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Philosophy of Management

Volume 6, Issue 1, 2007

Transforming Rationalities

Michael L Barnett, Gloria Cahill
Pages 147-162

Measure Less, Succeed More
A Zen Approach to Organisational Balance and Effectiveness

Over the last decade, managers have increasingly emphasised the creation of tangible measures of intangible organisational properties. Many major corporations now include measures for intellectual capital, knowledge capital, reputational capital, and other such intangible assets on their financial ledgers. Counter to the rubric that ‘If it doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get done,’ we argue that some intangibles are truly intangible, and attempts to apply tangible measures to them creates undue organisational stress and harms the underlying asset. Instead, managers may better foster the growth of intangible assets by placing less emphasis on outcome measurement and more emphasis on the process. Using New York University’s Office of Community Service as a case study, we illustrate how a Zen approach can augment tangible measures to create a truly ‘balanced’ organisational strategy. American firms have widely adopted the strict measurement practices of Japanese firms, but few have adopted the Eastern practice of Zen. A Zen approach fosters trust and provides flexibility that allows organisations to better achieve success in the long run.

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