Sustainable Development and Modern Management

The United Nations has promulgated that low-income countries need development. But only a few really understand what that means. Ironically perhaps, physicists are alone in fully grasping the concept.

The UN describes the phenomenon of development with a mathematical metaphor: “multidimensional. When joined with sustainability goals, 17 vectors are added, each pulling in different directions.

To be sure, a multidimensional equation with 17 vectors has no one solution. Thus, more often than not, it requires the brilliance of a Gauss or Einstein to solve.

Prosperity can be approached in more simple terms

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are actually unified by one simple idea. Namely, that to achieve better outcomes, mankind needs to work together.

However, contrary to popular belief, the best way for us to work together cannot be decided in a few minutes’ consideration. Neither by the alignment of planets, government policy, nor economic indicators.  It is instead determined by science. And this science of work, very simply put, is management.

Low-income countries desperately need scientific management

Management is a mental and social revolution. One of its pioneers, Frederick Taylor, used it to lead America to a new age of prosperity.

Taylor was concerned with what we might call productivity today (management experts such as Peter F. Drucker describe productivity as “the art of the necessary”).

In the introduction of Taylor’s book “The Principles of Scientific Management,” he introduces some of the problems, which management solves, as follows:


“We can see our forests vanishing, our water-powers going to waste, our soil being carried by floods into the sea; and the end of our coal and our iron is in sight. But our larger wastes of human effort, which go on every day through such of our acts as are blundering, ill-directed, or inefficient … are less visible, less tangible, and are but vaguely appreciated.”


Indeed, sustainability has always been on the tip of management’s tongue. But today, the subject is presented as an efficiency device or a system for figuring out costs or profits. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Management is foremost a liberal art. It draws on knowledge from the social and economic sciences, arts, and humanities. It helps create employment and has transformed poor, rich and middle-income countries, with  Israel, South Korea and Japan perhaps its most intriguing cases.

Management’s responsibilities entail values, growth and development. When practiced the right way, it can help people make better decisions and eradicate irresponsible production. It promotes quality education, affordable energy, effective hospitals, a clean climate and good health and well-being, in organizations, institutions and society.

As such, management has become indispensable to commerce, philanthropy, health, industry, education, politics and religion.

Management is science for working better together

From Charles Babbage, father of the modern computer, to Walter Rathenau in “The New Society,” to Henry Fayol, the Francis Bacon of Management literature, through Peter F. Drucker’s speeches and essays in the 1980s and 1990s, management has foreseen and developed a science for creating a better world.

When the UN began developing goals for a better world and the World Bank started lending money for economic development, the word “management” was not in their vocabulary. Even as of this writing, management is barely mentioned in their current reports, papers and speeches. Even though scientific management antedates their creation.

The UN remains one of the few institutions to raise questions of how mankind can better work together. But management thinkers are practically alone in answering them. With just under ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Agenda, and many people in low-income countries still left behind, the UN most show that they are familiar with the phenomenon and potential of management.

Current and new agenda needs illustrate that development is the direct consequence of management. It needs to be practical and easy for average people to practice – without the need to study non-Euclidian geometry. In other words, perhaps, the UN needs to promulgate the art of managing oneself, setting goals and objectives, organizing tasks, bringing people together, measuring performances and results, and helping people grow, instead of development.


Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on Feb. 17, 2021.

Related posts