“The Logic of Cooperation: The Science of Progressive Management” by Tadit Anderson (Paper)

“The Logic of Cooperation: The Science of Progressive Management” by Tadit Anderson

in acknowledgement of Mary Parker Follett

The Science of Cooperation

A large part of our waking hours are applied to employment, thereby the structures, processes and politics of that context will have a major influence upon the rest of our lives and upon the nature of our civics and communities. This recognition alone could make the application of progressive management principles the most interesting and socially valuable work in the world. Lets begin with placing practice of bribing of politicians, governmental bureaucrats, or educational institutions off the menu for discussion here. Lets also for a moment not focus here upon the wastefulness of wealth extraction in the exploitation the earth's resources, unearned rents, and commons such that the sustainability of communities are harmed. There are people involved in business who understand that the process of production is as important to the welfare of a society as the products of production.

It was Mary Parker Follett's advocacy above everything else that we learn how to co‑operate, both in our communities and workplaces. She was actively promoting cooperation in the workplace during her career roughly between 1900 and 1930. Given the nature of her principles, it seems that her prophecy was about sixty years early. Progressive management has been used several times over the past 30 years and as a side discourse in business schools and sometimes as a shill process without representing any investment and without leaving much of a sustained impression.

It is in the context of the current economic collapse that one of the dimensions that has to be changed is the whole business culture of competition and beggar thy neighbor that currently dominates. One way to control behavior on a societal level is to actively regulate, prosecute, and incarcerate, even the politically well connected, when behavior standards shift into abuse, exploitation, and blunt fraud. Another way could be to change the culture one context at a time. Economic democracy in the form of cooperatives, and to nullify the process of unearned rents as the financialization of industry.

The application of the concept of “science” has some potential within business management. Under one interpretation, scientific management would be more or less limited to the mechanics of production, time and motion studies, and the measurement of all things quantifiable. Beyond this narrowed vision is “science” as a process of research and discourse which is ongoing and focused on how knowledge can be expanded through comparing the adequacy, applicability, validity, and reliability of certain bundles of knowledge. The material centered definition is clearly useful, yet those that limit “science” to this capacity, also tend to regard the labor of employees as primarily a commodity, and have little interest in the more expansive possibilities of human resources, science or economy. Industrial social psychology and the dynamics of organizational structures operate within the broader application. Mary Parker Follett's own description of her practice was the study and promotion of “the science of cooperation.”

Coordination Legitimates Authority
Progressive management practitioners will disagree with the political scientists who assert that authority co‑ordinates the activities of employees. Legitimate authority flows from co-ordination, co-ordination does not flow from authority. Legitimate authority also supports the interweaving of all relevant experience and information. The first step in the understanding of a problem is an understanding of the field of control as an integrative unit. The second step is the integration process of passing from one field of control and emerging into another. Practitioners of progressive management will task themselves to define the law of the situation for every managerial activity involved in the processes within their domain of production. This requires a recognition that authority and management is basic to the nature of the situation and resources, and not originating with a job description on an organizational flow chart

So far there has been a middling tendency toward specialized, or what is being called "functionalized," management. This specialization has not yet been carried very far. In some cases the only sign we see of it is the recognition that different departments require different managers. Of course, one person may have a special aptitude for dealing with people as others may have other aptitudes such as for dealing with machines, but there is as much to learn in the one case as in the other.

  Autocratic authority has remained as the default model by the custodial position mangement holds within a financialized economy. This is where the primary quantitative measure of business success is limited to the return on the represented investment by the shareholders. This ethic has also permeated our culture as the default motivation of management even when no external capitalization is required. We must find a more benign basis for economics and management given the self devouring nature of the financialized version. When every necessity of life and health has also been turned into an opportunity for profit, financialized industry will soon also not have a population, beyond those few necessary to serve the personal needs of the wealthy.  

Promoting Cooperation By Integration
The next question becomes how can we by the means of progressive management promote coordination and avoid conflict. “Cooperation” is another word which means vastly different things depending upon who is using it. For someone who subscribes to the notion that authority coordinates the activities of employees, then this authoritarian will act to coordinate by dominating the participants by any and all of several possible methods. There are three main ways of dealing with conflict, domination, compromise and integration.

  Domination, obviously, is a victory of one side over the other. In one way this is the easiest way to address conflict, if the objective is to enforce conformity. This can work one of two ways, one establishes possibly a victory in common. This in process behavior can be regulated on a general basis, so that there is a penalty for breaching the ruling standards. This has an implied sort of fairness, but is an enforced détente, and the standards can unexpectedly shift in their application to being suddenly not so equal. Then there is domination by arbitrary authority either internally or externally. This sometimes provides the most imagined personal security for enhancing the potential for executive and arbitrary authority. When the standard for performance is under the default control of investors based upon an expectation of a high return on their investment, there tends to be little direct interest in the actual process of production. This is the process of domination by speculators and financialized capital. Domination of any flavor is not going to be very successful in the long run. Conformity as coordination by domination can also be enforced by mass production and by a domination of the processes defining the consumption of goods and services.

When domination is accomplished by stealth, deflection, and evasion it may be a bit more successful in the short run and it may preserve a particular regime until the advocates of change or fairness lose interest and trust. What people often mean by eliminating conflict is usually accomplished by excluding a diversity of perspective and of experience. This is usually accomplished on the pretense of “moving forward” while isolating individuals who resist this subversion as “problem employees,” “critics,” and “trouble makers.” Personalizing structural conflict is a major form of social violence in itself. Accomplishing serial exemptions to transparency and accountability through this sort of fog and distraction while enabling the draining of resources is no less a form of fraud.

The second way of dealing with conflict, is compromise. We are more familiar with this mode of “conflict resolution,” because it is the way we seem to most often “settle” our controversies. Each side gives up a little or accepts some form of of concession or bribery in order to have the pretense of peace, so that the problems which have been the source of the conflict may be ignored and continued. Some might describe this process as a form of “cooperation,” though it would be more accurately described as a form of collusion.

Domination by exclusion may reduce apparent conflict, but it will do little to address the real world problems of communities or of industry. We may want to abolish conflict, but we cannot get rid of diversity. We must accept life as it is and understand that diversity is one of its most essential features. Fear of difference is dread of life itself. It is useful to think of conflict as not necessarily a wasteful outbreak of incompatibilities, but a normal process by which socially valuable differences can register themselves for the enrichment of all concerned. If emphasis and effort are applied toward integration rather than conformity, more can be accomplished. Integration is the third approach to reducing conflict.

Psychiatrists tell their patients that psychiatry cannot help unless they are honest in wanting their conflicts to end. The personal and cultural excavation process which every book on social psychology has pressed onto us is of primary importance both for reducing the conflicts which individuals have within themselves and for those which they experience with others. This uncovering promotes an acceptance of differences that will then also contribute to the improvement of their relations within other associations. The investments in structural and personal violence for imagined private gain need to be dissolved. In business, the employer, in dealing either with their associates or employees, has to get underneath all the camouflage and unquestioned conformity to uncover the real issues and motives instead of the issues and motives put forward.

Every social process has three aspects: the interacting, the unifying, and the emerging. But our examination of interacting has shown us that interacting and unifying are the same. We now need to consider the emerging as a part of the same process. These three are not parts of a process in the sense of separate steps. There is one simultaneous process. Emergence as a word describes novelty wherever it appears in evolution. Philosophers and scientists agree that the emergent pattern, the complex emergent whole, is formed by the interacting, the relating, of the constituent factors. We see this also in the conduct of business on an everyday basis. In situation after situation we find that when we have a progressive and successful policy it has emerged by integration.

It is essential to use integrative business policies and processes to find the significant rather than the dramatic features of community and industrial controversy, or in a disagreement regarding policies of a board of directors, or between managers, This search is part of what seems to me to be the second step toward integration. If the first step is to uncover the real conflict, the next is to take the demands of both sides and break that conflict into its themes and details.
Integration as a process requires a high order of intelligence, keen perception and discrimination, and more than all else, an inventiveness. When disintegrative values are placed more highly than integration, the social context will cannibalize itself. It is easier for a union to resist than to suggest a better way of running the factory. It is easier for managers to blame unions and ”problem” employees, than to jointly produce a better process of production. This pattern is repeated in less overtly ideological ways as well. Another obstacle to integration is that we have been conditioned to enjoy domination though competition or some other form of elitism. Integration seems to be a less interesting and tamer affair, and provides no "thrills" of triumph or executive bonuses.

The pivot between integration and disintegration seems to be trust established though a conferral process with employees, which is only possible to sustain with transparency and accountability. One contrary example is the management of a large industrial concern that engaged a union local toward a team building process, the increased efficiencies were then used by management to cut union jobs. Another example is an independent union being persuaded to use its pension fund to buy controlling interest in its plant, which through the bribery of union representatives by this company, and the conflicts of interests and incompetence of the executive officers on the corporate board, caused the business to shrink massively. The functional needs of the situation in both cases was ignored in favor of personal interests.

  Another obstacle to integration is that the matters in dispute are often theorized and abstracted into triviality, instead of taking up the processes of production as an activity which can be modified and adjusted toward improvement. this is important both in community building and in business administration. Intellectual agreement alone does not alone bring full integration. Other obstacles to integration include conflicts of interest, the undue influence of political leadership, the manipulation by the unscrupulous on the one hand, and the sugges­tibility of the uninformed and self serving on the other. Finally, perhaps the greatest of all obstacles to integration is our lack of training toward integrative problem solving. To address this obstacle classes or discussions should be offered which aim to teach the "art" of co­operative thinking and problem solving.

  Few conventional employers are likely to come to joint conferences of employers and employees with the intention of conferring. The major obstacle here are the economic and financial conventions which are currently dominant. The financialization of industry alone will almost always determine the primary incentive for employers as managers is that their salaries, bonuses, and longevity will be based upon short term profits and the declared dividends for shareholders. This also establishes an environment which basically has encouraged control fraud on a massive scale. These attendees are thereby pre-disposed to press through plans previously developed, based on preconceived ideas of what employees are like, presented based upon argumentative fallacies, and primarily serving their own interests. When our outlook is narrowed, our capacity for adaptation will also be restricted. This sets up a Gresham dynamic by which aggressive interest in paper profits, will result in short term management goals which can demonstrate short term profits, no matter what the effect may be upon the business, the workplace or the local community.

The success of our decisions and processes should be measured by their outcomes and the demands or law of the situation. This is one definition of goal oriented behavior. When the goal is based upon short term profits however labor cost can be reduced and however costs can be externalized onto communities, we will end up with very narrow and anti-social results. We have then three steps. First we should take a conscious attitude, to realize the principles on which it is possible to act on in this matter. Second, we should take a responsible and responsive attitude, to decide which principles we will act on. Third, we should take an experimental attitude, to try experiments and watch compare those results with the desired goals. This should include a process of recording and pooling the results. It has been hard for many command and control employers or political leaders to understand that orders will not take the place of training and critical thinking.

How can we avoid the two extremes: on one hand too much centralization of authority, and then on the other hand practically no orders being given? One way of avoiding these extremes is to repersonalize the giving of orders, to unite all concerned in a study of the situation, to discover the law of the situation and work with those limitations. We, as persons, have relations with each other, but we should find them in and through the whole situation. We cannot have any sound relationships with each other as long as we take them out of the setting which gives them their meaning and value. This divorcing of persons and the situation does a great deal of harm. The deeper philosophy of scientific management shows us that personal relations and individual capcities are important within the whole setting of that thing of which they are a part. The deeper insight implies a re-personalization of production which does not interfere with the goals of the work community and contributes to a collective responsibility for production.

Coordination of Planning
On the employers' side there is often a corresponding mistake. Employers sometimes speak of dividing responsibility when they are actually avoiding responsibility. Many people will avoid a decision in order to avoid being held responsible for the consequences. People sometimes assume that when collective responsibility is emphasized, decentralization will be diminished. Collective responsibility and decentralized responsibility must go hand in hand; more than that, they are parts of the same process.

There are two fundamental problems for business management: first, to define the essential nature of the total situation; secondly, how to pass from one total situation into another. The first problem has been defined as being based upon more than the perspectives of management positions alone, but also upon a functional relating of all factors. We have not yet answered the second, but the mere fact of stating a problem is a long way toward its solution, and the process can be restated as the problem of control and planning.

Whatever our exact idea of a planning department, perhaps we can agree that functional management means that authority and responsibility go with specific functions and not with a certain position at the top of the organizational chart. There is hardly a staff person who provides merely the material on which some line manager bases their decision. The reverse process is also valid, that in the process of setting objectives for each unit of a planned transition, that the participation of each unit, level, and person need to be involved in the defining of the objectives and their means by which the organization might change from its situation of origin to its intended new position. By the integrative process management by objective is a part of the planning process.

  It is a matter of everyday knowledge to business people that their heads of departments pass to them much more than cold facts. They provide interpretations of facts, conclusions, and judgments, so that they also contribute strongly to major decisions, the feasibility of objectives, identification of the apparent laws of the general situation, formal final control and responsibility, even to what has been called "executive leadership." In fact, relative to both the information and the conclusions handed up from the workers and department managers, it is often not possible for the executive to eliminate all but their own observations. Many assumptions, conclusions and judgments are already woven into the patterns of the information provided, and often in such a way that it would be difficult to separate them within the final planning process. The board of directors may be theoretically the governing body, as our large businesses and non-profit organizations are now structured. However, before their decisions are made there has already taken place much of that process of which their formal decisions are but the last step.

Sometimes there is a difficulty with a process of working together which masks individual effort comes from the desire for recognition of individual contributions. Each executive or line employee wants their special contribution to receive appropriate recognition. The chief reason, for this problem is that co-ordination is a process which should have its beginnings very far back in the organization of the plant. The value of recognition by excutive management disappears, when promotions are weighted by peer review and by peer hirings. You have to have an organization which will permit an interweaving all along the line, from early within the process, reciprocally between functions, and on an ongoing basis. Strand should weave with strand, such that we will not have the clumsy task of trying to patch it all together as a finished web late in the production process.

Power With
Our cultural tendency toward loyalty to power‑over, as the default form of authority, can be reduced (I) through integration, (2) through recognizing that all should submit to what can be described as the law of the situation, and (3) through making each of our businesses and communities more and more of a functional unity. In a functional unity each person has their function, and it should correspond as exactly as possible with their capacity, and then they should have the authority and the responsibility which go with that function.

That one executive or a board often becomes the symbol of cumulative responsibility should not blind us to the truth of the process. It may be the chief executive, or one of the upper executives, to whom we will look to guide the business through unexpected difficulties in the absence of disaster plans or when quick responses are necessary. Even then this demand might be best satisfied by a conferral with those with relevant experience. But when it is not a question of coping with emergencies or bridging gaps in planning, or strengthening weaknesses in the organization, executive authority is overrated. It is in the application of the principles of pluralistic authority and of cumulative responsibility and in how the various responsibilities might be integrated which is the majority of work of business organization,

Another task of organization is to join managerial capacity of workers with the managerial capacities of executives. Functional authority with pluralistic responsibility, requires conferral as its method. Genuine conferral requires on the part of management very different qualities from those demanded by bargaining, with its concealments, its use of economic power, or its aim of compromise. It will be in the joint committees where executives and workers confer where they should meet to get from each other the special knowledge and experience each has. They meet to also to get to know each other's points of view, desires, aims.
The conferral method also demands from all participants the ability to explain. And I mean by this not merely or chiefly the ability to state a case, although that also is valuable, but even more than that. Each needs to develop the power to analyse a situation or problem. Of course, the person who does the analysing reaps as great an advantage as their co-participants. The conference method also demands from all the ability to make from these differences and contributions a unifying and constructive process. There are only two choices toward engaging the inventiveness of your workers. Let it gather force against you or for you. It seems more sensible to make use of it, and in the conference committees where you have that chance.

  Final responsibility is largely an illusion. You will not find the pot of gold at the foot of that rainbow. The best method of organization is not that which works out most meticulously or most logically the place for "finals" and "ultimates," but that which provides possibilities for a cumulative responsibility. This also provide for gathering together all the responsibility which there actually is in the business. This will provide for making the various individual and group responsibilities more effective by the working out of a system of cross‑relations. And as a business is organized to‑day, with its many experts, its planning department, its industrial psychologist, its economic adviser, and its trained managers, the illusion of final responsibility is disappearing.

We cannot obtain genuine authority or consent by a vote any more than you can "declare" peace. Presuming to declare peace is a fallacy, instead of opening the way for the process of peace as integration and for genuine conflict resolution. Peace is a process and an objective. In the same way, genuine consensus building is part of a slow process of the interweaving of many activities, and this is not the consent of the governed for the governance by an executive leadership.

"Checks and balances" and was once a fundamental part of our thinking. Within a coordinated process, the transparency of the organization as well as the pluralistic nature of authority makes checks and balances un-necessary or so much a part of the entire process that it disappears as a consideration. Control fraud is nearly impossible when standards of performance and the nature of control involves pluralisttic authority and collective responsibility.

The old idea of leadership was of an individual impressing their will upon others, and to conduct the processes of that community by a command and control process. The old style of leaership frequently involves the creation of a mystique of celebrity and personality, and thereby an implied subservience of others. This involves a high level patronage and support from special interests. The new idea of leadership is to persuade others to cooperate and to educate employees to work in this model with you. These are are two vastly different ideas about leadership which are as far apart as the poles. The best type of leader today does not want employees who are subservient or who yields a passive loyalty. Each employee will be encouraged to develop their own mastery and respect for the mastery of others. In applying this new type of cooperative leadership and by providing education, and training, employees will produce under this form of leadership greater worth, productivity, and adaptibility.

It the role of leadership within progressive management to promote education and training. They must understand and enlist others who understand the scientific methods which are now being applied to production, to marketing, to office management, to finance, and, perhaps more important than all, the scientific methods which psychology is giving us for the understanding and the shaping of human relationships. The second and third principles were interacting and integrating. The leader is more responsible than anyone else for that integrative unity which is the aim of organization. As our business undertakings are not only becoming more vast in size but also more complex in character, the success of these undertakings depends on their parts being so skillfully related one to another that they function effectively as a whole. The leader should be leader of a coherent group, of employees who are finding their material welfare, their most effective expression, their spiritual satisfaction, through their relations to one another, and through the functioning of the group to which they belong.

The best leadership is from those who aid the integration the experience of all and to apply it for a common purpose. This leadership does not act to establish an organizational machinery of followers and partisans. A leader within a cooperative paradigm releases energy, unites energies, and all with the object not only of carrying out a purpose, but of creating further and larger purposes.

One of the basic paradoxes of our current culture has been our apparent inability to change. This is a character that has been cultivated since the earliest settlements. For a long time this tendency was balanced by an equal interest in escaping various oppressive authorities toward a voluntaristic context. The current economic collapse is not just a dip on the graphs, but a disintegration of a particular economic paradigm. It has been long observed that we seem to generally oscillate between two different forms of corporatism, one main stream and on alternative, both using the same sort of organizational structures. A key step in promotig cultural change will be to teach more cooperative models for economic behavior. There are known oases of cooperation, but the dominant pattern rules most everywhere else. In this present time it is more important than ever during the disintegration of the financialization of capital focused economics that we work to teach the patterns and skills of cooperation. Progressive management as articulated by Mary Parker Follett and those who have honored her perspective needs to be more widely understood. Having these skills and direct experience will aid us in transforming the basic nature of our economic paradigm.


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