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Annie Hayes

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Gaynor’s Thoughts: Complexity, anarchy and self–management … continued

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Technically, my approach did not fit well with the way things were done but it was quietly acknowledged as rather clever. However, the industrial engineering fraternity openly condemned my close relationship with the workforce. It wasn’t my place to have such an intimate relationship with the workforce. A year and three more odd but rather clever and effective bonus schemes later, I was invited to join the Human Resources function to formalise my transformational involvement in industrial relations!

Over the past few years I’ve taken an interest in complexity theory, particularly complex adaptive systems and organisation transformation, with a specific focus on self-management.

I’ve also had a life long interest in the Spanish Civil War for reasons too off the subject to describe here. I recalled that during that conflict, anarchism (where anarchy is defined as the political system that thrived in many parts of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before the term anarchy collected a negative connotation) was in fact a ‘self organising system’ in which individuals banded together to achieve common aims and groups of individuals came together to achieve collective goals.

The once growing popularity of anarchism covered white as well as blue colour groups. Anarchy’s demise and the change in the use of the word, came about because anarchy required no central controlling authority to get things done so in the 1930’s both Communism on the left and Fascism on the right made sure that anarchy’s growing popularity in Europe was brought to an end.

What struck me about this was that during the Spanish civil war agricultural production in Spain was significantly higher in areas ‘governed’ by anarchists than in those governed by communists and after that war ended was much higher than in all of fascist Spain under Franco. It seemed to me that this said something about the nature of self-management and its effect on business performance.

My feeling is that we don’t have a problem with our workers any more. We have a really big British management problem instead.

So perhaps we’re due for a complete rethink of the nature and role of management. Do you agree?

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Annie Hayes

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