I no longer work for Corporate Amerika… I no longer hear Darth Vader’s Death March as I enter the bowels of purgatory through revolving doors. So you may ask, why do you still write about corporate culture? Well I could take the smarty-pants route and say:
- I’m still recovering and experiencing PTSD from working on projects for months just to figure out that they were poorly conceived (probably by some twonk in a strategic role who just liked coming up with ideas instead of making products) and therefore being end of lifed before we actually got to do anything.
- Or experiencing meetings with people higher up who yell and berate you for no reason what so ever rather than to put you in your place, when you were only asking for their help and support on a particularly touchy matter. You wouldn’t have asked for their support unless they hadn’t openly made a good show in a meeting of how they “were there to help us with such matters” in a project update meeting. Blame it on my naivete.
- I’m still recovering from the impulse to fill out project management PERT analysis and MS Project time-sheets (Spreadsheet Monkeyism).
But I think if i still write about the Corporate Life every now and then it’s because I see something or read about a study or theory that just vindicates the hunch I had that Corporate Life in its perverse form is only a few steps from living in an asylum. Every now and then I run across and article or post that makes my heart warm up like my hands around a mug of hot chocolate with real marshmallows in it.
In his post Jim McGee asserts that in large organizations like the military (or corporations). Officers who are dumb and hard-working (say like Frank Burns from MASH) usually cause the most problems. I’d add to that if you get an A-hole boss (ala. Bob Sutton’s classification) running an organization of Frank Burns-like individuals them you have some serious problems.
Now who would you rather have as your boss? Frank Burns or Lou Grant?
It didn’t happen in my last job, but I have worked in jobs where management types walk by your cubicle and give you a look-over when you don’t appear to by doing something at your computer. “I’m thinking… damn-it!” I wanted to say. Maybe I needed to wear a dorky baseball cap with a flashing light bulb on top for these numb-nuts to get it. McGee in his post suggests the use of mind-maps for thinking and looking productive.
More, I agree that it’s much better to engineer smarter ways of doing things than just looking busy filling out things. Or just looking busy. I began my corporate life as an administrative assistant and I’m quite proud to admit this because I believe that good admin are the backbone of any truly high-functioning administration. I spent a great deal of time trying to use and apply the magic of macros to much of my work. Figuring out these things was what made my job quite fun.
McGee asks a very good question: “What barriers to innovation, if any, does a bias toward diligence create?” Looking “Busy” is an addiction that Weberian corporate culture has quite a difficult time overcoming. But I say, in order to stop being an alcoholic one must first admit that they are one.
More grand stuff:
- Keeping great people is hard work. (HBR article by Bob Sutton) – thought it was interesting that one boss learned to change his mean-old ways when he realized that it cost the company about $100,000 everytime some one left because he was a jerk.
- Has your organization slipped into a pathos? Slow leadership on organizational pathology