"Governing Organizations in a Global Environment"


Gary Metcalf


Global economic expansion has occurred with a distinctly Western character. There is a strong bias by many conservative business leaders and politicians that if developing nations are to reduce poverty and create the kinds of economic opportunities that they desire, they must adopt US-like business practices and institutions. (In effect, capitalism and democracy, which they see as codependent philosophies, are the answers to the problems of the world.) At the same time, US corporations have come under massive public scrutiny for their lack of effective governance, with legal and ethical violations creating outcries for reforms.

Backlash to economic globalization and the idea of "Westernizing the world" has ranged from protests at meetings of the WTO and the Economic Forum, to declarations at the World Summit and other UN-sponsored meetings, to kidnappings of employees and terrorist attacks. Destruction of the World Trade Center was apparently an assault on the ultimate icon of Western arrogance. On the other side, pro-Western business advocates can be found throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, just as anti-globalization protestors are found throughout the US and Europe -- creating a complex, international web of strange bedfellows.

Global business leaders need stable political environments and sound economic and educational institutions, amongst others, in order to succeed. Political leaders often live or die, professionally, on the prosperity which they bring to their people, in the form of jobs and future opportunities. Effective governance must now encompass both socio-political and economic concerns across the spectrum of cultures and nations.

Typical reactions to this dilemma have called for egalitarian forms of governance. But simply having diverse representation, such as adding labor representatives and other stakeholders to boards of directors, often impedes decision-making more that it resolves problems. The alternative approach has been "strong leadership" - which is efficient, but often not effective. Many current leaders (CEOs, board members, etc.) want to assume that acquiring a global perspective is only a matter of becoming informed and/or traveling widely. In reality, future governance will most likely require "global citizens" who appreciate the many aspects of diversity (racial, cultural, socio-economic, ideological, etc.) at an intuitive level, outside the bounds of typical Western executives.

[click here for the draft as a Microsoft Word document]


Gary Metcalf, "Governing Organizations in a Global Environment", Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Systems Thinking in Management at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, May 19-21, 2004 (in review).

[click here for the 2004 ICSTM meeting]

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