THE Green report (News, 12
December) is evidence, once again, of the rude health of that
alternative religion called "managerialism", which has its roots in
the development of complex industrial organisations (CIOs) in the
Allocation of resources and assessment of profits were tricky
tasks, which required people experienced in co-ordination,
evaluation, and planning, i.e. managers. In the 1890s, H. M.
Norris, an advocate for management, said: "The manager's desk
should be the Alpha and Omega of every transaction. It should also
be the information bureau of the establishment. No work should be
done without the manager's authority and sanction."
CIOs were successful at generating the profits that transformed
Western society. People soon began to think that that success was
caused by the managers. If management worked for CIOs, why
not for other areas of human endeavour? By the 1980s, this had
taken on the status of holy writ.
Michael Heseltine, in the first Thatcher government, asserted
that managerialism applied to all aspects of society: "Efficient
management is a key to the [national] revival. If Britain's
managers fail, we can turn out the lights. And the management ethos
must run right through our national life - private and public
companies, civil service, nationalised industries, local
government, the National Health Service."
The religious assumption in Norris's teaching is now expressed
in the (divine) right of managers to manage. Management is
apparently the only thing standing between us and utter
destruction, the only power that works in a world of chaos,
amateurism, and inefficiency. The Church of England is dowdy and
shambolic compared with the shining graduates of the business
schools, which makes it tempting to think that we should run
ourselves along the lines of a CIO. If managerialism has worked for
them, why can't it work for us?
THE truth is that managerialism has not worked. Looked at
objectively, the success of CIOs is only tenuously related to the
actions and beliefs of the high priests of managerialism. Last
spring, Richard Foster of Yale University demonstrated that the
average life-span of a company on the Standard & Poor's 500
Index has collapsed from 67 years in the 1920s to 17 years today.
He further estimates that, in seven years' time, fewer than 25 per
cent of today's companies will remain on the index.
Foster believes this to be a good thing. He is an emeritus
director of the management consultancy McKinsey, and he espouses
"creative destruction" for companies, in which resistance to change
is an indicator of the necessity to impose change, suddenly and
One sect of managerialism takes it further still. The inventor
of "Business Process Re-engineering", Mike Hammer, says: "On this
journey we shoot dissenters." The rhetoric is violent and coercive,
and brooks no dissent. There is no alternative.
By contrast with the average 17-year lifespan of today's
companies, the Church has been here, worshipping God and serving
the people of England, since before England existed. IBM and
General Electric should be setting up training courses to study the
Church and its ability to reinvent itself, to find new ways of
expressing its God-given mission, its skill in coping with the
challenges of prosperity and utter disaster.
This is not the advice of a complacent advocate of a liberal
consensus. My training was in history, at the London School of
Economics. History encourages the long view, which is seriously
lacking in the current leadership of the Church, which, even more
depressingly, shows a lack of faithfulness in God's working his
The effectiveness of St Augustine's mission wasn't because he
developed a talent pool, strategised about the best pagan practices
to adopt, and ruthlessly excluded from resources those who did not
deliver on the mission action plan. As Bede tells us: "They were
constantly engaged in prayers, in vigils and fasts. . . They
despised all worldly things as foreign to them; they accepted only
the necessaries of life from those they taught; in all things they
practised what they preached and kept themselves prepared to endure
adversities, even to the point of dying for the truths they
As one contemporary historian put it: "Many found faith and were
baptised through their admiration of the simplicity of it
The Revd Justin Lewis-Anthony is Associate Dean of Students
at Virginia Theological Seminary.