Dr. Alejandro Fontana, Professor of General Management and Executive Control at the University of Piura in Peru, shares with Exaudi’s readers his article entitled ”Development of a Strategic Capacity in Company Managers: The Need to Foment a Personal Morality.”
* * *
“We come from a phase of development in which the material and technical has been privileged over the ethical and spiritual” (Benedict XVI, 2010).
In my environment, it is increasingly necessary for one who wishes to be an executive to complement his experience with a Master’s in Business Management or that one who works as such, also reinforce his ability and knowledge with executive education programs.
In order to evaluate the different alternatives, we often pay attention to the rankings of the different Schools. However, when reviewing the criteria that these evaluations use, I haven’t found that they focus on what should be the principal objective of an executive program. With this, I do no more than claim those qualities that an executive should have: to diagnose a problem correctly, and to be able to solve it.
Consequently, I can affirm that an adequate executive program would require the development of three capacities: strategic, executive, and leadership capacities. Of these three qualities, the one that enables one to make a proper diagnosis of the problem is strategic capacity. Some authors consider that it is innate. Personally, I am inclined to recognize that they have innate aspects, but that at the same time it is the object of learning.
What also called my attention, on reviewing the contents of the programs proposed for the development of this capacity, was not finding a direct reference to the link between one’s improvement and the development of genuine personal morality. My purpose now is to develop these ideas and to show the close connection between a profound strategic capacity and personal morality.
A strategic capacity calls for anticipating events, and to do the appropriate movements now, to achieve the objective posed. This implies theoretical and logical reasoning, which looks for proportions and reasons between the different variables that are involved. For example, to understand the characteristics of the business model, the executive must respond accurately to the question regarding the characteristics and interests of his consumers and clients, the attributes of his products, the capacities of his organization, and must also be able to analyze the attributes of other products that his clients and competitors can find in the market, and read accurately other factors of the environment. This implies logical reasoning. To this logical reasoning must be added a good instrumental use. In fact, to analyze complex situations, there are tools of different natures: financial, quantitative, commercial, and operational.
However, this capacity calls, moreover, for an additional dimension: to be able to take into account the consequences that one’s decisions generate in the learning of the different agents with whom one interacts in making those decisions, namely, the increase or diminution of the trust of the collaborators and providers, and the consequences that clients and stakeholder will suffer. A strategic capacity implies proper knowledge of human nature and, especially, the conviction that people are not means for something, but ends in themselves. The executive must keep in mind that people are not static realities, but realities in constant dynamism. As opposed to the material reality, which is relatively stable — because the physical nature also suffers the market effect, and the increase of the capacities of human technology –, the personal realm is, by nature, dynamic and variable. A person isn’t the same, although he might seem so, a few months later. In this short time, by interacting with other people — no one is an isolated individual — changes have taken place in him: in his way of perceiving reality, in his way of judging, including in his way of relating with others. Therefore, there is learning in each one of the interactions with other people.
People learn something constantly, although it could also be said that they can unlearn. Ultimately, learning is focused on two alternatives: either one is freer or one is less free. Positive learning is less restricted by the surrounding reality and will enable one to have a greater capacity for self-determination. Negative learning is greater attachment to the surroundings: a negative, restrictive, crushing dependence that hinders one being free: to have freedom of action or the capacity for self-determination, which makes people develop and grow more.
Therefore, if the strategic analysis must enable one to know what the organization must do, it cannot be lacking in a moral assessment, which is the assessment of one’s personal ambit. As the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae states, “It’s essential that we convince ourselves of the priority of the ethical over the technical, of the primacy of the human person over things, of the superiority of the spirit over matter.”
Only one who values this dimension in himself is capable of discovering the possible effects of his decisions in the personal environment surrounding him. If the executive himself is not for himself a subject of development and freedom, it’s impossible that his actions can identify what is suitable for others in those same dimensions. Therefore, although he should move with ease in the logical and instrumental dimensions, what will mark the difference and quality of his style of management will be his ability to perform adequately on the plane of personal learning: the cognitive and that of service.
A program of strategic education cannot be limited to the development of logic or the mastery of some functional tools. Strategic capacity is closely linked to the capacity to see the more profound aspects of human nature: learning that is the fruit of interaction and development of the capacity for service.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester