Among the primary reasons advanced for command and control cultures is risk management – that is, how does a group best prevent bad things from happening while doing it best to accomplish its mission?
Perhaps the most notorious command and control entity was the Soviet Politboro which famously created the Soviet Five-Year Plan for Agriculture in the belief that results could be mandated and commanded. Dismal crops year after year proved that their assumptions were wrong in large part because motivation was missing.
Margaret J. Wheatley writes: “Successful organizations, including the military, have learned that the higher the risk, the more necessary it is to engage everyone’s commitment and intelligence.”
Do you ever buy into the idea that command and control is “necessary” for the “benefit of all concerned”? How does that square with your personal values? How do you believe these kinds of risk-reward questions are best resolved? How, if at all – in your personal life and / or your professional life – do you engage the “commitment and intelligence” of others?
Among the most resonant pieces of advice that I ever received from one of my mentors was never to treat my body as if it were a horse that I was whipping to go longer and faster (not that I would ever literally do that). Her point was that we have often pushed our bodies to the point of excess and exhaustion in service of our jobs or other achievements?
I wonder if treating ourselves harshly comes from living within a general cultural context of command and control. Have you ever had the experience of feeling as though you were being so demanding of yourself that you were actually being abusive?
Command and control often feels dictatorial and capricious. Are there any areas in your life where you feel as though you are dictating and controlling in excess? An easy way for me to examine that question is to think how well I take care of myself. How about you? Are you pushing yourself too hard in the interests of a highly ambitious and difficult goal?
Generally, nurturing and consensus are antithetical to command and control. If you had to choose, what would you say your more pronounced style of leading your life is? Is it something you’d like to change?
Edward Deming, the famed management consultant credited with engineering post-war Japan’s economic recovery, believed that organizations are holographic of their leaders. He said that companies – and all kinds of human groups – emulate and embody the values of their leadership.
People within command and control cultures also often model the same kinds of dominating behaviors of their leaders. This dynamic is particularly interesting when one observes family units, romantic relationships and social relationships.
Have you been part of a command and control relationship in your family, friendships, romantic or social relationships? What role(s) have you played? How did it feel to be part of that kind of energy? Can you theorize about where it came from?
Most importantly: is command and control an energy that you want to characterize any kind of relationship of which you are a part?
Peter Drucker for several decades was the nation’s pre-eminent business educator and author. He wrote over 38 books, and his insights are seering . . . and legendary. Consider this classic Drucker:
“Increasingly, command and control is being replaced by or intermixed with all kinds of relationships: alliances, joint ventures, minority participations, partnerships, know-how, and marketing agreements – all relationships in which no one controls and no one commands.”
“These relationships have to be based on a common understanding of objectives, policies, and strategies; on teamwork; and on persuasion, or they do no work at all.”
Drucker nailed it. Most organizations have insufficient common understanding which, like common sense, seems to be decidedly uncommon.
How fares your organization . . . work, family, charity, philanthropy, church? Is there common understanding, teamwork and persuasion? If not, Drucker predicts that such organizations will have difficulty or fail.
One of my longtime clients changed jobs recently where she is confronted with a new boss who is autocratic, aloof, and completely focused on being the boss no matter what. There’s no room for intelligent conversation to discuss the merits of situations – just, “I am the boss and that’s the way it is.” Sadly, those decisions are often not well-reasoned, and they seem capricious and even aggressive.
This kind of command and control attitude creates huge and unnecessary suffering in organizations – and, frankly, in relationships of any kind. Work, by definition, is collaborative. Even if you work for yourself – by yourself – you are interfacing with people who buy what you produce or make.
Command and control cultures emulate the military model where decisions are made by seniors officers, and those in the lower ranks are given their orders. Given that we live in a democracy outside of work, there is inherent conflict within organizations that are more command and control than collaborative. Younger generations of employees, especially, find working in command and control environments difficult.
How would you rate your work environment / culture? Is it command and control, collaborative, or a hybrid of the two? Do you have any idea why it is the way it is – that is, what models were followed in creating it? What do you think of command and control? Do you have personal experience with it?