East and West, Past and Present: Rekindle Old Principles for New Management Practices

East and West, Past and Present: Rekindle Old Principles for New Management Practices

Connie Zheng (Deakin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/jabim.2011010104
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Abstract

This paper explores the sayings and stories of the ancient Chinese philosophers Guanzi, Hanfeizi, Xunzi and Yanzi. Their way of ruling the state and managing the people are analysed and discussed in line with thoughts from the mainstream and modern Western management gurus, such as Warren Bennis, Peter Drucker, Mary Parker Follett, Douglas McGregor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Elton Mayo, and Jeffrey Pfeffer. Striking similarities call for addressing key issues in human resource management. East and west thinkers across 3000 years are identified. The principles-based ruling and management were found difficult to be taken seriously in ancient times as it is today. However, these principles must be rekindled to protect organisations and the world from mischievous behaviour that has caused much human suffering.
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Introduction

In the time of crisis, it is good to reflect old and new wisdom to guide our path ahead. It is the intention of this paper to reflect the sayings and stories of ancient Chinese sages. These ancient texts are compared with the writings of respected Western management scholars. We find striking similarities in the thoughts and calls for action between ancient eastern and contemporary western thinkers across thousands years. We conclude that if these ancient and modern management thoughts had been put into practice more widely, the world may have had to deal with fewer corporate corruption scandals and dysfunctional state behaviours. Rather, we may have been witnesses to more productive populations, more effective organisations, more ethical governments and a more harmonious environment, with a consequent reduction in global human suffering. We note, en passant, that many of the ancient sayings to which we refer were directed to the proper way of ruling the state, and often addressed to kings and lords. Nonetheless, the principles contained in these sayings and stories have been passed on through generation after generation and now appear in contemporary Chinese organisational settings. Accordingly, we draw on these sayings in the same way the insights presented in Il Principe (The Prince) by Niccolò Machiavelli (Skinner & Price, 1988) have been used to inform discussions of various aspects of organisation and management.

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