Dirk Knemeyer

Progressive Corporate Hierarchy

Progressive Corporate Hierarchy, September 23, 2016

What I was hearing from Lincoln Electric’s example was the same sort of mistake the progressives have been making for hundreds of years. I’ll specifically mention communism and communism in the former Soviet Union. The idea behind communism, the power to the people. I mean, that all sounds great, right, but the problem is when they set it up, they have the people take over and then the people created the same hierarchical power structures that existed before, just instead of it being a hereditary monarchy, now it was this iron-fisted despot, right?

We can argue to what is a despot. We certainly cannot argue that Stalin was a major freaking despot. With Lincoln, what they’re doing is they’re bringing elected group of labor people – it’s sort of how you put it – in to join the management in some capacity. To me, that’s going down that same path of communism which is namely seeing the world through the top-down hierarchical structure, so we’ll elevate the leaders from the workers who will join the owners in some degree of management and how much of that is really that the labor leaders’ contributing and how much are they passive observers? I don’t know. We cannot know.

I would have found it far more progressive if what Lincoln was doing was saying, “Look, every week there’s a senior executive meeting and there will be three workers who are randomly selected and everybody’s going to get their turn over the years or each month, there’s a board meeting and three members of the workforce randomly selected.” Whether or not that’s the correct solution, I’m not sure but the point being they’re going back to the hierarchical top-down model of, “These are the people in charge who are going to filter information and push it down to the masses below them.”

It’s a very different thing when you’re able to have every person come up and be a part of that. I mean, it’s one reason why in all of my companies, I’ve always insisted on a human scale where the owner of the company is tied to the, basically, the lowest person on the totem pole. There’s a direct connection where they’re working together, know each other’s name, see each other on a daily basis. That creates more humane outcomes. I would have been much more heartened if Lincoln was saying, “Look, the CEO is going to meet Jane who is the lowest of the low on the hierarchical worker pole.” Jane’s voice matters just as much as Bobby who is this charismatic guy who can get voted to be the leader of our labor group, right? I don’t want to take anything away from Lincoln. I’m sure what they’re doing is progressive.

It’s better than what many other companies are doing, but when I’m looking for innovation, things that would turn my head or more down to the kind of path of what I was talking about. I’m suspicious that what Lincoln is doing is making similar mistakes to what many people have done in terms of bringing up some of the masses to just create a new level of overlord.

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