Please note: Most Managerism articles are currently available in German only. The articles available in English are underlined.
How managers lost their business ethics and how family firms with moral principles turned into profit-maximizing shareholder-value corporations. The tale of the original business purpose of Cadbury, one of the world's iconic chocolate brands and of Hershey, another chocolate maker with a long tradition of business ethics. More
In our series on Ethical Business Leadership we introduce Hans Lindner, the founder and "boss" of the Lindner Group. "Success consists of skills, hard work and good luck" – this is a life motto of Hans Lindner. A pupil at the school of the Benedictine Abbey in Metten, he dropped out of school early. Lindner was more interested in business ideas than in learning Latin grammar.
His success proved him right: today his home town of Arnstorf, Bavaria, Germany is also the home of the Lindner Group, a family-owned building products and construction management firm – a leading global supplier of Interior Fit-Outs, Building Envelopes and Insulation Technology. Lindner Group has manufacturing plants and subsidiaries in over 20 countries, around 7,500 employees, and the charitable Hans Lindner Foundation.
In 2005, after 16 years as a listed corporation, the family de-listed the Lindner Group, paid off minority stockholders, and the firm was again a family-owned enterprise. In 2020, the business newspaper Handelsblatt named the Lindner Group a "Pioneer of Business Enterprise" and together with KPMG elected the firm to the "Hall of Fame of Family Enterprises".
Related Managerism Lessons: Other entrepreneurs in this Ethical Business Leadership series are Reinhard Mohn, Reinhold Würth, Alexander Brochier, Wolfgang Grupp, Helmut Maucher, Claus Hipp, Frank Stronach, Robert Bosch and Werner v. Siemens.
Following Relecture 6 which featured Karl Polanyi, this Lesson looks at the works of his brother, Michael Polanyi, a polymath who made important contributions to the theory of physical chemistry. Later on he turned to the social sciences, in particular economics, and finally as a philosopher Michael Polanyi developed an integrative theory of knowledge – an alternative to mainstream theories. Discover this original thinker. More
The Great Transformation (1944) by Karl Polanyi is a classic work of political economy, economic history and sociology. Studying 19th century England and the social and political upheavals caused by industrialization, capitalism and the creation of the market economy, he argued that a rift between economy and community causes societies to collapse. An economy must be "embedded" in society, or it will eventually destroy that society. The self-regulating market society is a utopian myth. After the failure in the West of 'neo-liberal' economics, his analysis and insights are surprisingly relevant and valid for the 21st century.
"In order to run a large company properly, it is essential to pay attention to this issue."
This is a reference to vanity. Certain untoward incidents in Bertelsmann (now one of the world's biggest media conglomerates) prompted Reinhard Mohn, the "patron" of Bertelsmann, to write a brochure about this phenomenon. His observations and insights on CEO vanity, widespread among corporate executives (Branson, Bezos, Musk) are worth remembering on the 100th anniversary of Reinhard Mohn's birth.
Principles – Practice – Achievements: "Arrogance can be deadly for a business enterprise", said Reinhold Würth, reflecting on the future of his life's work. Read how he turned a small firm selling industrial screws into the Würth Group – a global champion for industrial assembly materials and fasteners. How he succeeded and what business lessons can be learned. More
Many business corporations have already adopted the work methods of New Work und Agile Working. These are positively associated with meaningful work as well as operational flexibility and dynamism. But the efficacy of these work methods can be prevented by serious management deficiencies. Earlier attempts to humanize the workplace have already provided negative practical lessons which executive managers could have learned. More
Entrepreneurs are not always born or made. However, whoever becomes an entrepreneur will retain the entrepreneurial spirit a lifetime, and beyond the boundaries of their own business enterprise. Alexander Brochier is the living proof. For Brochier, to share success is to multiply success. His engagement in so many fields bears witness to that dictum. This piece by Ralf Angstmann verifies the valuable contribution to society of family businesses.
A review of his seven years as the CEO of Siemens. During this time Kaeser was probably the most prominent corporate CEO in Germany. But what is the truth about Joe Kaeser? This essay characterizes the dazzling former CEO of Siemens and Chair of the Supervisory Board of Siemens Energy.
It is undisputable that large publicly traded corporations have become more managerist over the past 30 years. This lesson contains a checklist so you can estimate the level of managerism in a company. Use the test to better understand the managerial quality and performance of the company you work for or plan to invest in.
Wolfgang Grupp is an entrepreneur with heart and soul and the best-known head of a family-run business in Germany. He stands for decency and responsibility. Making a fast profit, externalizing costs to others and denying accountability and liability are all shunned by Grupp. This is why he believes many executives of major corporations have the wrong attitude. What he criticizes as wrong and what he considers right are described in this lesson.
Helmut Maucher, the recently deceased honorary chairman of Nestlé, personified the executive roles of business leader and executive manager. This essay describes how Helmut Maucher successfully practiced both morally and socially responsible business leadership at Nestlé, the world's largest food & beverage corporation.
The series of entrepreneur profiles continues with Claus Hipp, longstanding head of HiPP, the market leader in organic babyfood. Learn how Claus Hipp's personal values — perseverance, modesty and versatility — have contributed to the entrepreneurial success of HiPP. Read more
The first in a series of entrepreneur profiles looks at Frank Stronach, the Austrian and Canadian self-made man, founder and former chairman of Magna International. In addition to other international engagements, Stronach owns the largest horse racing and breeding operation in North America, is an ecological farmer and, for a while, was the leader of a political party. He sees the Pegasus, which defeated the chimera, as a symbol of his own philosophy of life. Stronach firmly believes that good will prevail.
Read in his own words the ethical spirit of Robert Bosch. Learn how his ideas live on in the private worldwide company he founded, wholly-owned by the Robert Bosch trust, and his contribution to the common good. More
Women quotas on supervisory boards are controversial, but they are spreading fast. Now gender balancing is also being proposed for management boards. There are many causes of gender gaps and each deserves a remedy. However, the women quota is the wrong solution. It is a bad idea — bad for women, and bad for business. More
What has Corona to do with Managerism? Crises expose those executive managers who act irresponsibly and seek only their own immediate advantage, and those who act prudently, responsibly and consider the public good. This essay presents case studies and also urges resilient corporate management.
That language often betrays a hidden purpose is a timeless fact. This essay reveals the key ingredient necessary for a successful transformation.
This essay aims to provide clarity and orientation about automation. Automation is often considered one-sided instead of integrated — by wrongly excluding the human factor. Dr. Bodo Eidenmüller has co-designed the process of automation at Siemens, has transferred pioneering practical experience of automation from Japan, and is a committed observer of all things relating to Industry 4.0. He is convinced that automation can only be introduced expediently by integrating the workforce using proven methods based upon practical experience.
Worldwide companies should not be citizens of nowhere. They must protect the unity and identity of the company, out of pure self-interest. This is a lasting mandate for executive managers and supervisory boards: to be not only a servant of capital markets, and their short-term interests, but to be a good steward of the company. More
Everyone is talking about respect for employees. But how about losing some of the widespread disrespect for employees? This essay presents practical findings from several major corporations and some important lessons to be learned.
Digitalization makes most things easier, faster and cheaper. And things become more global, more anonymous, but there is also more crime.
The advantages must be balanced against the disadvantages, including the hidden cost of distrust which digitalization creates. This Lesson considers the interests and aims that must be reconciled, the questionable practices of some big corporations, and what can be done to rebuild trust in digitalization.
Industrial logistics depends upon the optimization of supply chains. Fast parcel delivery is a top priority for online retail. Are logistics managers offloading their wider responsibilities onto low-cost providers, public infrastructure, and society? Here a logistics expert takes an in-depth look at the assumptions, problems and proposed solutions.
Is there a law that says bad work drives out good? No, and yet digitalization reduces and simplifies traditional work until, ultimately, it can be automated. Many employees face the prospect of becoming mere 'human sensors' and semi-skilled operatives in an automated process. The working lives of people in manufacturing and service industries will be marked by deskilling, estrangement and isolation, unless corrective measures are taken. This essay considers the dangers of digital Taylorization and denounces the drive for total efficiency. More
The 50th Lesson of the Managerism series is dedicated to Werner von Siemens:
a great entrepreneur of the industrial revolution in Germany. This essay makes the case for studying some of the great entrepreneurs of the past: men like Robert Bosch, Reinhard Mohn and Berthold Leibinger, to name a few outstanding German business entrepreneurs. That is a good way to discover the true essence of business leadership and bypass the fashion trends of management teaching and consulting. More
Digitization directly impacts business leaders by transforming how they manage employees. Managers must adapt, by choice or by force, to a new workshop culture and say goodbye to multiple layered, tightly controlled organizations. However, that does not mean trying to copy Silicon Valley. This essay explains what has to change and also describes some organizational innovations at major companies in Germany. More
Years ago the British charity Christian Aid said that the novel CSR programs of many global corporations were a great sham, a big bluff. Management executives were letting themselves be fooled. Since then a huge CSR industry has grown up, to replace the ethos of the honorable businessman. In the meantime CSR consultants have profitably positioned CSR as the systemic ethical consulting for commercial businesses — and for non-profit organizations too. This essay describes the chronic malady this causes and what must be done to cure it. More
It is often said that every technology has its good and its bad sides. The fusion of digitalization and internet over the past twenty years has given rise to a technology complex whose consequences we must seriously question. Corporate power over both individuals and the market economy has become a digital levithian whose danger is gravely underestimated.
Philosophical, Ethical and Practical Ideas for Management: Karl Popper was probably the most wide-ranging philosopher of the past century. Ever since his youth he addressed social and political questions. In his famous book The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) and subsequent works he analysed the nature of democracy and its aberrations. Austrian-born Sir Karl Popper — unlike his German contemporaries — advocated simplicity and clarity. He made it his duty to speak and write as clearly as possible. The code of professional ethics that he formulated for responsibles in politics, society and administration, and thus indirectly also for managers, is of timeless validity. More
Today more than ever, hyperbole is used to exaggerate topics. Industry 4.0 is an example, with interested parties 'painting the devil on the wall'. The subject matter is often treated superficially, while practical experience and real-world objections are ignored. This essay aims to put digital transformation in the proper context.
For some time now there has been much talk about the inexorable advance of digitization, all-pervading algorithmism and modeling. So where does that leave experience, practical experience? Why it must not be neglected is explained in this thoughtful essay. More
Corporate obesity is a real disease. It affects mega-companies who have grown too big and are no longer efficient or innovative. They choose a strategy of growth to reap the supposed benefits of scale and synergies. But without proper entrepreneurship, big is not better it is "badder". More
Until recently, GE was the star of progressive corporate leadership and was much admired, especially by the capital markets. Now things have fundamentally altered. So new conclusions must be drawn about corporate leadership, also in Europe, and especially by GE’s rival Siemens. More
It is now widely known that IT with digitization and networking is thoroughly changing the world.
What this will mean for research and development (R&D) and ultimately for innovation is comprehensively and controversially described here.
It is well known by now that digitization is penetrating all aspects of life. But how it will affect work is not so apparent to many. This Lesson describes what is likely to happen, and the probable impact it will have upon work.
Schumpeter is renowned as the economist who invented the expression "creative destruction". Schumpeter ranks, together with Keynes, as the outstanding economist of the 20th century. But what do we really know about this multi-faceted economist: of his disjointed life or comprehensive analyses of entrepreneurship and the dynamics of the market economy? More
Prof. Karl Heinz Beckurts (murdered by the German terror group RAF), a former Siemens Managing Board member with responsibility for technology, was a far-sighted promoter of innovation. Thirty years ago, he identified Germany’s strengths and weaknesses in the field of innovation and formulated a forward-looking strategy. Surprisingly his conclusions are still valid today.
It is well known by now that digitization is penetrating all aspects of life. But how it will affect work is not so apparent to many. This Lesson describes what is likely to happen, and the probable impact it will have upon work.
The media and politics have their favorite themes and their blind spots. The former include retirement pensions, gender politics and taxation, while the latter includes innovation. The explanation — or rather excuses — are well known. But when the future is at stake, there is no excuse for excuses.
Behaving honorably means you will have a cross to bear. So be smart and call it a Corporate Social Responsibility program — problem solved. Some chambers of commerce include ethical behavior in their codes of conduct, which is well meant, but hardly heard of, and hardly practiced. Honorable merchants — who and what are they?
A great innovative challenge for the automotive industry has long been looming. It has become an existential challenge (see other Lessons and Thinkpieces on innovation). Who will set this essential new standard for electric vehicles? Innovation does not just happen, somebody has to do it.
The term "hidden champion" is a title of distinction. There are many hidden champions in Germany, more than any other country — many are small or mid-sized enterprises (Mittelstand) often located well away from major cities. Another hidden champion, a really huge one, Koch Industries, is headquartered on the Great Plains in Kansas, USA. Charles G. Koch, son of the founder, and present CEO, developed a theory of human action based on ideas from the Austrian School of Economics: Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich A. von Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter. This Lesson offers a unique insight into Koch's thinking and beyond. More
Complaints are growing about shortages of skilled workers, especially 'professional' engineers. The obvious question for industry is ― how did we get in this mess? Who, as working lives get longer, is ignoring the practical wisdom of older, experienced employees, and why? Here are some approaches to the problem.
Little has improved in the banking sector since the financial crisis of 2007/2008; in fact, some things have gotten worse ― in particular credit for small and mid-size enterprises. This Lesson gives insights into practices which seriously damage the Mittelstand.
At long last, governments and business associations must insist on responsible behavior from the banks too: from the major banks right down to local savings banks.
What kind of a man was it who, after surviving the horrors of Nazi death camps, was able to advocate conciliation? What teachings of this great psychotherapist are still relevant for our day and age which he predicted so well? What lessons can we learn from Frankl about leading our lives and companies? More
The practical philosophy of the IG Metall trade union does not really interest the media, is mostly ignored by politicians, and is hard for employees to understand. Using Siemens as a case study this essay offers insights and proposals for reforming industrial democracy (co-determination) in German companies.
After the announcement that Joe Kaeser would replace Peter Löscher as CEO of Siemens, the business media combined surprise with even more speculation. Despite the numerous reports and comments, there was little analysis of the consequences for Siemens. This Lesson provides the missing link― and suggests a positive and optimistic future for Siemens. More
For a long time these men represented the non plus ultra of corporate leadership and business strategy. So what is left after the hype? Do their teachings still pass a reality check? This lesson gives the answer ― from a professional. Also, why management gurus are bad for your health. More
An observer of German banking, and its history as far back as the Fuggers, Günter Ogger reviews Commerzbank, the semi-nationalized, second largest bank in Germany. Ten years ago, Commerzbank and Dresdner Bank were fourth and third by balance sheet size, jointly bigger than Deutsche Bank; but today after merging Commerzbank is only one-third the size of Deutsche Bank. But Commerzbank's relative size is not the real problem.
Forty years after the publication of his best seller we recall the insights on human development of this legendary scientist. The 'Father of the Grey Geese' was not only a universal scientist of animal behavior, he was also a keen observer of humanity and societies. Here we reconsider Konrad Lorenz's perspectives, especially on economics and politics. More
Over the past months much has been written about Siemens. Criticisms have been levelled mainly at technical mishaps, weak growth, inadequate cost cutting, expensive acquisitions, the spinoff of Osram, and the disposal of individual operating divisions. This essay investigates these negative aspects and asks fundamental questions about managing such a large and complex company. Necessary changes are mapped out, which concern the credibility of the corporate leadership and the motivation of the workforce: all in the best interests of a company still held in high esteem.
Auditing and certification, mainly of companies, is a booming business. It all began in Britain with BS 5750, which was the first standard for Quality Management Systems: it was the forerunner of the ISO 9000 series of standards. The fees levied by standardization and certification agencies was followed by globally operating and highly profitable consulting and certification groups. Well over a million certificates have been awarded worldwide for ISO 9001 alone: around 50,000 of these in Germany. The runaway train of certification is now unstoppable. What certification is based upon, its consequences, and where it can lead is elaborated in this Lesson. More
General Electric (GE) is held up to German industry as a model of good business management. Is this conglomerate really always a step ahead? Where are the (many) down sides? This essay also looks at journalistic honesty: GE is one example, McKinsey another, of too cosy relationships.
Dr. Sandra Siebenhüter, an expert on the world of work, considers dubious trends affecting our working lives. The economization of personal relationships and mutuality is a warning sign for society. More
The 'common-sense' view is that growing complexity can only be properly handled by experts. Klaus Demleitner, an engineer with experience in many fields, and a student of Ludwig Bölkow, speaks out against early specialization and instead recommends monitored solution-oriented processes and more systems thinking.
Following its merger this traditional industrial conglomerate on the Rhine aimed to deliver a masterpiece with a highly efficient steel mill in Brazil. The result was an accumulation of enormous cost overruns and incredible delays. Günter Ogger identifies the causes and the complications this has caused.
Capital markets are not only divorced from goods markets to an unprecedented degree, they are also conquering them. There is indisputable evidence for this: one sure sign is the language used by corporate managers. In this Lesson the synthetic language of Managerists, who speak to please the capital markets, is demonstrated and cures are suggested.
It happened incredibly fast: on 30 June 2011 the German Deutsche Bundestag passed a 13th Amendment to the Atomic Energy Act (AIG) just three months after the serious accident at Fukushima. Was it a cool-headed decision? Which costs and risks are involved? Armin Sorg considers the pros and cons based on the facts. He reaches some challenging conclusions.
Many people think the financial crisis, Fukushima and the many Wutbürger (angry citizens) movements spreading all over the world are symptoms of a deep systemic problem. Protestors who also reject the too-big-to-fail argument follow in the footsteps of Leopold Kohr (born 1909 near Salzburg − died 1994 in Gloucester, England) Austrian philosopher, professor of economics, and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1983. Kohr was founder of the small-is-beautiful movement and his views on life and society are remarkably well-suited for the 21st Century. More
There is an abundance of leadership seminars, an excess of tools for every area of management — and still poor management persists. Are we trying to cure symptoms rather than causes, guilty of pseudo-professionalism, and token responses? Prof. Dr. Siegfried Augustin looks for answers and practical solutions.
It is widely felt that the world of work is being transformed. The consequences of extreme cost flexibility in many sectors are parallel workforces — employees divided into a permanent and a reserve workforce — with a serious loss of security, a clear negative impact on individuals and workplace climate, willingness to build a family, and on society as a whole. Dr. Sandra Siebenhüter describes how Managerist employment policies seem smart over the short-term, but have damaging long-term effects.
That their language is out of the ordinary is no longer noticed by many. What is Managerist-speak, how is it used, and how fairly simple it is to expose its practitioners, are explained.
It seems appropriate that companies who, for the purpose of self-promotion, employ ethically loaded terminology such as High Performance, Eco, Passion, Sustainability etc. should be treated with a degree of skepticism. One glaring example is the American 'benchmark' corporation General Electric (GE) which, in the eyes of public opinion leaders, epitomizes environmental protection and sustainability, but — a generally little-known fact — is responsible for one of the biggest-ever environmental scandals in America. This is another disturbing example of a discrepancy between management claims and reality. This is Managerism in its purest form. Read about this split corporate personality.
Many supporters of Siemens are seriously concerned that it is losing its heart and soul: its identity. In this Lesson these concerns are given substance and a new direction suggested. Support our aims by sharing this paper across the company.
The excessive bonuses of top managers have evoked incomprehension, outrage and protest. Such behavior is considered to be pure avarice. Why do they need even more money? The answer is not logical but instead psychological. Read Cui Boni?
Is the first woman on the Siemens Managing Board a representative of mercenary Managerism? This essay points out aspects not found in media reports and the public relations effort of this talented self-promoter. She ranks as one of the most powerful women in the global economy; the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper lists her in the top 20 ("Even Siemens, a Germany company steeped in tradition, now has a woman on its board").
The revival of this Manageristic doctrine is a retrograde step. Agility and competitiveness will suffer. More
No matter how up-to-date and modern these multitaskers promote themselves, in terms of self-awareness they are children of a bygone age.
Extending understanding or even sympathy to the vain must end when, to satisfy their vanity, they abuse their profession or exploit their position. This is increasingly the case, to a startling degree, among today's top managers.
Complaints that business managers are arrogant and authoritarian, have mechanistic thought-patterns, and only cost-benefit arguments, are widespread. Business leaders of this type are true Managerists. But how do they become Managerists? Their socialization often begins early on during business management studies at college and university.
Some strange things hardly get noticed. For example, how does a "Mr. Managerist" suddenly become a "Dr. Managerist"? Have they taken unpaid vacation, studied hard, and been secretly awarded a doctorate? Are they doing their fulltime day job, but at night studying books and researching in labs? This Lesson shows you how it's done: how Managerists desperate for academic titles use dishonorable methods to become a Doctor or Professor with honors.
Why do skilled managers — grown men with years of experience — pay inexperienced young graduates to solve their business problems? More
Business 'fashionistas', the followers of consulting trends, diversify today and specialize tomorrow. Each standardized concept sweeps like a tsunami through entire sectors, while the recommendations of consultants change every 5 to 10 years. More
Do senior corporate decision-makers who hire mercenary Managerists as 'turn-around champions' know what they are doing, and what this will do to the company over the long term? More
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