Chapter 11. Poison in the water-cooler

The number of controls and systems for controlling and predicting the behaviour of the members of our work organisations is mindboggling. There are selection systems, induction systems, training systems, performance-measurement systems, reward systems, career-planning systems, promotion systems, discipline systems, human-resource-planning systems, industrial-relations systems and redundancy and retirement systems.

John W. Hunt, Managing People at Work

Companies that cease to have a central purpose become abstractions. Cut loose from the moorings that connected them to the lives of real people in the real world, they float off into the ether on cushions of self-absorption. Now, like the fantastic airborne castles of Hayao Miyazaki, or like Swift's floating island of Laputa, their inhabitants drift free of the distractions of everyday life, their minds 'so taken up with intense speculations, that they neither can speak, nor attend to the discourses of others, without being roused by some external taction upon the organs of speech and hearing ...'.

When their founders are still alive and active, and when the ideas that led to their initial successes still inform the manner of their daily operations, the corporate purpose remains self-evident. Sometimes it will be embodied in charismatic leadership. Sometimes it will be manifest in the passionate commitment of the employees to the original raison d'être of the company.

It sounds unfashionable and ...

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