Nothing is more scarce than thorough, tough or objective analysis of today’s corporations. What little there is comes mostly from academics, consumer and other public interest groups.
The majority of the mainstream media skims the surface and usually serves as little more than a cheerleader for the corporations. Rarely does anyone from inside the corporate world venture forward with anything but self-serving cliches about the values, glories and ethics of corporate organizations.
But, there is at least one exception. His name is Dee Hock. He doesn’t play around with sugar coated phrases in describing the shortcomings of the corporate structure or the immense power wielded by corporations throughout the world.
Dee Hock is no ordinary critic, and certainly no political radical. He comes to the arena with real credentials from inside the corporate world. He is founder and CEO Emeritus of VISA International, a credit card corporation owned by 22,000 member banks with 750 million customers who engage in $1.25 trillion transactions annually.
Here’s the way Dee Hock sees the corporations of the 21st Century: “The monetized commercial form of corporation has steadily become an instrument of those with surplus money (capital) and those with surplus power (management) to reward themselves at the expense of the community, the biosphere, and the many without surplus wealth or power, commonly called ‘consumers’ and ‘human resources.’
These “human resources,” Dee Hock says, “are mined, smelted, shaped into products, worn out, and discarded with little more consideration on the part of monetary stockholders and management than they might give a load of ore or a pile of lumber.”
Conservative “think tanks” and corporate public relations operatives turn out endless tomes about the heavy hand of government regulation over the corporations. Congress is lobbied for “regulatory relief” and much of the national media parrots the corporate line about the “burden” of regulation.
Dee Hock turns this argument on its head.
The “monetized shareholder” form of corporation, he says, “has demanded and received release from the revocation of its charter for inept or antisocial acts.”
“The roles of giant, transnational corporations and government have slowly reversed,” Hock argues. “Government is now more an instrument of such corporations than the corporations are instruments of government.”
Dee Hock’s critique of the organizational structures of corporations is contained in his recently published book “Birth of the Chaordic Age” (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, California). The book draws heavily on his experiences at VISA, a chaordic structure involving “intense cooperation and fierce competition.”
Looking not only at corporations, but at all forms of organizational structures, Hock says we’re in an “accelerating, global epidemic of institutional failure” organizations increasingly unable to achieve the purpose for which they were created, yet “continuing to expand as they devour scarce resources, demean the human spirit and destroy the environment.”
Hock argues that our current forms of organization are almost universally based on compelled behavior “on tyranny.” The organization of the future, according to Hock, will be the embodiment of “community based on shared purpose calling to the higher aspiration of people.”
Dee Hock debunks a ton of conventional thinking and lays out a challenging and exciting view of the future structure of corporations and society. It makes for exciting reading whether or not you buy into all of his theory.