The spirit of an organization
Two sayings sum up the “spirit of an organization”. One is the inscription
on Andrew Carnegie’s tombstone:
Here lies a man
Who knew how to enlist
In his service
Better men than himself
The other is the slogan of the drive to find jobs for the physically
Handicapped: “It’s the abilities, not the disabilities, that count. ”
Management by objective tells a manager what he ought to do. The proper
organization of his job enables him to do it. But it is the spirit of the organization
that determines whether he will do it. It is the spirit that motivates, that calls
upon a man’s reserves of dedication and effort, that decides whether he will
give his best or do just enough to get by.
It is the purpose of an organization to “make common men do uncommon
things”- this phrasing is Lord Beveridge’s. No organization can depend on
genius; the supply is always scare and always unpredictable. But it
is the test of an organization that it make ordinary human beings perform
better than they are capable of, that it bring out whatever strength there is in its
members and use it to make all other members perform more and better. It is
the test of an organization that it neutralize the weaknesses of its members.
Altogether the test of good spirit is not that “people get along together”; it is
performance, not conformance. “Good human relations” not grounded in the
satisfaction of good performance and the harmony of proper working relations
are actually poor human relations and result in poor spirit. They do not make
people grow; they make them conform and contract. I shall never forget the
university president who once said to me: “It is my job to make it possible for
the first-rate teacher to teach. Whether he gets along with his collegues or with
me — and very few of really good teachers do either — is irrelevant. We certainly
have a collection of problem children here — but, boy, do they teach. ” And
when his successor substituted for this a policy of “peace and harmony,’’ both
the performance and the spirit of the faculty rapidly went to pieces.
There are five areas in which practices are required to ensure the right
spirit throughout management organization.
1. There must be high performance requirements; no condoning of
poor or mediocre performance; and rewards must be based on performance.
2. Each management job must be a rewarding job in itself rather than just a
step in the promotion ladder.
3. There must be rational and just promotion system.
4. Management needs a ‘’charter’’ spelling out clearly who has the
power to make life-and-death decisions affecting a manager; and there should
be some way for a manager to appeal to a higher court.
5. In its appointments management must demonstrate that it realizes that
integrity is the absolute requirement of a manager, the one quality that he
has to bring with him and cannot be expected to acquire later on.
A man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision
focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. He should be a
realist; and no one is less realistic than the cynic. A man should never be
appointed if he is more interested in the question: ‘’Who is right?” than in the
question: “What is right?” Management should never appoint a man who
considers intelligence more important than integrity.
The men with whom a man works, and especially his subordinates,
know in a few weeks whether he has integrity or not. They may forgive a man