and sustainable business solutions -
What is Management? An Introduction
the view that we have a single, underlying drive that
explains all behaviour. That drive is the will
to power. There is a lot
more to be said about management, but this white paper focuses
on this aspect of the will to power.
Darwin, earlier in the nineteenth century,
took the view that the underlying drive is the drive to survive
and reproduce; Nietsche took this view and extended it to
say that the will to survive and reproduce does not sufficiently
characterise how we conduct ourselves in the world - we also
desire to lead long and flourishing lives. And, to achieve
that aim in a competitive and harsh environment, we need power.
By will, Nietzsche meant that we, firstly,
desire something, and, secondly, that this desire is the drive
which motivates all our strategies and actions - with the
aim of securing what we desire.
By power, Nietzsche meant securing control
of our environment, resources and other people, such that
we can maximise our chances of securing a flourishing and
While most people would say that Nietzsche
went a bit far in characterising all human behaviour
as being motivated by the will to power, his view has a lot
of force in the arena of business and management. Businesses,
understood as seperate entities, by and large are motivated
by the desire to gain power over resources and people in order
to flourish and thrive; and the art of management by and large
is about seeking to ensure that businesses flourish
maximally, along with, of course, seeking to ensure that the
manager flourishes maximally as well if at all possible. It
would not be going too far to say that the extent to which
businesses and managers have a will to power largely determines
the extent of their success.
Translating the will to power into a practical definition
of management results in a two-fold definition:
Management is getting people to do what
they would not otherwise do; and
Management is getting people to do what maximises the flourishing
of the business and/or those parties who exercise power
in it or over it.
We will make a few observations
about these two connected definitions.
Management is about people
- resources, finances and processes are all controlled and
administered by people, so by managing the people you manage
all aspects of the business. Managers require technical capability
in understanding and administering resources, finance and
so on, but at its core, management is about managing people
rather than resources.
Management is about the exercise of power:
getting people to do what they would not otherwise do is,
at heart, what the exercise of power is all about. Getting
people to do what they would have done anyway is not exercising
power. Getting people to do what they would not otherwise
do includes getting people to:
things they would not have otherwise thought;
things they have not done before;
things faster than before;
things to a higher, more consistent standard; and
do things more co-operatively with others
The people who need to
be "managed" are not just employees: the task of
a manager is to get suppliers, customers, bank managers and
any other associated people to do what they would not otherwise
do just as much as it is to get employees to do what they
would not otherwise do.
Definition 1: getting people to do what
they would not otherwise do
This could involve one
or more of a multiplicity of methods. Here are some of the
methods available to managers, although not all methods are
open to all managers in all countries to the same extent -
different methods are applicable in, and suit, different circumstances:
Coercion, intimidation and threat
of coercion - this ranges from physical force through to
threats to seek a legal remedy created through contract
law. The latter is open to managers, the former two are
precluded, at least in the most obvious forms. (Although,
having said this, organised crime gangs are often run as
businesses, and coercion and intimidation are used as standard
management techniques, as they were in businesses based
on slavery or indeed in Germany and Japan in the second
world war for forced labour.)
Repetition - people get used to things
if they are exposed to them regularly. Creating habitual
behaviour and rituals around that behaviour is one way of
ensuring that people do things they would otherwise not
Lying, misrepresentation and omission
- telling people things that are not true, or at least saying
things that lead people into thinking things that are not
true while not actually crossing the line into lying - is
a highly effective way of getting people to do things they
wouldn't otherwise do (think of advertising, food labelling,
cosmetic marketing, and so on, which misrepresent and omit
information to persuade while, generally, staying just the
right side of the law). This method can, and often does,
back-fire. See Business
and Ethics Part 1.
Meeting, or promising to meet, the
needs or desires of the people being managed. Financial
rewards, promotion, new contracts; there are a wide range
of tactics available to ensure compliance of those being
managed. Also, deeper needs are important to bear in mind,
such as the need for self-realisation in performing a job,
the need for positive interaction with others, the need
to feel worthwhile and appreciated.
Telling the truth. That is, altering
people's perceptions of how things are by shifting their
perspective or the information available to them in order
to get them to do something.
Allied to the above, reasoning. I.e.
demonstrating that the views currently held are not supported
by the reasons given for those views, and therefore pointing
out that those views should change in a way that makes it
obvious to someone that they need to do whatever the management
wishes to get them to do.
There is an ethical aspect to the methods
outlined above: some managers will choose to use some of the
methods and not others on ethical grounds. Even if some of
the methods above are deemed to ethical, they could be used
in the achievement of an unethical objective. If the objective
is unethical, then, I suggest, an ethical method automatically
Definition 2: getting people to do what
maximises the achievement of the objectives of the manager
The objectives of
the manager are often multiple. The primary objective of management
is to retain the power and financial resources currently accruing
to the management position, and if possible extend that power
and command over resources, in order to be in a position to
meet the needs of the organisation. In other words, managers
needs the means to exercise power, and the more power it has
the greater its ability to get people to do what they would
not otherwise do in pursuit of its objectives.
include the flourishing and success of the business in the
short- or long-term (and these two timescales can often be
in conflict), those
things which will contribute to the largest bonuses for the
management, those things that will further the career prospects
of the management, those things that will further the interests
of shareholders or other stakeholders. Or it could be a mix
of a number of these plus others.
Often, the most successful
managers are theose able to integrate a range of objectives
(long- and short-term, and satisfying a range of stakeholders)
into a coherent set of easily-understood and communicated
activities and messages which together enable the business
and/or the most powerful stakeholders to flourish.
Who should manage?
It is not just managers
who can or should manage, in these terms. "Managing"
upwards and sideways is just as important as downwards, and
is available to anyone in an organisation when used sensitively.
It can contribute to the well-being of the organisation and
those in it, and can often be vital.
however, have different approaches to hierarchy, but any organisation
which aims to be successful in the long term allows a good
level of management, as defined here, by participants from
all parts of the organisation.
Striking the right balance
between power being vested in hierarchy on the one hand and
a more devolved management philosophy on the other is key
to an organisation's success. Senior managers should decide
this on the basis of many factors, including: the inherited
culture of the organisation, the type of staff employed and
the speed at which the company has to respond to external
In summary, Nietzsche's concept of will
to power provides a valuable tool for analysing the objectives
and methods of management, and provides a good method of measuring
the success or otherwise of managers.
For further reading: as well as Nietsche for
the more theoretical exploration of the will to power, Machievelli
provides a very pertinent and down-to-earth approach to the
gaining, retention and exercise of power in The Prince.
Although Machievelli is writing for a different age and audience
than modern managers, a lot of his advice still applies; and
most of the rest can be interpreted quite easily into modern
business scenarios. But perhaps the biggest lesson from The
Prince is not the practical advice, but the stance it
recommends for those with power and oversight over people
- the need to adopt clarity of thinking, and the need to tie
short-term practical actions to underlying strategic goals.