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CONFUCIUS

Article
APPLICATION OF CONFUCIANISM
IN MODERN MANAGEMENT

Dr.Yap Sin-Tian, 3rd February 1999

CONFUCIANISM,
world most enduring management philosophy


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Introduction

Confucius (551-479 BC) was the founder of Confucianism. He was an educationist, politician and thinker. A core problem for management is education. Confucius stressed human morality in education. Therefore, the philosophy of Confucianism applies to management. This paper presents a Confucian management model referred to as "The Humanistic Management Model of Confucianism".

The modified model integrates five Western managerial functions of planning, organising and leading, staffing and controlling with the Confucian approach, by placing the Confucian concept of benevolence as a priority in corporate mission.


Confucian Humanistic Management

From the point-of-view of Western management, legality may have priority, followed by logic and human relationship. But the Eastern concept gives human relationships the top priority. Human relations take precedence, and legislation follows in the order of sequence in the Chinese philosophy.

The Chinese emphasis on the human factor has become relevant, as modern management has given increasing recognition to the roles of human factors in management. The human factor has significant roles, both in enhancing efficiency of production through empowerment of the person, as well as greater equity in sharing the rewards of productivity. In modern management, technical and material resources have become less and less a bottleneck, and the extra decisive edges will come from human relationship aspects.

The Confucian Humanistic Management Model may be seen as having these 5 levels:

  • For planning, the model emphasises the integration of the human factor with materials, manpower, money, machinery, market, morality, management information system, and management.
  • Organising emphasises a team spirit of interdependence.
  • Leading focuses on morality and merits.
  • Staffing emphasises humanistic management through education.
  • Controlling stresses rules and regulations as a combination and co-ordination of various aspects of production.

The ultimate aim is to achieve progress but also stability within corporations. Thus, the corporation produces profits by achieving acceptable results and actualisation of a corporate mission in the organisation.

The administrative concept of Confucianism consists of benevolence, the principle of 'Mean', harmony, sincerity, loyalty, forgiveness, virtue, administration, and education.

Benevolence is a vital part of Confucius philosophy. From the view of management, the importance of Confucianism lies on its principles of benevolence. Benevolence is the core of philosophy of Confucianism. From the point-of-view of management, benevolence was seen to stress human relationship. Therefore, benevolence is given as a priority in corporate mission.

In addition to benevolence, the concepts of faithfulness, forgiveness, and filial piety are also the guidelines of Confucian virtue. As regard the guidelines of behavior, Confucius interpreted further the practical guidelines of benevolence as gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness. Confucius states that according to the 'Mean', perfection is the virtue. The Confucian concept of 'Mean' is reflected by a moderate attitude of Chinese business. The Chinese holds in business that one should be affable in dealing with people.


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Confucian 'Mean' for a Balanced Management

From the management point of view, "The Doctrine of Mean" by Confucius, as mentioned above, can also be applied to the following example. Pascale and Athos noted the difference of Japanese and American management by using the concept of Mckinsey's "7 S Qualities", which teaches that there are seven major management qualities, viz. strategy, structure, system, staff, skill, style and share value. They state that American corporations emphasize the model of 3 S; namely strategy, structure and system. They called it the hardware of management, which has a heavy technical emphasis. The Japanese management concerns the whole of the model of 7 S, that is, 3 S + 4 S. The additional 4 S here refer to the staff, skill, style and share value, which emphasise the social and human aspects. The latter is called the software of management.

The last, "share value", has become pertinent in the modern society. As the educational standard in the society increases, people are becoming more aware of their rights and would seek equitible distribution of the benefits of production. As such, "share value" has become significant in affecting efficiency of management and increase in productivity.

Some people in the management field put the software and the hardware management in confronting positions. Some view the hardware as more important than software management. From analysis of the principle of 'Mean', the 3 S should be integrated with the 4 S, the later complimenting the former and vice versa. This represents the application of the concept of 'Mean', to integrate both the 3 S and 4 S, thereby producing a more balanced management.

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File created: 3rd February 1999 modified: 7th February 2001