Ralph Grossmann


Over the last 2 years I travelled to Mongolia a couple of times. Mongolia is a beautiful country, rich in soil resources and tradition. In this country—marked by its unique landscape and culture—an intensive industrialization in the mining industry is about to start and to play a dominant role in the coming decades. Foreign investors have been granted the license for huge projects of mining gold, copper, coal, and rare soil. This development will bring about an increase of the economic growth rate but it will also evoke the following questions: Will the economically disadvantaged part of the population be able to participate in this development? Will it be possible to invest the revenues of the mining industry in social infrastructure for health, education, communication and transport? Will it be possible to maintain the ecological resources and to prevent large areas of the country from being devastated and the quality of water and soil from being drastically decreased? Will it be possible to reinforce a controlled structural development in small and medium-sized companies in order to manage the economic transfer from a nomad culture (of approximately 30% of the population in 2012) towards an industry- and service-oriented society without provoking profound social conflicts?

During the MOT conference (December 2010) I was strongly struck by the impression of a natural disaster in the neighboring country Hungary. Due to a technical breakdown of an industrial plant swaths of land had been drowned by toxic sludge and had caused enduring ecological damage. Two months after the conference the world was shaken by the catastrophe caused by the tsunami and the damaged nuclear power station in Japan. We have witnessed the existential threat caused by the highly risky technology of nuclear energy in combination with a natural catastrophe.

At the time around the conference Austria and Europe was confronted with the first phase of a drastic financial crises, which turned out to threaten not only banking systems but eventually the economies of countries such as Ireland, Iceland, later also Greece, Portugal, Spain or also Italy and France. I noticed at that time that the grants that were to be covered by Austria in the crisis (between 600 and 900 million Euro) would have been sufficient to eliminate the financial troubles in the field of education and science. At the beginning of the year 2012, the EU countries are discussing the increase of the funds for the protection of the European financial systems and its economies to 500 billion Euros.

Austria, my home country, is the ninth richest country in the world and the fifth richest in the European Union (OECD Fact Book, 2010). At the same time, however, about 1 million Austrians out of 8.5 million inhabitants live on the poverty line and 500,000 in poverty, according to official statistics (Statistics Austria, EU-SILC, 2008).

The Euro Crisis has caused drastic saving programs by the governments of all European countries. Enormous sums have to be allocated in order to rescue banks and the security of the financial system. These expenses will lead to a strong decrease of budgets for other areas such as health and social security, which will again lead to an aggravation of everyday life for all groups of society, particularly for the social classes with low-income. The gap between rich and poor will also increase in the world's ninth richest country.

The flashlights of global development stress the importance of the issue of "responsible leadership." If they affect the society and the environment, the responsibility for such events and developments will be usually sought in politics. This is true only to a limited extent. The political system is being blamed for problems that are not their sole responsibility—also liable for these problems are decision makers in organizations, particularly managers of companies, but also managers of the public administration. Politicians can try to set conditions for the actions of management, but do not determine them. Politics is in most societies no longer the organizing center, which dominates the other systems—instead it is a system among others. The economic and social development takes place within a network of organizations. Politics is an important environment for business, but only one environment.

We live in a society of organizations. An outstanding feature of developed industrial societies is their high degree of being organized. Societal problems and also many personal problems are processed in and by organizations. The last century, and particularly the last few decades have been marked by a rapid differentiation of organizations and the huge emergence of new ones in all areas of society. This increase in the level of organizations has increased the capacity of society to deal with problems enormously but at the same time this will also create new problems. The specialized organizations solve problems and create new ones that have to be dealt with by new or reshaped organizations. The increasing specialization of organizations accelerates the creation of new organizations. This creates in consequence an enormous demand for cross-sectoral coordination and integration. Society has become highly dependent on the potential and performance of their organizations.

Complex organizations are difficult to steer and control from outside, for example, by a "dominating" system conceived as political system. This makes it clear that today social reform is to realize as organizational reform. The viability of organizations determines social developments (Grossmann 1995; Wimmer, 1995).

The biographies and the opportunities of individual development, especially the professional development are also strongly influenced by organizational contexts. We spend most of our learning and working time in organizations or are dependent on decisions, regulations, and services of organizations.

This is historically speaking a very recent development, to which we are not yet adjusted individually or as a society as a whole—both in terms of consciousness and in terms of qualification.

On top of that, large international companies have much more political power than the economies of entire countries. Thus, the responsibility of management is becoming the focus of attention. We need concepts of management and learning that will cope with these developments. Based on the professional perspective of systemic organizational development (OD), I will formulate some important conceptual orientations.

• Managing the organization and it's environments as a survival unit —multistakeholder management.

• Learning or educational business? Social competence and organizational competence as key qualifications for managers.

• Using the company as a place for learning.

• Implementing business ethics as an organizing principle for companies.

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