According to professor Thomas Johnson, it’s easy to talk about the changes wrought by today’s global economy. But most such discussions fail to address the real impact of business practices in the twenty-first century. The growth of industrial societies during the past 150 years – and particularly the aggressive corporate growth strategies of the past 50 years – have done unprecedented damage to the environment and created unsustainable performance pressures on companies.
The threat to our natural and organizational systems flows from a view of business that most CEOs accept without question, but which is at odds with thousands of years of human economic activity. Our response to this threat must go beyond anything commonly proposed in policy or regulatory debates. What’s needed is a vision of the future that recognizes the potential and the constraints that govern all natural systems.
The first glimmerings of that vision – evident in some unlikely places, as we’ll soon examine – embody a way of managing that speaks to the higher aspirations of people throughout an enterprise. Such a vision offers a hopeful alternative to the mindless pursuit of growth for growth’s sake that threatens the health of the planet.
Transforming the economic system will require transforming the system of management that drives it. Dr. Thomas Johnson calls the new thinking and practices of such businesses “management by means,” or MBM (Johnson and Broms, 2000).
The assumption underlying MBM is that a business is properly run only if it operates according to principles like those that guide the operations of natural systems – as opposed to the “managing by results” approach that dominates today.
This presentation will discuss the meaning of "managing by means" and the implications for the larger ecosystem that we have the practical and moral obligation to protect.