Edited by David Rooney, Greg Hearn and Abraham Ninan
Chapter 3: Wisdom, Ethics and the Postmodern Organization
Bernard McKenna Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; ... The best lack all convictions, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. W.B. Yeats ‘Worn gears threaten derailment’, stated the lead story in The Sydney Morning Herald (Kerr 2004). A week earlier, railway drivers had gone on strike because the rail authorities’ failure to plan for driver attrition had caused a critical shortage of drivers. A concurrent inquest that found that a fatal rail accident was caused by a medically unfit driver dying at the wheel led to the disclosure that 70 per cent of country drivers were found to be medically unfit. Yet the CityRail website (http://www.cityrail.info/) tells me that it ‘offers passengers one of the most cost effective, reliable, and convenient ways to travel around Sydney and beyond’; that ‘All trains receive regular routine maintenance and major periodic maintenance’. They monitor their performance in three major KPIs (key performance indicators), and publish their results on the web. So, how is this relevant to wisdom and ethics? It is simply to question the wisdom and (by definition, implicitly) the ethics of a management culture within the context of a knowledge economy that supposedly delivers ‘best practice’ by means of auditable notions such as KPI. We need to question the very ontological and epistemological categories that underpin contemporary management practices infused with assumptions that gathering and using data improve our life. Furthermore, I argue that we...
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