companies give shares of the company to workers. The ownership pattern of today's companies makes this gimmick a ridiculous farce.

Investments in most companies today are principally by means of loans. Around 90% of a company's investment comes from these sources. Loans are advanced by pension funds, banks and financial institutions. Share capital makes a small contribution to this investment. Even within shares, the majority of shares are owned by financial institutions, other companies and mutual funds. An insignificant percentage of shares are owned by individuals. Investment in the shares of a company by workers as a means of empowerment actually means that workers provide money for financing new techniques and machinery which have the sole purpose of squeezing more work out of them.

Empowerment thus means taking the responsibility for supervising our own exhaustion and contributing to the mechanism of our own exploitation. As for the legal revenues of the company, more than 50% go to the governments in the form of various taxes, 30-40% go for interest payments, depreciation account and new investments. Cuts, commissions and frauds are not shown in balance sheets. The rest is paid as dividend to share holders with institutions receiving the larger share and individual share-holders getting the leavings. Workers' wages, even including dividends for their shares, are in the range of 1 to 5 percent of what they produce.

While domestic slavery is the model for TPM, it is still too relaxed for the workers who are 'empowered'. They must be forced to do everything within their power, and even beyond, for 'their' companies. Such work is being modelled on the state of panic under which hospital workers operate during emergencies.

Emergency, by definition, is an abnormal condition, a condition which is to be encountered once in a while. For agile workers every condition will have the status of an emergency. These 'empowered workers' are supposed to do every single task as if life (at least workers' jobs) depended on it.

Today's emergencies will then be tomorrow's everyday.

Work in many fields already necessitates continuous, everyday and twenty-four hour involvement.

Some examples :

  • Marketing Personnel: On their toes all the time. Anybody could be a good contact. They must read newspapers and magazines as a way to keep in touch with the developments in the market - the changes in exchange-rates, news about new projects and products. They must travel a lot and keep making mental notes about the location of industries.
  • Film and television workers: A twelve to sixteen hour shift every day is normal in television productions. Competent artists need to exert much more in addition to this. Their response to a beautiful view must be to store it in memory as a good shot ; a meeting with an interesting person must lead to the creation of an interesting character. They must keep abreast of the current techniques and trends by regularly viewing television and cinema and attending film festivals.

The success of agile production would imply that work and competition will impinge upon every hour, every minute and every second of our existence.

5.5 A Managerial Self-Analysis: "I am in my fourth year, which year are you in?"
Marcel - Young, White, European, Male. Works as an Export Sales Manager in a company which has manufacturing units in Europe, America and Japan. Responsible for sales in China, India and south-east Asia. A high-profile, highly-paid employee. A living advertisement of the present system and a dream for millions. However, like all advertisements, the ambience of bliss and harmony is only on the viewers' side of the screen. For the performer, life is not so merry.

The job involves intense physical and mental work and high levels of stress. Marcel's working time is not sharply defined and involves a lot of travel and continuous mental involvement during and between office-hours. A hectic week-long travel schedule almost once a month is usual. A typical tour itinerary would be: Paris to Delhi, from Delhi 2000 kms south to Banglore and back to Delhi, to Singapore and then to Hong Kong, from there to Korea and back to France - all in a week or ten day's time.

In all these nights - sleeping on flights switching between time zones - a bed to stretch on becomes an unaffordable luxury. His stays in luxurious five-star hotels are more like visits to the toilet to 'freshen-up', as is said in executive parlance, for work. The other, and rather more important, contribution of the five-star hotel is to enhance the company's image .

Compulsions to meet sales targets and result-related salary add to the insecurity, and determine the feverish pace of work. Every lunch is a business-lunch, most dinners are business-dinners. Meetings and flight-schedules often mean that meals are replaced by snacks. And all that Marcel gets to talk about is targets, orders, quotations and enquiries.

Despite half-a-dozen visits to Delhi all he has seen is hotels, offices and traffic. The continuous dealing with clients demands a pasted smile and a glib promotion of the company.

In a rare ten-minute respite, which came his way because another one of his kind was late for an appointment, he let off steam. Marcel showed a cartoon, made by a friend, neatly filed among his office papers. It depicted an enthusiastic face beginning work in the first year of a job, turns dejected, tired, cynical and inhuman as years go by. By the fifth year the change is irreversible and by the tenth year the face is changed into that of a monkey. "I am in my fourth year, which year are you in...?", Marcel asked. The client's arrival interrupted the conversation.

5.6 A Managerial regret: "Kill and Go"
In an incident which occurred in 1990 , Shell (an oil giant) management asked Nigerian riot police to deal with a protest against the company by villagers of Umuechen in the Nigerian delta.

The police mobile force known locally as 'Kill and Go' came and killed at least 80 people.

Six years later Shell management had pangs of conscience and acknowledged making a mistake in calling the riot police. The head of Shell's Nigeria operations said :

"We have made one or two mistakes. We once called in the police to assist us on a case where things got out of hand completely, and I must say that taught us a lesson...". Almost as an after thought s/he added, "...some people died because of that".

Controlled jointly by GEC Alsthom, Westinghouse Manufacturing Co., GE Finance Ltd., Siemens India Ltd. and ABB Exact pattern of share-holding not known.

Virtual enterprises, virtual offices and virtual production teams are preceded by virtual share-holding patterns. The advances in satellite and computer networking, and high speed communications have brought about the very fast movement of information and money.

Huge amounts of money, moving at a very high pace, are involved in the trading that goes on in currencies, stocks, bonds, shares and commodities. The daily trade in currencies alone amounts to one trillion dollars (approximately five percent of the annual global production). The price levels of the various stocks, shares, currencies, etc. decides the share-holding patterns of companies, which keep shifting between the big players - pension funds, finance and insurance companies, mutual funds, central banks, etc. State apparatuses are amongst the big players. Most participants in turn are joint-ventures between different companies and groups, or they are branches of bigger companies and groups.

On a recent visit to a company called Cegelec India (big manufacturer of electrical equipment) in Noida near Delhi, none of the engineers were sure about the share-holding of the company. Group's operations are controlled from three or four locations. The companies at those centres are again collaborations between two or three different groups. One of the companies which is now a part of this group in America was till a few months ago a collaboration between AEG and Westinghouse, another two groups of companies. AEG, in fact, now only exists as a name because the various companies in this group were recently divided between four or five different groups - GE, Alsthom, Siemens, Schnieder, etc.

5.7 A Key To The Managerial Mind: [plagiarised from a management magazine]


  • 1 Chand Rangwani in E2, March 1996, Bombay.
  • 2 FMS.
  • 3 Bruce Allen, 'Stepping Beyond Lean to Agile', June 1994.