Since Marty is off celebrating his new marriage, I thought this would be a good time to talk about L. Ron Hubbard’s “secular” management system, the Administration Technology – also known as the Admin Tech.
Since Hubbard started Dianetics (and later Scientology) as a business, it should come as no surprise that he wrote instructions for how that business should be run. But Hubbard didn’t just write a simple list of guidelines. His management-related policies, directives and bulletins make up eleven coffee-table-size volumes – twelve if you count the index, which is a separate book – totaling around 8,000 pages. In them, LRH covers all aspects of business: Finance, sales, marketing, recruiting, product design, employee relations, etc. Collectively, these writings make up the Management Series and the Organizational Executive Course (OEC), but they are more commonly known simply as the Green Volumes.
Hubbard originally bundled the Green Volumes together as a way to train Church executives, but it wasn’t long before he saw an opportunity: If he could get his management system out into the real world, it could be a source of potential recruits.
And so was born WISE – the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises. The Admin Tech was not just a recruiting tool; like all aspects of Scientology, it was also designed to make money. To use the Admin Tech, a company has to join WISE. Annual membership fees range from $500 for sole proprietors to $6,000 for companies with 20 employees or more, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. WISE companies must keep extensive libraries stocked with LRH books, including multiple copies of the Green Volumes, which retail for $500 to $1000 per set. Businesses of a certain size must maintain a course room that teaches LRH courses ($50-$100 per course pack per student). They even have to have E-meters, which sell for upwards of $4000 each.
Hubbard promoted the Admin Tech with the same overblown zeal as Dianetics and Scientology. The Admin Tech was a breakthrough discovery: “Poring through volume after volume of business texts,” says one Scientology web site, “[Hubbard] soon came to realize that no uniformly workable technology of organizations existed.” (This was back in the 1960s, and would have come as a hell of a shock to the management of companies like IBM, General Motors and General Electric.) “While there were many successful activities, there was little in the way of proven techniques and principles which could be applied uniformly to all organizations. And so it was that he embarked on a path of organizational research which would parallel his spiritual studies for the next three decades.”
Despite LRH’s insistence that the Admin Tech was the first workable management solution on Earth, it relies heavily on common sense and proven business practices such as management by statistics and organizational charts (called “org boards” by LRH). (These methods have been around for ages, but I’ve met several Scientologists who insist that Ron invented them. Perhaps in a past lifetime?)
Other practices were openly “borrowed” from other sources. The Green Volume on marketing includes a reprint of the original Positioning article by Jack Trout and Al Reis, and for the sales staff Hubbard both quoted from and recommended Les Dane’s Big League Sales Closing Techniques (though one wonders what use a legitimate church would have for such a book).
But LRH did include several original ideas, many of which are detrimental. For example, Admin Tech companies do not have yearly budgets. Instead, they run their finances week-to-week, deciding what to spend based on how much money came in the week before. This wreaks havoc with suppliers and can make it nearly impossible to get good deals on purchasing since they cannot buy more than a week ahead. And LRH often put his own less-than-educated spin on the methods he borrowed – for example, his cribbing of Trout and Reis’ brilliant Positioning article is followed by a massive misinterpretation of the concept by Hubbard.
Many Admin Tech policies are written with typical Hubbard oversimplification. One key marketing policy, relating to introducing and marketing a new product, advises readers to “Look around and decide what there is to sell. Get very full lists.” When coming up with an ad, LRH says one should “Get a bright idea.” Poof, just like that.
In other policies, LRH goes into way too much detail – micromanagement from beyond the grave. For example, LRH says that all advertisements must encompass seven specific points*, which means that minimalist ads, like Volkswagen’s classic “It’s ugly, but it gets you there,” are impossible to write in an Admin Tech company.
(* The seven points of an ad: 1) What is it? 2) How valuable is it? 3) What does it do? 4) How easy is it to do it? 5) How costly is it? 6) How do you acquire it? 7) Where do you get it from?)
Why can’t Scientology businesses (or churches) correct these problems? Because LRH technology is senior to all. It doesn’t matter if you have a Harvard MBA – if you work for an Admin Tech company, you must do things the way LRH said. In Scientology, there is only one way to skin a cat, and that’s Hubbard’s way. If it isn’t in the Green Volumes, it doesn’t get done.
To be fair, there are some very good aspects to Admin Tech companies. Because all decisions must be based on LRH policy, everyone sings off the same sheet of music – there is little room for individual egos or preferences to throw a wrench in the works. Admin Tech companies believe heavily in on-the-job training; all employees must be “fully hatted” (trained in all job-related policies). If you make a mistake, you are encouraged to visit the Qual[ity] department and restudy the LRH and company policies that relate to your job, and such honesty about one’s errors is generally encouraged, praised and admired.
Scientologists believe that with the proper hatting, anyone can do any job. You may be a high school dropout, but as long as you can read and understand the applicable LRH policies, there’s nothing to stop you from becoming the Treasury Secretary (a.k.a. chief financial officer). And if you can’t do your job, you aren’t automatically fired – you will be taken “off post” and given a more suitable job if one is available.
And some of LRH’s business advice is quite good. For example, Hubbardian marketing relies heavily on surveys. LRH says that if you survey people to find what they want or need, and then tell them you have it, they will beat a path to your door. This is quite accurate, and it’s an excellent way to market products and services, though it seems a rather dishonest way to market a religion. And make no mistake, this is exactly how the Church is marketed.
Though billed as “secular,” the Admin Tech talks a great deal about the Church – not its religious tenets, but how it was established and run. WISE employees quickly become fluent in “Scientologese,” and many of the Church’s more sinister practices – including handling of the press, handling of Supressive Persons, hard-selling and the evils of psychiatry – are part and parcel of the Admin Tech. No surprise that many Scientologists seek out employment at WISE companies.
At the end of the day, however, the Admin Tech is still a management system written by a man with no formal education and a limited understanding of business. In my next blog entry, we’ll take a closer look at one of the tenets of the Admin Tech, management by statistics, to see how something that looks like basic common sense can actually cause mayhem for a business and its employees.