Corporate Whackiness #2

Say hello to Dr Paul Tosey, he is the head of PhD programmes for the University of Surrey’s Business School. “In the early 1990s Paul joined the Human Potential Research Group at Surrey and led the development of the MSc in Change Agent Skills and Strategies, an innovative, advanced programme for consultants and facilitators which has been described as the ‘gold standard’ in the field.” One recent graduate from this mystically inclined MSc being Matthew Gregory, whose worrying background I introduced yesterday.

Like many management consultants, Dr Tosey is something of an esoteric adept, and recently coauthored a book titled Neuro-Linguistic Programming: A Critical Appreciation for Managers and Developers (2009), which attempts (unsuccessfully) to cast a degree of academic respectability over the nonsense that is neuro-linguistic programming. Complementing such exotic managerial interests Dr Tosey is greatly appreciative of the work of New Age management guru Peter Senge, who like Dr Tosey, is keen is to rehabilitate capitalism in a more nourishing, and, dare I say loving incarnation.

Peter Senge is the author of the business-world classic The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990), which outlines the ways in which corporations (i.e., that unique form of organization that is legally bound to put profit before all else) can evolve to become more akin to tender encompassing communities that employees will desire to bond with… all of which aims to increase corporate productivity of course. One illustration of Mr Senge’s mystical proclivities is apparent as a result of the advisory services he renders to the Garrison Institute — an organization which is home to all manner of eco-capitalists which “applies the transformative power of contemplation to today’s pressing social and environmental concerns…” Another comes through Mr Senge being counted as a world-class fellow, along with quantum fraudster Deepak Chopra, at the New Age styled World Business Academy.

Here one might note that one important spin-off from Mr Senge’s ever-expanding line of profitable corporate crap is the “academic” journal known as The Learning Organization: The International Journal of Critical Studies in Organizational Learning — which includes Dr Tosey upon their editorial board.  Likewise it is worth observing that the current editor-in-chief of this journal is Professor Francis Tuggle, a man who until very recently served as a board member of a management fund known as Equus Total Return.

To give a flavour of the type of powerful capitalist allies that Professor Tuggles maintains in the corporate world one might observe that Alessandro Benedetti, who serves as the chairman of this fund, also happens to be a board member of Cadogan Petroleum — as is former JP Morgan senior executive, Bertrand des Pallieres, who is the CEO of Equus Total Return.[1] Other ruling class predators who join this pair on the board of Cadogan Petroleum include Enrico Testa (who has just stepped down as a managing director of Rothschild Group, and was a former advisor to the shadowy Carlyle Group), and their chairman, Zev Furst (who in addition to his other oily interests is the chairman of the international board of the tragically misnamed Shimon Peres Center for Peace).

Let’s now return our attention to the journal itself, as in 2002 The Learning Organization published an article coauthored by Dr Tosey titled “Inquiring into organizational ‘energy’: a consultancy example.” [2] His coauthor on this magical treatise was none other than Reiki master Catherine Llewellyn, with whom he went on to develop a “chakras framework” — inspired by the work of the intuitive pioneer of energy medicine Caroline Myss — which they said “provides, for us, an approach to understanding people and orgaizations as flows of energy.”

Here is a little sample of Dr Tosey and Mrs Llewellyn’s convoluted and extremely mystifying theorizing:

[T]he notion that organizing is essentially dynamic not static, involving constant flows of energy through the chakras, resembles the complexity concept of dissipative structures, which implies that organizational arrangements (structures, systems, patterns of behaviour) would naturally dissipate if allowed to do so, with new patterns and forms emerging as a consequence. In organizations, the problem of change, from this perspective, is not of how to bring change about, but of how to prevent the dissipative tendency from being blocked — which we suggest people tend to do through needs for clarity, control, avoidance of embarrassment, and so on. This principle, that the need is more to unblock the natural flow of energy and change than to engineer a movement from one stable state to another, is expressed in the notion of “interfering with the interference.”

Knowing that management consultants are regularly accused of instrumentalising New Age spiritualism in the service of corporate profits, the two authors add an insincere disclaimer, writing: “Intuitively, we do not feel comfortable with, or attracted to, an approach in which spiritual traditions are treated as no more than mechanistic tools to meet material goals.” How thoughtful of them! Yet strangely they continue: “At the same time we believe it is ultimately for clients to choose how to use their insights and learning.” How thoughtful of them to consider the feelings of their corporate clients who are legally bound to pursue material goals; as Dr Tosey and Mrs Llewellyn state, who are they to stop people becoming “authorised ‘users’ of their own experience,” especially if such advances will contribute to them becoming “more productive and creative.”

Our thoughtful authors are thus more than happy to report Mrs Llewellyn’s first hand account of her consultancy work for an international group in the communications business that they anonymously refer to as Xco. A quick look at Llewellyn’s web site however reveals that the name of this anonymous company is Lucent Technologies (Avaya — as of October 2000). Mrs Llewellyn having been “introduced by a friend” to senior executives in the British branch of Lucent who “were floundering, in a state of distress and anxiety.” This was because their newly acquired managing director “had just agreed to double the turnover target for the year 2000 without consulting anyone, or seeming to have any idea whether that level of turnover could be achieved.” …CHAKRAS TO THE RESCUE.

Understandably in the face of such unreasonable demands Lucent’s lower management were “desperate for help,” but as Mrs Llewellyn put it, they “had no idea what kind of help they needed”; thus it seems her magical world of chakras was just what the doctor ordered (a holistic doctor anyway). Alternatively, if one was so inclined, one would imagine that it is exactly under such circumstances that unions could have played a useful role in representing the workers collective interests, but no, Lucent evidently preferred to deal with such dire problems in-house (for more on the history of such diversionary efforts to placate exploited employees, see “Liberal Elites and the Pacification of Workers”).

Clearly the “operational management team” Mrs Llewellyn engaged with were not happy bunny’s, and described their situation pictorially…

…showing several islands, separated by shark infested waters, each representing a product line, and populated by the people connected with that product. In the sky a loud hailer, resting on a cloud, is calling for higher sales results, and driving as fast as he can up a steep slope towards this cloud is the MD, dreaming of limitless wealth and close teamwork.

Mrs Llewellyn concludes that: “From this emerged, for me, an image of the organization as a ‘bruised heart’ — a group of people with great affection for each other and desire to work together, yet battered and hurt by political issues and problems, and simple lack of skill in interaction and collaboration.” This diagnosis came to her via normal methods of communication which she says were complemented by her “own intuition and sensations within my own energy field.” It is of course very revealing of her own political orientation that she intuited that Lucent Technologies had some form of metaphorical heart to bruise in the first place; as we are after all talking about a leading member of the military-industrial complex whose board room chairs went on to include such arch right-wing militarists like Philip Odeen.

However given that Mrs Llewellyn and Dr Tosey earn their plentiful income by helping capitalists extract greater productivity from their employees, it is hardly surprising that the dubious duo feel comfortable referring to the institutional dysfunctions of capitalism as a bruised heart. In my mind a more apt image to describe the company might have been that of a psychopathic maniac on crack; with chakra therapy being used to deal with the drug addiction, but not the underlying psychopathic characteristics of the corporate structure — which is legally compelled to always prioritize profit-seeking before any flim flam like justice or humanity.

Footnotes

[1] Another dubious petrol-head residing on the board room of Equus Total Return is Henry Hankinson, who in the late 1990s served as Halliburton’s regional managing director for their operations in Saudi Arabia, and then became the COO and senior American for a large multi-national conglomerate for the Saudi Royal Family.

[2] At the end of this article the one single book recommended by by the authors for “Further Reading” is Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics (1976) — a centre-piece of New Age hucksterism. For a critical introduction to Capra’s nonsense, see Stephen Jay Gould’s excellent “Utopia (Limited),” The New York Review of Books, March 3, 1983.

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