Saturday, July 7, 2012


Many mainstream articles, business press, etc,  characterize CEOs as “courageous” because they instituted a downsizing during the bad economy and worldwide business is showing signs of slowing down. The decision to sack or terminate employees is so difficult, the CEO who takes that path must be a brave and live a lonely soul. He’s putting the interests of the investors ahead of his own kindhearted inclinations, and making the difficult decisions that will allow the company to remain in the survival state.  How, exactly, did the company get into a situation where it needed to fire people in order to remain competitive? Sure, markets change like crazy in today’s world and business conditions become challenging. But isn’t it the job of the CEO and the management team to know or able to predict those changes, and to handle the company appropriately, and retrain staff to take on future competition, so that those challenges can be addressed?
Is Downsizing a sign of failure in business? Is it means that management has done poorly all these years and failed instead of doing the right thing — which is to quit without severance — they’re passing along the penalty for that failure to the staff who, in good faith, tried to execute the flawed corporate strategy that nowadays top executive management have been trained and pursued.
Is that why top managers chose the word “downsizing”? Does it makes the results of failure sound like a strategy, rather than a desperate way to remain profitable after the executive management has made a complete flop breakfast of things?

So, as we go forward, let’s stop calling it downsizing. Should it be called what it is: firing productive workers because top management was a bunch of overpaid pinhead losers who shouldn’t be allowed to run a company again.


Before he passed away, Mr Peter Drucker was interviewed and in that interview, he pointed out what should be obvious to everyone — that all this talk about “leadership” is a bunch of bull "shit".

Yeah, yeah, the idea of leadership sounds neat — especially if you’re in management — and it makes a manager sound all charismatic and exciting.

But what is a “leader,” anyway? What does a “leader” do?

We could not hear the term without thinking of the leader as if a marching band. That’s the person who takes a big stick and makes it go up and down, while the band does the work of actually making the music.
One reason we thought of that image is that, in our experience, most of the time the “leader” of the team is the person who found a parade and then got out in front of it. The concept of a “leader” means that credit for what the team does probably would go to the leader. And you see it every day, in the bloated salaries paid to “business leaders” and in the ridiculous way that some CEOs parade themselves as if they were super rock stars.
You see it in the lower levels, too, where managers bloviate about leadership and “inspiring” people, when in fact they’re usually just making everyone under them want to "puke". Leadership is not gifted but through sheer experiences and years of learning and understanding the human side and the way to deal with day to day activities, the feedback and the nurturing of these knowledge and expertise that hone the individual to be true leaders.
What Drucker said — and most would agree with him — is that the business world doesn’t need leaders. It needs managers — one who can actually manage a team of staff in the big organization. Being a manager means being in service to the team of employees. It means giving the team credit and making everyone else successful.  So, as we go forward, let’s stop enabling all these tin-pot “leaders” by pretending that they’re doing anything other than grandstanding. Let’s value the real managers, who actually do the hard (and largely thankless) work of making other staff in the company productive.  Let's not bluff ourselves that young managers whom have started without much experience could act to be good leaders when they take on the throne.


Back in the 20th century, there was all kinds of talk about how technology was going to empower people. Applications like email and, later the Internet, would create a free-flow of ideas, making it possible for individuals and small organizations to counterbalance the power of large institutions.
Today, however, it’s abundantly clear that technology isn’t empowering employees; it’s empowering management to spy upon employees. And technology isn’t empowering small organizations; it’s making it easier for large organizations to drive the smaller ones out of business.
As evidence of this, look at what’s happening to Wiki-leaks, probably one of the only organizations in the world that’s actually making a stab at the kind of information empowerment that was promised in the past. The big financial institutions, one by one, are using their clout to shut it down, even though the organization has not been charged with any crime.
Consider as well, the so-called “net neutrality” act recently passed.
There’s a concept in business called “the law of inverse relevance” which can be stated as “the less you plan to do something, the most you must talk about it.” That generally takes the form of laws and regulations that do the exact opposite of what their title says they’re going to do.
The “net neutrality” act is a perfect example. Rather than making sure that the net remains neutral, it actually makes certain that wireless companies will be able to throttle any business or business concept that threatens their profits.

The way this “empowerment” concept plays out in business is the insane idea that new technology is going to make people more innovative, more entrepreneurial, more creative, yada, yada, yada. Such total BS. All those things come from the heart, not from the hand.

So, as we go forward, let’s stop talking about technology as “empowerment” and start talking about what really counts: human creativity freed from the limitations imposed by bonehead “leaders” who think they’re managing “human resources”.

Business Process Reengineering

The theory: Analyze the workflows and processes within your organization and rework them to achieve a defined business outcome. Set up cross-functional teams in order to re-engineer separate functional tasks into complete cross-functional processes. Integrate a wide number of business functions through enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, yada-yada-yada, etc., etc.
The reality: Forget about redesigning processes. Reengineering is all about layoffs. Top management uses the idea to justify firing people in order to make it seem like they’re actually doing something logical, rather than just temporarily boosting the stock price so that their short term stock options pay off big.
The result: A string of layoffs, followed by the total collapse of your company. Probably sooner rather than later.

The fad opinion: The whole idea is terminally idiotic. Massively changing a corporation while it’s operating is exactly like trying to redesign and retool an automobile while you’re driving down the highway. In any case, reengineering assumes that corporations fail because of lousy processes, when it’s almost ALWAYS the result of lousy management.

Your strategy if you do: If your company announces that it’s reengineering, suggest update your resume. Start networking and maybe line up your new position in another company as soon as possible. Even if you’re well positioned to survive the layoffs, you won’t want to work there after the reengineering has been going on for a while. 

Core Competency

The theory: Focus on the one thing that your firm does better than anyone else. That will make your strategy difficult for competitors to imitate and keep your organization from wasting time doing things that they’re not very good at.

The reality: Most organizations, like the managers that run them, are about as self aware as a turnip. As a result, they seldom know what they’re really good at. In many cases, organizations think they’re good at something but are actually successful for some completely different reason.
The result: Core competence generally ends up as a kind of myth that keeps a company locked into doing what it was successful at doing in the past. As a result, companies that focus on their core competence soon find that they have competitors running rings around them.

Like all management fads, this sounds like a great idea, but it must be implemented by corporate managers, which means that even if it were the most brilliant idea in the world, they would still bollix things up beyond all recognition.
Your strategy if you do: Get involved in the committee that’s suppose to determine the core competence. Make sure that whatever you do is the company’s core competence. If you fail, maybe better transfer to the group that did win the discussion.

No comments: