Again, this might seem like simple good sense; making decisions based on the factual merits of the situation rather than on face-saving or boss-pleasing seems like the only rational way of doing business. Not paying attention to political whims, however, can have serious repercussions for individuals and organizations alike, and truly depoliticizing decisions requires a great deal of introspection, honesty, and self-awareness in the top management officials and decision makers in a company (Hamel 2009).
Achieving this depoliticization is certain to be even more difficult than establishing a democracy of information, as it is difficult to convince people to relinquish power willingly once they have it. The problem is that politicized decision making is only a hairs breadth away — one might even say is simply a euphemism for — corrupt decision making. Few debates or issues are more heavily politicized than long-term (and even short-term) government planning, and though government entities are run very differently from businesses in many regards, in this area they are remarkably similar. The politicization of governmental decision making ceases to have the best interests of the citizens that government is beholden to at heart, and instead shifts the focus to the benefit of certain political factions, or even to certain individuals within the government (Newman 2009).
Just so, the politicization of decision making in business is generally self-serving, if not economically than through a sense of pride or, as Hamel puts it, hubris. It does not take into account what is best for the company, its employees, or its shareholders, but rather serves the interests of the decision makers themselves. More effective decision making for the business requires that these officials, either in the company of in the government, give ground and let the larger population become involved in the decision making process (Newman 2009; Hamel 2009). Not only does this ensure that the people who will be affected by decisions that are made have a say in the matter, but it also provides for a much broader and often more accurate knowledge base form which these decisions can be made. Depoliticizing means equalizing, and this is greatly aided by a democracy of information.
The two concepts of the depoliticization of decision making and creating a democracy of information go hand in hand, and work best if used in tandem with each other. The ability to make effective and apolitical decisions depends upon the accuracy and breadth of information available; without a democracy of information, a depoliticized decision making process is essentially useless. Conversely, a democracy of information cannot be put to use without a more inclusive and less biased decision making process; there is no point in knowing something that enables more effective action if that action cannot be taken. Again, this statement seems like common sense, but in managerial situations things often seem — and are — more complicated. Adhering to these principles can be difficult, but the payoff for creating an organization that works according to the principles of democratic information and depoliticized decision making is an effective and flexible organization.
There are many other suggestions that Hamel makes in “Moon Shots for Management” that would be equally effective, and that would create environments that worked well with the concepts of depoliticization and democracy. These two managerial strategies, however, are among the most essential changes any organization hoping to remain viable in the twenty-first century can make. With them, there is flexibility and the potential for fast and effective growth. Without them, there is only a rigid hierarchy destined for stagnation.
Burk, M. (1999). “Knowledge Management: Everyone Benefits by Sharing Information.” Public roads 63(3).
Hamel, G. (2009). “Moon shots for management.” Harvard business review (February), pp. 91-8.
Newman, P. (2009)..