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Management and Bacon

”We must obey the forces we want to command” a paraphrase extracted from Novum Organum (1620), Book I* by Francis Bacon (1561-1626). The paraphrase gains strength in the original textual context, which embeds the levels on which managers must also operate during implementation: The strategic and organizational levels.

In the format of Bacon, who was not only a philosopher but also an English public official and essayist, the objects of discussion were individual, nation and nature.

Two levels of dynamics
Individual (Queen/politician/citizen) versus nation
Nation versus nature (Human, God)

The business world analog to individual, nation and nature is stakeholder, organization and market
Owners, managers, employees within the organization
The company positioned on a market

The philosophy, strategy, organizational design and toolset must obey the conditions set by the market and the position of the company. Innovative changes and successful implementation depends on perception.

Let us have a look at the stakeholder within the organization, i.e. the individual within the nation “those who desire to extend their own power in their native country, a vulgar and degenerate kind. “*

Successful change will only happen if individual managers and employees apply the business strategy in their particular position by using a suitable toolset chosen by management in decisions aligned with organizational needs and resources. The quote is popular in a radical modern sense within the original context of Bacon when we depict areas with internal conflicts as untamed leviathans. A metaphor owing to Hobbes. The analog in organizational context in the business world is the premise of a burning platform as motivating factor for changes and implementation of new business strategies across an organization.

If we change perspective and look at the general management of a company focus is market dynamics and customer values. In the context of Bacon successful monarchs must understand and act according to natural laws. “those who labor to extend the power and dominion of their country among men. This certainly has more dignity, though not less covetousness. But if a man endeavor to establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the universe, his ambition (if ambition it can be called) is without doubt both a more wholesome and a more noble thing than the other two. Now the empire of man over things depends wholly on the arts and sciences. For we cannot command nature except by obeying her.”*

Successful business decisions reflect both the nature of the organization and market dynamics. Successful decisions incorporate the position of a company as perceived by customers, employees, managers and owners. Our insights may not be complete, accurate or true in a strict sense, although this knowledge is the foundation of every qualified decision made on an organizational level. Successful modern business is knowledge intensive.


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