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Case Studies in Planetary Management


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Suggestion forwarded to the International Association of Students of Business and Economics (AIESEC)
on the occasion of the World Conference on the International Transfer of Management Skills (Turin, November 1969).


The term 'planetary management' seems first to have been widely used in connection with the 1968 UNESCO conference of experts on the protection of the environment and the management of natural resources. Clearly the management implications of the term could be much wider. The 'transfer of management skills' - the theme of this conference - is another important problem in planetary management.

Management of the planet can be considered as the problem of marshalling resources to counter the development of problem areas and attain objectives, in a controlled manner. Management is here considered as no longer restricted to a process within one organization but is conceived as the utilization of the resources of a network of organizations dependent on each other's input or output.

In this context, as in many sophisticated organizations, world objectives are difficult to define completely and in quantifiable terms. The management process is easiest to clarify, where the objectives are simple. At a planetary, regional or even national level an integral feature of the management process is a degree of indeterminacy concerning objectives. A major feature of planetary management is therefore the progressive clari- fication of objectives and the establishment of compatible objective hierarchies for related organizational networks.

There seems to have been little use of management attitudes in examining world problems. The discipline of management science has focussed almost entirely on single organizations, whether corporations or government agen- cies. Although even then, where the organizational structure is complex, many subsidiaries may be controlled by the parent body under examination. One reason for the single organization focus may be the superficial distinction between management and public administration. There is in fact a problem of transferring management techniques from the business management schools to public administrations - and there are many factors opposing this transfer. But even were such a transfer to take place, the specialized interests of each agency or administration would not facilitate the growth of a body of planetary management attitudes and skills.

The problem seems to be the slight unreality of the term and concept of 'planetary management'. The term needs to be given meaning and substance before a body of relevant skills (many of which undoubtedly exist) can be brought together, elaborated and taught. Yet there is no organization in existence which appears to be in a position to start work on this topic, hence the lack of research on it, and the lack of incentive to work on it. (The United Nations is strictly limited to a formal governmental approach and would have difficulty in justifying attention to the many informal factors which are handled with management techniques). This somewhat vicious circle needs to bebroken - with a minimum expenditure of energy.


A simple approach might be the compilation of a series of 'Cases in Planetary Management' to be published in book form in a manner analogous to the well established business case studies. The wide distribution of such a book would permit its use as part of the material for the many training seminars around the world, both in national and international public administration circles, and in business schools (in connection with classes on the multinational corporation environment). This procedure would seem to offer the simplest approach to stimulating world - wide interest in a global approach to world problems.


What topics would form a suitable basis for cases in planetary management ? It must be remembered that the management approach can be thought of as going a step further than the administration approach. The latter being primarily concerned with allocating resources within voted programmes whereas the former is intimately concerned with the progressive refinement and restructuring of strategy and programme objectives. This means that the cases chosen must not only reflect the problems of public administration but also provide a context in which management recommendations can be put forward as a basis or guide for political decisions rather than as a consequence of such decisions.

Example case topics which touch on different aspects of resource allocation and the coordination of programs in a network of interdependent organizations :

1. development programs and the consequences for pollution and natural resource programs
(Is the machinery to receive feedback on the consequences of development adequate ?)

2. global management information
(Are the available information channels clogged with data not relevant to a management perspective ?)

3. organizational structure
(Is balanced and optimum use being made of the different types of organization involved in the development process - governmental bodies, businesses, voluntary and specialist bodies ?)

4. problem analysis
(Are the procedures by which critical problems are defined such that funds are allocated to secondarydependent problem areas rather than critical primary problem areas ?)

5. research and development priorities and balance
(Do the techniques by which research priorities are set reflect the order in which use can be made of results ? Are the most appropriate disciplines developed and used to handle each world problem area ? Has the following problem posed by R.L. Ackoff been satisfactorily approached at the world level : 'Suppose that an organizational problem is completely solvable by one of the disciplines ... How is the manager who controls the system to know which one ? Or, for that matter, how is a practitioner of any one discipline to know in a particular case if another discipline is better equipped to handle the problem than is his ? It would be rare indeed if a representative of any one of these disciplines did not feel that his approach to a particular organizational problem would be very fruitful, if not the most fruitful ...').

6. economics and human relations
(Does an economics approach to development permit the sociological and human relations angle to be ignored and are the mechanisms for inter- action between the two approaches adequate ?)

7. organizational network coordination
(Are the means for detecting low coordination, duplication and overlap in programs of different organizations adequate ?)

The topics suggested can be analyzed with management techniques. Each requires a multidisciplinary and action oriented approach which cannot currently be brought to bear on such questions. Each has been considered in the past in the light of a narrow spectrum of disciplines only.


The AIESEC World Conference on the International Transfer of Management Skills brings together key persons in the management field who are sensitive to the non-business and multidisciplinary importance of management techniques. It is at such a conference that steps could betaken to put forward proposals for seminal projects leading to the transfer of such techniques from use in single national business enterprises to use at an international level as a means of analyzing the effectiveness of networks of organizations. To the extent that students are highly motivated towards world problem resolution (as indicated by their active interest in the development process), AIESEC students have a key function to perform in stimulating this transfer.

Preparation of case studies in planetary management should prove a valuable and interesting exercise for student groups. AIESEC could consider collecting together such studies and arranging for their publication in book form or, alternatively, acting as a case clearing house.

Finally, as a spur to any move in this direction, the two following quotes arc included :

Evidence is mounting that the environment which managers seek to control - or, at least, to guide or restrain - is increasing in turbulence and com- plexity at a rate that far exceeds the capacity of management researchers to provide new and improved methodologies to affect management's intentions. Faced with the consequences of force fed technological change, and the con- comitant changes in the social, political, psychological, and theological spheres, there is real danger that the process by which new concepts of management control are invent d and developed may itself be out of control relative to the demands that are likely to beimposed upon it. (from the introduction to a 1968 management conference session of the College of Management Control Systems of the Institute of Management Sciences).

The need for a new approach and the possibility of its success is illustrated by the: following quote :

We know much of what the future will bring in terms of problems. We know they will be big, complex, and serious ... These problems represent the givens. We know they will be there - and we know they will overwhelm us if we do not find the moans of coping with them. What we lack, thus far, is conviction that there is a means of getting hold of them. They seem so staggering in their size and complexity - so far beyond the capability of any single institutional seqement of the community, public or private ... And they are so interrelated that to proceed to try to solve any one of them in isolation from the other is often to create more problems than are solved by theeffort. The dilemma thus presented has so far frustrated most efforts to com to grips with these problems. This condition of paralysis need not obtain. None of the ... challenges lies beyond our already existing capa- city for coping with them. The tools are already at hand ; and included in those tools are not only the technological capabilities out experience in systems management and systems analysis as well as proven patterns of joint public and private effort. (K.G. Harr., Jr., President of Aerospace Industries Association quoted in Harvard Business Review, March-April 1967, p. 10, emphasis added).

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