Book Review: Survival in the Organization

Survival in the Organization: Gunnar Hjelholt Looks Back at the Concentration Camp from an Organizational Perspective by Benedicte Madsen & Søren Willert is a small book and a quick read. The book is about Gunnar Hjelholt’s life with a focus on his time in a German Concentration Camp during World War II. I found the last few pages of the book most interesting.

What strikes Gunnar Hjelholt are the similarities between the concentration camp and organizations in general. ”Every position is connected to privileges. Salaries are dependent on the position in the hierarchy. You lose your privileges, if you don’t do your job. That is, unless you make sure that people below you in the hierarchy do their jobs and do not cause trouble. On top of it all you have the board of directors and the stockholders. In the concentration camp version, they were the SS. Their purpose is setting objectives and defining the task they want done. They determine how many resources can be made available for completing the task and then they appoint someone to be in charge of the operations … The rest takes more or less care of itself.” (pp.86–87).

Unfortunately, the really interesting question how ”a system would look like if God had created it” is saved ”for another time” (p.88).

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