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Humanistic Management in Practice

Edited by Ernst von Kimakowitz, Michael Pirson, Heiko Spitzeck, Claus Dierksmeier and Wolfgang Amann, ca. 320 pages, Palgrave Mcmillan (2010)

A different way of doing business is feasible. This is impressively demonstrated in the book Humanistic Management in Practice, which is part of the Humanism in Business Series, initiated by the Humanistic Management Network. With 19 striking business case studies, they draw a diversified picture of alternative ways of business, which place human beings and their needs at the center of attention, by applying the principle; “reality proves possibility”.

The book consists of three sections: An Introduction, the main part comprised of 19 business case studies and the final chapter with concluding remarks where the humanistic management approach is contrasted with the traditional one. In the introduction, the authors explain their concept of humanistic management. In order to ensure the protection of human dignity, the insight that humans must be viewed as an end in themselves, instead of a means to an end, should be present at the core of humanistic management. This aim is supported by factors such as particular types of business organization, governance approach, internal structures, leadership style and culture.

The business case studies include companies from different industries, in different parts of the world, ranging from developing to industrialized countries, showing that ethical business practices are not restrained to certain industries or regions. There is also great variance in the size and organizational structure of the analyzed examples: small family-owned businesses and large, international corporations, as well as more traditionally structured firms and loosely connected cooperatives. What all of these companies have in common is their focus on and unconditional respect for human beings. The transformation towards a more ethical approach to business is usually initiated by a visionary leader with a holistic perspective on business. While all of the presented examples are economically successful, their purpose is not profit maximization for shareholders, but benefits for all stakeholders in the long-term perspective. A decentralized structure, elements of democratic participation and a culture of trust enable high degrees of motivation and dedication of employees. Outstanding examples are the German drugstore chain dm, which applies a profound stakeholder value approach, the Bangladeshi social enterprise Grameen Danone Foods, addressing malnutrition as business purpose, or the Brazilian value-based Bank ABN AMRO REAL, all with different approaches, but similar aims.

This book is not only highly informative, but also very well written, ensuring a pleasant reading experience for everyone interested in how business can be done differently. It provides valuable insights not only for executives who are willing to reconsider the economistic paradigms of traditional business theory. Be ready for some very unconventional ideas and surprising examples.

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