Is Your Organisation More Modern or Postmodern?

Modern organisations tend to be economically driven. Workers are a cost to the business and individually responsible for maximising short term profit goals. Standardised methods are used to achieve these goals. This reflects some of the neoliberal approach. Postmodern organisations still strive to be profitable but see diversity as an asset. Workers are an investment and success is achieved through, creativity and cooperation.

Why does this matter?

I believe that people create successful organisations. When conditions are created for people to be valued, productive and involved, organisations stand more chance of thriving and succeeding.

In recent times there have been more and more claims by politicians, current and retired, that modern regimes based on neo-liberalism and capitalism have failed. This year, New Zealand politicians including Jacinda Ardern (20 October 2017), Winston Peters (15 July 2017; October 2017) and former Prime Minister Jim Bolger (21 April 2017) have commented on the failure of these political regimes. This failure is evidenced in the growing gap between rich and poor, impacts on access to health and social services and appalling mental health and suicide statistics. The call for a more humanistic and collaborative emphasis has been made.

What Can You Do?

One way to address this failure is to understand the features of neo-liberalism, use this knowledge to identify areas to review and change, and develop strategies to turn the tide towards more people centred and relational approaches to organisations.

Table 1, below, contrasts key features of neo-liberalism with a relational approach. The features of neo-liberalism, in the left column, are drawn from literature addressing neo-liberal tertiary education and adapted for organisational contexts.

The continuum in the middle column provides the spectrum to assess personal or organisational perspectives in relation to each feature? The numbered values do not compare the approaches in a hierarchal way. A lower score simply indicates a closer association with neoliberal approaches and a higher score is indicative of a closer association with relational approaches.

Whatever your role in your organisation you can use the Table as a survey to consider the features that shape your organisational culture. Consider the fit with your organisation’s vision and values, philosophy and policies, and current practice. It may be a useful exercise to discuss this in groups if the conditions are such that people are positioned well to share their perspectives safely. Does the outcome indicate a more modern neoliberal position or a more postmodern relational position? Is this satisfactory for you personally or for your organisation? Are there areas for refinement and change? Are there similar or different perspectives being expressed? How is this meaningful and what possibilities for refinement and change are evident?

It is important to note that these features are not presented as complete or definitive lists with discrete clearly defined lines of difference. They are not presented to pit one against the other. The intention is to provide some distinctions to assist organisations and staff to consider their positioning across a range of areas of practice and evaluate this. They are intended to spark discussion and reflection. There are multiple possible places to stand and multiple perspectives and these can be dynamic and context dependent.

Adventurous Conversations Ltd work with organisations to develop values driven, people centred, relational and collaborative culture and relationships. Call, email, or book a no obligation 30-minute introductory consultation if you want to turn the tide towards more relational organisational culture and approaches.

 

Table 1: Features of neo-liberal and relational organisations

The Neoliberal (Modern) Organisation

—-Spectrum—-

The Relational (Postmodern) Organisation

Survival is economic

1    2   3    4    5

Survival is moral
There is no other way

1    2   3    4    5

There are other ways
Care for self is difficult

1    2   3    4    5

Care for self is necessary
More for less ideology

1    2   3    4    5

More makes more ideology
Cost of care is individual responsibility

1    2   3    4    5

Cost of care is collective responsibility
Individual responsibility

1    2   3    4    5

Collective responsibility
External and self-surveillance monitoring is encouraged

1    2   3    4    5

Collective reflexivity and commitment to best practice is encouraged
Competitive

1    2   3    4    5

Collaborative
Trust is undermined

1    2   3    4    5

Trust is valued
Debate is discouraged

1    2   3    4    5

Debate is encouraged
Truth telling discouraged

1    2   3    4    5

Truth telling encouraged
Problem focused

1    2   3    4    5

Solution focused
Reward, discipline, punish

1    2   3    4    5

Involve, encourage and appreciate
Critique and creativity foreclosed

1    2   3    4    5

Critique and creativity encouraged
Divisiveness, homogeneity, disconnection

1    2   3    4    5

Collective, relational, connection
Illusion of autonomy

1    2   3    4    5

Encouragement of autonomy
Questions are discouraged

1    2   3    4    5

Questions are encouraged
Exacerbates fear of difference

1    2   3    4    5

Celebrates difference
Rewards rampant, consumerist competitive individualism

1    2   3    4    5

Rewards collective, relational, collaborative humanism
Standardised performance measures and profiling

1    2   3    4    5

Team determined and created performance measures and diversity of team members
Mandated monitoring and auditing

1    2   3    4    5

Self-monitoring and auditing
Individualism cut loose from the social

1    2   3    4    5

Social consciousness and responsibility
Moralistic audit-driven surveillance

1    2   3    4    5

Morality based best practice
Mindless criticism regarding rules and regulations with individual vulnerability and group conformity

1    2   3    4    5

Critique regarding best practice with individual robustness and group collaboration and shared decision making
Managerialism

1    2   3    4    5

Leadership
Economics driven

1    2   3    4    5

People driven

Neoliberal characteristics drawn from the sources that critique neoliberal practice in tertiary academic contexts (see references).

Table developed by Wendy Talbot PhD, October 2017.

Links

Employee Assistance Programmes   https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/capitalism-is-a-blatant-failure-ardern/ar-AAtMp1j?li=AAaeXZz&ocid=spartanntp

Relationship Counsellor  http://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/the-9th-floor/story/201840999/the-negotiator-jim-bolger

Relationship Counselling  https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/94770147/winston-peters-dismisses-irresponsible-capitalism-of-other-parties-with-new-economic-policy

Couples Counselling   https://livenews.co.nz/2017/10/20/goodbye-maggie-baggage-rip-neo-liberalism-in-nz-1984-2017/

References

Davies, B. (2005). The (im)possibility of intellectual work in neoliberal regimes. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 26(1), 1- 14.      doi:10.1080/01596300500039310
Davies, B., & Bansel, P. (2010). Governmentality and academic work: Shaping the hearts and minds of academic workers. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 26(3), 5-20.
Davies, B., Gottsche, M., & Bansel, P. (2006). The rise and fall of the neo-liberal university. European Journal of Education, 41(2), 305-319.

Click link to download a PDF of this  Blog entry 21 October 2017 Contrasting neoliberal and relational approaches

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