By Fábio Frezatti, professor at the Faculty of Economics, Administration, Accounting and Actuarial Science (FEA) at USP
In 2008 they were the main actors in the movie The wanted. A thriller where James MacAvoy was chosen by Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman to eliminate a criminal. It is not a benefactor group of humanity, but highly pragmatic in terms of goals and means. James was the agent, and the mentors were Angelina and Morgan. I will not refer to the names of the characters, but I will simply indicate the names of the actors. The humanization of the story becomes stronger through the image we have of the actors.
Despite being very capable and motivated, James could not achieve his goal. In addition to the challenge of demonstrating competence in a very high-risk environment, the feeling of revenge was a very present element in his attitude and actions. For various reasons, he was always late or something was missing from his plans. In some moments it would be questionable if he was the one who should look for or was the one wanted. In today’s language, a character doomed to failure, although highly competent in terms of technique and perception for the level of risk he could take in each situation: a profile of unique self-sufficiency. If we stop to think, we will recognize it with some frequency in our trajectories.
After several attempts, James went to talk to his mentors, expressing his frustrations and received a very valuable advice, which is the motivation of this text: he should return to the starting point where he left and rescue what would be important for his mission, because had lost any strength to lead the process, becoming led, involved by tactical reactive actions that consumed energy and generated risks, but not success. He had lost the more strategic vision of positioning himself and actions were planned to avoid previous mistakes, which is intuitively adequate, but does not eliminate the possibility of new types of errors and mistakes. It’s something like the chess player who only cares about the next move, making the opponent’s life easier.
It’s not relevant whether we like this kind of movie or not, but the message adds a lot of value. It has practical implications for society. The search for answers is not always a straight line where we simply take a direction and move forward in organizations and in our own lives. The scenarios change, new characters appear and we need to go back to the starting point for the reference. In organizations, indicating that they should go back to the starting point is to go back to the mission, vision and values. If these mechanisms are really something assimilated by the organization, the shared and participatory analysis must bring important answers, which is not small for an environment with ruptures at every moment. At least one consistency anchor will be available.
Why does anyone need to write about this? For the same reason James needed to hear from someone who advised him. We are pressured to continue from the “last step” reached and … move forward, with new steps. It may be that the stairs no longer take us to the desired location. Sociology presents us with the duality in terms of structure and agency, where the second depends on people acting. This turning his eyes and reflections back to the starting point only occurs when the agent is convinced he must do so.
The title question remains open and I can say that its characters are very provocative and stimulate reflection in terms of the possibilities of situations that each of us can be living in an organization. It is easier and less painful to see a given problem in others than in ourselves or in the organizations of which we are a part. The ability to adapt and inspiration will depend on what Giddens (1979) proposes in the agency’s interaction with the structure.
I have to admit that Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and James MacAvoy have nothing to do with managing organizations, but the characters in the film contribute to a relevant reflection on the topic. By the way, a spoiler for those who haven’t watched and enjoy this type of movie: James followed the advice and was successful. Art imitates life, but life also imitates art in a very interesting loop.