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9 Reasons Why Management Theories are (Literally) Killing Your Business

What is death? In spite of a plethora of books about “zombies” and movies featuring “the living-dead,” we know little about death. But we do know a lot about life. Perhaps the best way to define death is as “absence of Life.” Another way to put it: Death is when we stop living.

Death could be seen as the end of our physical life. But there is also something called dying before the death. This is when we are living as if we are dead. What causes this death before the death? For many of us, our work constitutes a major part of our lives. That’s why, one of the causes of our death is the meaningless, soul-sucking, boring, drudgery of work that some of us haul ourselves to every single day.

A business is made of people. When its people are dying before their actual death, the business organization is also on its way to its grave. One of the reasons why this death occurs is because of the so called management theories. Here, I present to you 9 reasons why management theories could be killing your business. 

1. Management theories view business as machine and its people as machine-parts.
Most of the management theories in circulation today have their roots in the Scientific Management Theories developed in the 1880’s (that was 130 years ago!) by a fellow named Frederick Taylor. This was the time of Industrial Revolution and people were fascinated, even infatuated, by machines. Taylor, like most managers of the day, viewed people as machine-parts and the business as a giant machine. He and many of his contemporaries were obsessed with how efficiently a task could be performed. For example, Frank Gilbreth, a 1920’s scientific consultant, did a series of studies with his wife, Lilian, to find out how long it took for them to bathe their 12 (that’s a dozen!) young children. As they bathed them using various processes, they kept track of the time it took with a stop-watch. By trial and error, they figured out the most efficient way to bathe their children!

While this kind of obsession with time-based efficiency had its place in history, it does not apply very well to today’s knowledge-intensive work. 

From the perspective of the people we manage, there is nothing more soul-sucking than to be looked at as machine-parts - as “things.”  Each of us knows deep down inside that we have much more to offer than the simple efficiency of a machine. Nobody wants to be a part of a giant machine that churns out productivity. We want to be part of something that’s soul-stirring, something that brings out the best in us, something that compels us to reach down deep and find our deepest, most meaningful essence and share it with the world.

This mentality - of seeing people as things to squeeze out the maximum productivity from - is buried deep inside the psyche of even modern managers. One of the most cliche’d sayings of the business world - “People are our most important asset!” - has its roots within this mentality. An asset is a thing from which you profit, not a living, breathing person to inspire and appreciate and stir at her deepest levels so that she is compelled to show up to work as her best self.

2. Management theories view people as “things.”

We have put man on the moon and brought him back safely. We have made tremendous advances in science and technology, in medicine and space exploration, in rocket science and brain surgery, in the way we connect people and in the way we get our work done. But when it comes to managing our people, we are not that far from the way that the Egyptians built their pyramids or the Romans built their monuments, which is by “owning” those we manage and using fear to get them to do what we want them to do. 

Most modern management theories don’t challenge - or even question - these two basic assumptions: 1) We own those we manage, (The modern-day equivalent of ownership is salary and preset work-hours.) and 2) We use fear to get them to do what we want them to do.

Salary and work-hours are important, of course, and we can’t get rid of them just yet. But we don’t have to use them as a leverage to get our employees to perform well. One of the challenges I present to the business owners I coach is to manage a group of people that’s fully made of volunteer workers. Because they don’t get paid to do the work, you can’t use fear of getting fired as a motivator. In such a situation, the manager is forced to use the only tool she has available: inspiration and positive reinforcement.

Most business owners report that it’s extremely difficult to manage people this way. To me, this implies that we really are not trained to manage people through positive means. This is not the fault of the managers. If there’s someone to blame, it’s the conditioning of humanity in the last few thousand years of our history, perhaps made more concrete during the Industrial Revolution through Scientific Management Theories. 

3. Management theories perceive people as fragmented entities. 

Because we have viewed people as “things,” we have always tried to do away with those aspects of us that make us human. Emotions. Awareness. Organic energy. Life force. Inherent gifts and talents. Our predispositions, intelligence, creativity and initiative. 

Recently, the term Emotional Intelligence has become quite popular. While a step in the right direction, it’s still rooted in our tendency to view people as things. Emotional Intelligence tries to intellectualize emotions with the assumption that our emotions should be controlled by our intellect, making us a robot or an automaton, like the character Data in the cult-fiction TV series Star Trek, the Next Generation, who is an “android” aspiring to be human. Emotions are not something to intellectualize; emotions are something to feel. We have - we feel - emotions whether we like it or not. And they are powerful. When we temp down our emotions by intellectualizing them, we rob ourselves of one of the most powerful forces of nature - and of us. 

Traditionally, just as well as today, we have viewed - we have wanted to view - people primarily as made of two faculties: 1) Intellect and 2) Actions. We have always wanted to keep things this way as it makes a human-being less complicated to manage: predictable and controllable, like a computer.

But reality is quite different. People can’t be tied up in conceptual confinements enforced by management theories. They are much more complex than the two-dimensional things that we have wanted them to be. I like to view people as more integrated entities, keeping in mind that even this view of mine is a conceptual confinement of the human being. However, I think that this view is more expansive and encompasses the ignored faculties of us as human beings. 

These faculties are: 1) Behaviors, 2) Energy, 3) Emotions, 4) Intelligence, 5) Identity, 6) Wisdom and 7) Awareness. 

4. Management theories confine and trap the true potential of your business. 

Because we see human-beings as fragmented things and design our organizations based on management theories that have such a view, it’s impossible to have a workforce that operates at its full capacity or near-full capacity.

We all have a need to express ourselves to our fullest capacity. Within the confines of management theories, many of our human dimensions remain unused and unexplored in our work, causing us to seek outlays in others pursuits such as volunteer work and hobbies.

This has two negative side-effects. In a strictly business sense, the organization misses out on most of the contribution its employees are capable of making, tapping only a small part of it. From the personal view of an employee, she remains unfulfilled and frustrated because most of her capacity to contribute remains unexplored and untapped.

5. Management theories rob you of your people’s creativity and ingenuity.

Every business faces unique challenges and obstacles that they may have not faced before. Such problems require creativity and ingenuity from its people. Our people’s creativity and ingenuity don’t come from their intellect or their behaviors, especially if they are disconnected from their other faculties. Our people’s creativity and ingenuity come from the alignment of the 7 faculties we talked about before. When these faculties are active and aligned, they create magic. When they are not, they create a heavy, dead feelings apparent in so many organizations causing stagnation, apathy and boredom among employees. 

6. Management theories make your business less flexible and more rigid.

Today, we live in the world of management “systems.” Seems like everyone and his brother has some sort of a “system” to sell to businesses, whether it’s sales, leadership, management or many of their variants such as marketing and personal development. As managers, we love systems as with systems, we can control people just like we can control machines and robots. But when we manage with systems, we also miss out something far more important: the uninhibited, deep-to-the-soul engagement from our people. Perhaps a better mindset to develop is that of developing “ecosystems” in our organizations. A system is a dead thing made of machine parts; an ecosystem is a collection of living, breathing entities that work together in a set of interconnected relationships.

7. Management theories make your people skeptical of the management and question its leaders’ integrity, authenticity and originality.

Why are the Dilbert cartoons so popular? Because they star a manager who manages by the fad of the day, without truly understanding, integrating and owning what that fad means to him personally and to his organization. The fact is, Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss is not that far from reality in the corporate world. We have all seen such managers, may be even worked for such a manager. Some of us may have even been such a manager in our own lives. 

We see such managers coming from a mile away. We know they are not authentic or original. They are simply regurgitating what they read about in the latest leadership book or heard in the last management seminar they attended.

I do think that management theories have value. But I think the right way to benefit from management theories is to let it inspire us to develop our own way of managing, perhaps even our own management theory. (Although I recommend that you don’t get too hung up on it yourself and feel free to change it and update it often.)

8. Management theories make a religion out of your business.

In its most basic form, a religion is a set of ideas formulated by someone who has lived them and experienced them. At the heart of every religion is dogma: a set of ideas that were true for the person who lived them, but may or may not be true for those who try to follow them.

When we take management theories literally and make them a dogma in our organizations, our business becomes a follower of the religion proposed by the management theory. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in some circumstances, it could be a very positive thing. Sharing a set of values and principles often give us a sense of collective identity that allows us to function better as a team.

But when our following of a particular management theory becomes so deeply ingrained in our corporate culture that we lose our capacity of discrimination and independent thought, it confines our business into a set of arbitrary boundaries that work against the business rather than for it. 

9. Management theories make people afraid to try out new things, to draw outside the lines, to break new grounds, to start a revolution.

Once a management theory is successfully installed in the psyche of our people, they become their psychological boundaries. If a proper attitude to risk-taking is not cultivated within the corporate culture, these boundaries, while making the organization more efficient, can be debilitating to the organization when it comes to breaking new grounds, reaching for ambitious goals and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. 

What’s the Alternative to Management Theories?

A better alternative is perhaps a framework that, while creating a philosophical foundation and providing a basic structure for sustainable performance, frees up our people from the shackles of confining and debilitating management theories. I don’t think such a framework could be bought off-the-shelf, however. It must be something that the people in the organization gradually develop over time themselves. This might be a difficult undertaking for most organizations as they have a business to run while also making up how to run it. 

At Awayre, LLC, we have developed such a framework. We call it Management by the Way of Awareness. While providing basic markers forming a fundamental outline from which a business can build its own management philosophy, its real value is that it encompasses the whole of a human being - not a fragment - and aids in engaging and unleashing all that a person has to offer.

The best way to get to know this framework is to evaluate your organization with Awayre Quotient, our Business Health Check. Awayre Quotient takes you through a series of questions and gives you a set of scores that help you gain insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your particular business. It also comes with a score interpretation guide that serves as a basic framework for creating your own management philosophy. 

Click here to get started. 

Copyright 2014 Bhavesh Naik. All rights reserved.

Bhavesh Naik is the Founder and Creative Director of Awayre, LLC, a management consulting and human resource development firm specializing in activating the hidden power of a business process by engaging its people’s awareness. Awayre, LLC is a pioneer in bringing human awareness to the field of management and human resource development as its structural and fundamental component.

Stagnant Business? Flow Forward

“The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.”
~ Sydney J. Harris 
Once a business becomes successful, there comes a time, sooner or later, when it hits a plateau. The revenues become flat. The margins erode. The net profits decline.

This is a challenging time for business owners. Such stagnation often saps their energy and enthusiasm, sometimes causing a negative spiral of declining growth which feeds negative mindset with further negative impact on the growth of the business. This is when many business owners complain of getting tired of running their businesses. 
This is a good time for some tough self-love and brutal self-examination and inquiry into the inner workings of your business.
If you are a business that has been successful but has begun to show the early signs of stagnation, I invite you to take Business Health Check with Awayre Quotient (AQ). It’s absolutely free and comes with a free 24-page score guide and strategy handbook. Click here to get started.

Copyright 2013 Bhavesh Naik. All rights reserved.

Bhavesh Naik is the Founder and Creative Director of Awayre, LLC, a management consulting and human resource development firm specializing in activating the hidden power of a business process by engaging its people’s awareness. Awayre, LLC is a pioneer in bringing human awareness to the field of management and human resource development as its structural and fundamental component.

Don't Build Your Business; Know How to Build One!


“Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.”

~ Thomas Huxley

Have you ever played a sport like tennis, golf or soccer? Do you engage at all in recreational sports like skiing, biking or rock climbing? Did you ever play a board game like Monopoly, Game of Life or even Chutes and Ladders?

Since I was a little kid, I wanted to play tennis. One Friday evening a few years ago, a burst of inspiration hit me. So I went to the local bookstore and bought a book called Learn How to Play Tennis in a Weekend. I read the book cover to cover over the weekend. I called my friend, Craig, Monday morning and asked him if he wanted to play a game of tennis with me. “Sure,” he said, “but I didn’t know you played tennis.” “I do now!” - came a confident reply from me.

A little bit about Craig here. He is no Wimbledon Champion by any means, but he had won many tournaments in his days of college and had stayed reasonably fit after graduation. So when we got to the tennis court, it took him exactly 10 minutes to get me to the point where I had to be picked up off of the floor of the tennis court. We remained friends afterwards, but I never picked up the racket again. And I still don’t play tennis.


“Truth comes out of error more readily than confusion.”

~ Francis Bacon

I jumped into starting my first business in pretty much the same way. I struggled a lot in the first year of business. Luckily, I was able to make some changes in the second year that allowed me to do much better for the next five years reaching 2.5 million in revenues in 1999. I ended up selling the company. Then I started an internet startup, raised some venture capital and ended up folding it in 2001. I have had some ups and downs in my life. So I have some stories to tell. These ups and down forced me to do some deep soul searching around the years 2001 and 2002. What I found out was that my real passion was helping others build their businesses. And I was good at it.  My current business is my third one that I formulated in 2002 and have been building since.

Back to business. I am sure you have heard the statistics: something like 95% of the businesses fail in the first five years. What you may not have heard is the other statistic which says that about 80% of those who do stay in business, 4 out of the 5 of the 100, never achieve the kind of success they thought they would achieve when they started the business. Which means that only 1 out of 100 business builders actually end up building the fabled business of their dreams. And these statistics are from before the great recession of 2008-2009. The post-recession statistics might be much worse. 


“We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.”

~ Blaise Pascal

Do you remember the time before you started your business? May be there was a time you were thinking about starting your business and you asked around for some advice. There is a pretty good chance that you heard two kinds of advice.

One was some version of “Don’t Do It”. These words most likely came from family and friends. They obviously were not being very helpful and encouraging. In fact, after you started your business, there is a pretty good chance that these “naysayers” around you became a pretty big liability for you as you went about building your business.

But the other advice you may have heard, in my opinion, might be much more damaging and, in fact, dangerous. This advice is: “Just Do It.”

I know. I got that advice, too. And I took it. Now I cringe every time I hear it. Why? Think of it this way. If you don’t know how to box and get in the ring with Muhammad Ali, how long does it take before the knockout? About 10 seconds? If you’re lucky! That’s what many of us do with starting our businesses.
You see, the reason why so many of us fail at building a successful business is very simple: We Don’t Know How to Play the Game - the Game of Business-Building.


“Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”

~ Maria Montessori

The school and the college, and yes, our MBA degree, didn’t prepare us to be business owners. They prepared us to be employees: nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers and even vice presidents, CFO’s and CEO’s. Nothing wrong with that, except that if we expect the traditional educational system to teach us the skill of business-building, we are very likely to be disappointed.

Here’s what I mean. Learning a skill, like business-building, is a journey from the head, to heart, to gut and then to actions. You see, building a business is not really an intellectual exercise. It’s also not just a physical or even an emotional exercise. It’s a combination of it all. It’s a skill. It’s an art-form.

The reason why small businesses are failing is because most business owners who start their businesses are entering the business arena at the novice level while other businesses - their competitors - are playing the same game at the expert level. They are entering the tennis court without having ever hit a ball across the net and their competitors are tournament champions and trophy winners. They are entering the Karate competition at the white-belt level while their competitors are 4th degree black-belts. They have never been into a boxing match before and yet they enter the ring to fight with a heavy-weight champion.


“Don’t just do it. Know what you are doing.”

~ Bhavesh Naik

Now, I am a realist. In my experience in helping more than a 100 business owners develop their businesses, I know that most people who are about to start their businesses will still jump into it prematurely, regardless of what statistics say. Entrepreneurs are notoriously hard-headed. And to an extent, that’s a positive quality. They will need that sense of supreme self-confidence to hack it in the world.

My message is really meant for those business owners who have been at the game of business-building for a while. They are the ones who really “get” what I am talking about here. They have experienced the trials and tribulations of building a business. That’s why, they are more open to my message.
But they have a serious dilemma. Many, if not most business owners accept and recognize that they need to continue to develop their skills in business-building. But they don’t have the luxury of taking two years off and disappearing onto a college campus. Even if they did, it would not help much because the world of academics is far removed from the real world.

They need to learn how to build their business while they are engaged in the process of building it. They need the intellectual help - the best practices and principles of successful businesses. But that’s only 25% of the way to mastering the sport of business building. They also need help in internalizing that knowledge by engaging with it emotionally, making it a part of their gut system and taking meaningful actions. As I like to say, they need to take the knowledge from the head to the heart, from the heart to the gut and form the gut to the actions.

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

~ Albert Einstein

What business-builders need is a change in the mindset, a shift in thinking. If they went from merely building a business to learning how to build one, the actual building of their business will happen almost as a by-product.

One of the sports I love is Martial Arts or Karate. Karate has intricately woven both the Art and the Science of the sport together in a system that could be taught and learned, step-by-step, incrementally and by practicing it. In other words, Karate is more about how to fight, rather than actually fighting.

Business-builders can take their inspiration from this model. They can treat their business not just as the means to achieve their dreams – which, of course, it is - but also as a way to learn how to build a business, by building it. When they do this, they can easily detach themselves from the act of building a business and see it as a sport they enjoy, a sport they look forward to playing every Monday morning.


“I am not a teacher; only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead–ahead of myself as well as of you.” 

~ George Bernard Shaw


Want to experience business habits in action? Join us at our next 360 Business Club “business workout session” where you get to practice business-building with like-minded business leaders.