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February 16, 2007

Anti-guru of joined-up management

Russ Ackoff, the father of  'systems-thinking', tells Stefan Stern how education teaches us to be conservative and why this is bad for business. Just don't call it a doctrine. . .    

If you were asked to picture what a management guru should look and sound like, you might come up with a description of someone very like Russ Ackoff. Grey-haired, distinguished, softly spoken, Ackoff fits the bill. And also, since he turns 88 on Monday, he can claim the benefit of wisdom earned over the course of six decades studying and working with businesses and organisations.

Russ Achoff
Russ Achoff, author of Management f-laws

Except, of course, that "guru" is not a label that     Ackoff is keen to accept.

"A guru produces disciples, and a discipline, and a doctrine," he says. "If you are a follower of a guru, you don't go beyond his thoughts, you accept his thoughts. He gives you the questions and the answers – it's an end to thought. An educator is exactly the opposite," he says. "You take off where he sets you up for the next set of questions. One is open-ended, the other is closed.     Most consultants are gurus. They are 'experts', not   educators."

So please don't refer to Ackoff's body of work as gurudom and please don't describe his work with clients as management consulting.

"We don't call it consulting," he states firmly. "We make a distinction between consulting and being an educator. A consultant goes in with a solution. He tries to impose it on a situation. An educator tries to train the people responsible for the work to work it out for     themselves. We don't pretend to know the way to get the answer."

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Anti-guru of joined-up management

Posted by ACASA on February 16, 2007 at 08:10 AM in ACASA News | Permalink


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