Humanistic corporate management

The term Human-centered Organization (HCO) first appeared in the late 1950s and has gained more attention in the last ten years. But what is behind it all? Here I explain the most important points.

The two main components

An analysis of the literature on human-centered management (HCOs) reveals two primary perspectives: Human-centered Design (HCD) and Human-centered Management (HCM). These two approaches offer different but complementary perspectives on the design and management of organizations.

Human-Centered Design (HCD)

The HCD perspective emphasizes the importance of designing products and services that are geared towards the needs of users. This approach has been popularized by companies such as IDEO and the Stanford University Design School and adopted by companies such as IBM and PepsiCo. HCD begins with a creative and participative exploration of the users’ needs and wishes. The entire process is centered around empathy for the users and a deep understanding of their perspectives and experiences. Methods such as prototyping, iterative development and continuous adaptation are central elements of this approach.

Human-Centered Management (HCM)

In contrast, humanistic management emphasizes human dignity, respect and justice within organizations. This approach criticizes the traditional, Taylorist organizational structure, which often views employees as mere cogs in the production process. Instead, humanistic management sees employees as creative problem solvers and innovators who are able to take responsibility and make meaningful contributions. Organizations should be understood as communities in which human values such as compassion and diversity are promoted. The aim is not only to maximize profits, but also to ensure social responsibility and the well-being of all stakeholders.

Grafik Human Centered Organization

Synthesis of perspectives

These two perspectives, although different, complement each other and can be brought together to form an integrated framework. The synthesis of the HCD and humanistic management approaches results in a comprehensive model that comprises the following core elements:

  1. Humanist values: Central values such as dignity, well-being and justice take center stage. These values promote a working environment in which employees are recognized and respected as whole people.
  2. Public benefit: HCOs pursue goals that go beyond mere profit maximization. They consider the needs and well-being of all stakeholders, including the communities in which they operate.
  3. Positive human experiences: Workplaces should enable employees to connect, be respected and do meaningful work. Employees should have the opportunity to develop professionally and personally and to develop their skills.
  4. Team structures: HCOs are often structured around teams that have more autonomy and responsibility. These teams are usually semi-autonomous and self-managed, which enables them to control processes and results largely independently.
  5. Participatory practices and tools: Methods from HCD such as prototyping and iterative development are used to design people-centered organizations. These practices aim to develop a deep understanding and empathy for the needs and concerns of users and employees.
Grafik der fünf Bereiche von Human-centered Organizations

Practical examples

A few practical examples illustrate these approaches. The e-learning company Sweet Rush has developed a culture based on care, inclusion and justice. The company promotes a psychologically safe environment in which employees learn techniques to address sensitive issues such as underperformance and discrimination. Another example is Volvo’s Uddevalla factory, which has introduced a model of flexible specialization. Small working groups are responsible for the production of an entire car, which promotes joint problem solving and holistic product development.

The basic article

You can download a very good basic scientific article on the subject of human-centered organization free of charge from Springer.

Further topics