OK, let’s be really clear. Organizations make no sense. Organizations aren’t natural. Organizations aren’t the way it’s always been.
Organizations are an artificial construct.
So much of what assails us every day isn’t grounded in anything other than the weirdness created by the weird.
Organizational power games.
When it come to organizations, this is not a rational universe.
So, it seems to this badconsultant that the majority of management literature
[we are, after all, in countdown to Millionth Management Book Day]
is trying to make sense of irrationality – and in so doing ends up perpetuating the myths of organizations, and maintaining the madness.
So, what is the basic myth of the modern organization?
If I am above you in the structure, I’m better than you – I know what you know, can do what you do better than you can, and know that you are an extension of my thoughts and hands. I am omniscient over you.
[we hope the religious overtone isn’t lost upon you – though that would depend on the depth of your denial and collusion]
We have conferred terms upon this basic myth – leadership, management, executive – but it all comes down to the same thing: the propping up of ego and self-esteem by virtue of hierarchical position. And not just at the individual level, either. The modern organization has created whole corporate functions (Finance, Operations, HR, Communications) to perpetuate the myth. Corporate functions where we see the most important players are those who support the most senior leaders, not those who are most capable at their own discipline.
And, because organizations are an artificial construct, that’s just fine and dandy. There is congruence within the system.
Executive leaders are petty pretenders to monarchy who gather a court of sycophants to reassure them of their own infallibility.
[pause… read that again… and again… Got it? Good]
So pity the poor court jesters who have tried to make sense in the midst of mythology.
Pity those management scholars who truly believed that order could be introduced in chaos, that human beings were reproducible production units and that organizations were fundamentally a naturally occurring phenomenon.
They tried. They really did.
Like with balanced scorecards. The logic of which were perfect – structured strategic objectives translated at all levels of an organization to team and individual deliverables; the seamlessness of tracking and reporting, the alignment of individual effort to corporate intent. It was (and is) beautiful in it’s simplicity.
Except for that basic myth – “… you are an extension of my thoughts and hands…”
So, why would any individual want or need specific deliverables? That would imply free will, which simply does not exist in the myth.
[and should be stamped out wherever found]
And that’s where the imbalanced scorecard began to develop (reinforced ever-so-slightly by the court of sycophancy, of course). Pretty soon, the imbalanced scored was a one-way view – averaged metrics that enabled the monarch to quickly scan the kingdom, to ensure their extensions were doing what was necessary to justify the monarch’s reward.
And for those individual workers
[and my but how we don’t like to use such terms in the modern organization – let’s use associates, colleagues, partners… just please don’t describe the reality]
who did care to look up at the strategic objectives in the sky, they made no sense, had no connection to the day to day.
When I can’t see how what I do makes a difference, I stop working to make a difference.
Which is how, instead of accelerating performance, extending growth and setting new standards, the imbalanced scorecard led to organizational averageness and individual apathy.
Just another example of best intent management science trying to make sense of irrationality and ultimately getting sucked into the vortex.
Organizations do that. They don’t know how to do otherwise.