"... in fact, Machiavelli, however marginal his relevance to academic historians, is bursting with urgent advice and acute observation for top management of the great private and public corporations all over the world." Sir Antony Jay
Epilogue to a Review:
I was given this book in 1973 by my director who was trained to become one of the top engineering and project planners of Shell Oil. One of the great modern de/centralization dilemmas was faced by Shell Oil, paying McKinsey's half a million dollars to figure out which is best, a departmental or task force (Project) organization. I enjoyed reading the book, which transformed common sense into management wisdom. Later, I proposed the book to my son who works in the new field of reverse engineering, who read it passing it on to his director. Last Christmas, when we visited with my ex Shell director and World bank expert, my son got him the DVD of Jay's Yes Minister.
The Prince by Machiavelli:
In 1513 Machiavelli wrote The Prince in an attempt to gain favor with the Midici ruler of Florence city state. In his book, written as a satire, Machiavelli described the way that a good prince or leader should act . He suggested two basic approaches as a basis for leadership and administration. The views expounded by Machiavelli in The Prince may seem extreme, he emphasizes the need for stability in management of principality. The book was written primarily as a guide for the prince to maintain his power and guide for maintaining the principality. The theories expressed in The Prince describe methods that an aspiring prince can use to acquire the throne, or an existing prince can use to maintain his reign, with pragmatic methods that could very well be applied in commerce and industry. The opening discourse of The Prince defines effective methods of governing in several types of principalities. Machiavelli explains to the reader, assumed to be a member of the Florentine Medici family, the best ways to acquire, maintain, and protect a state. The methods described therein have the general theme of acquiring necessary ends by any means.
Jay On Management:
Throughout history, management style was often autocratic and paternalistic. Serfs, soldiers, workers who were "supervised" were all expected to do as they were told. Some of them were fortunate to labor under benevolent autocracy. The autocratic owner or manager was generous, similar to a stern but loving father, as long as people stayed in line. Such a style represented a tempering of Machiavellian concepts with' love'.
"You can judge a leader by the size of the problem he tackles. Other people can cope with the waves, it's his job to watch the tide." Referring the matter to a committee' can be a device for diluting authority, diffusing responsibility and delaying decisions."
Management and Machiavelli:
Management and Machiavelli published in 1968, appeared shortly on the London's best-seller list, American Management Association award winning bestseller, published in twelve languages. The author, Antony Jay, took many of Machiavelli's ideas and creatively applied them to promote management success in large corporations. The book provides some insight into the management of power and political organizations. Knowledge of this type is important to managers, especially in their own career advancement, comments the author. Since it was commented that this book teach you what you missed in Harvard Business School, some universities have offered a course on Machiavellian management. A course of this type focuses on learning how to use Machiavellian tactics in order to advance one's career.
Samplers, I still enjoy:
Jay advocated change as concern of management (pp. 92-93) thirty years ahead of senator Barak Obama, and he preaches setting up Cellular structure, two decades ahead of lean manufacturing.
He describes the British Government, "The British civil service is well known to be Turkish in outlook, rotating managers at a hectic speed. The Foreign Office is particularly religious in observance, making sure that none of its embassy staff stay for more than a few years in one place. This according to Machiavelli, ensures that the goodwill and hopes of benefit of the foreign governments are directed toward the central government in London,..." He compares US government with medieval or Renaissance papacy, when relating industry to government in the modern world. His knowledge of American management systems is amazing and gave him to foresee the US Air Force complicated Contracting to General Dynamics rather than Boeing.
Some of the examples Antony Jay gave in his book never abandoned my memory, and I used to recall and apply throughout my career in engineering and project management. A funny tale he wrote, about management organization audits what he wrote about the royal Artillery residual who used to hold the horses, even after its mechanization. But may I also quote; Coeur de Lion: " Richard Coeur de Lion was one of those managers who was first rate at his own job but never grew up into the wider responsibilities of managing the whole business" pp.154
Jay's Machiavellian Management:
It is a hard task to preach a Machiavellian approach to running organizations in today's global economy, team-based management. Many may not know that Machiavelli was motivated in his philosophy by the same goals as Confucius - both had a deep underlying concern for the good of the people through stability in government. And their ideas have applications in modern organizations even more than 500 years later. But few management experts, would argue the merit in the timeless means and strategies provided by Machiavelli, who started his public career in 1494 as a clerk climbing up to Florence's secretary, four years later. Even unabashed admirer of outdated Machiavelli's principles are example of the manipulative and paternalistic style of management. It is wrong to assume - as Machiavelli had done - that it's a jungle of greed and treachery out there in the world of business. But the fact is, however devious his principles may sound to the moral brigade, a careful reading of his ideas in his memorable work The Prince shows he was essentially trying to develop the concept of an ideal prince who would make use of many of the techniques of the enlightened rulers during his time to forge a humane and stable government. Your management style cannot be strait jacketed and has to change as the situation demands. Even the worst of Machiavelli's critics should find nothing wrong with these arguments. After all, expediency is the name of the game in effective management.
Recent Machiavellian Ring:
Listen to the Machiavellian ring in GE's Jack Welch, a modern-day Machiavellian own words: "Managements that hang on to weakness for whatever reason - tradition, sentiment, goodness or their own weakness - won't be around in 1990". That explains Welch's vow to fix, close or sell any business that could not achieve market leadership. That meant layoffs - big ones - and by the end of 1982, GE squeezed out 35,000 employees, almost 10 per cent of their 1980 total workforce. But while adopting this seemingly "cruel" style of management advocated by Machiavelli, Welch didn't forget the thinker's advocacy of a "human" face. GE made known that victims of layoffs deserved compassionate treatment - not only generous financial settlements, but humane consideration of their feelings. CEO Welsh personally answered letters of complaint from laid-off employees, and directly intervened in cases of injustice that came to his attention. Executives who mismanaged the downsizing felt his wrath. The two Machiavellians were only exercising a dictum that has now become an all-too-familiar Labor trimming with a human face.
A Fine review:
"I was impressed by management and Machiavelli when I first read it. But the passing years have swerved to convince me even further of its extraordinary wisdom." John Cleese (Producer of: The Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.)
Sir Antony Jay:
Jay joined the BBC Television in May 1955, became a founding member of the BBC Tonight team in 1957, then Editor in 1962 and Head of Television Talk Features in 1963. In 1964 he resigned to become a freelance writer and producer. He was a member of the Committee on the future of broadcasting from 1974 to 1977. He is, with Jonathan Lynn, author of the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister series.
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