How Not To ….

Since everybody, his brother, and most of their cousins seem to be writing how-to posts these days — and since experts seem to proliferate at the same rate as the number of people falling in love with every new … uh … beneficial technology — I thought I’d write a post about how not to. And since it seems as if every organization in the world wants to reorganize or to transform something — digital transformation! financial transformation! operational transformation! — reorganization seemed like a suitable topic.

Some years ago, I saw a quote from Charlton Ogburn, 1911 – 1998, an American writer who’d served in the U.S. Army and then as a State Department official, specializing in South-East Asian affairs. Ogburn wrote this in an article entitled, “Merrill’s Marauders”, that ran in Harper’s Magazine in 1957:

We tend … to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.

All things considered — and all other progress notwithstanding — it’s astonishing how little we’ve learned in the 66 ensuing years. Oh, well. At least we still have things to learn and to achieve.

Don’t Try This at Home

Since we sometimes seem hell-bent on self-defeat, I thought I’d offer a few other suggestions to complement Ogburn’s thoughts on reorganizing. These suggestions are sure to throw any organization into a tailspin of confusion, dysfunction, and resentment. Since I’ve listed them in no particular or necessary order, please feel free to mix and match as you see fit:

How not to have a successful organization:

  • Make sure the most important thing to all employees is the person on the next rung above them on the corporate ladder.
  • Put posters all over the office that say, “When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”
  • Use the sentence, “Floggings will continue until morale improves,” as the company’s tagline.
  • Whenever possible encourage territorial behavior and turf wars.
  • Create as many silos as possible, aiming to make them as impenetrable as you can.
  • Adopt divide and conquer as a manifesto for all managers in the organization.
  • Stay in your office with the door closed, except to …
  • Come out and make longwinded speeches in indecipherable gibberish.
  • Make sure everyone in the organization knows the only good ideas are yours.
  • Hold as many meetings as possible.
  • Create as many committees as possible.

And don’t forget to adhere to the Six Phases of a Project:

1. Wild enthusiasm
2. Dejected disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Praise and honor for the nonparticipants.

Kidding Aside …

Is this post a joke? Partly.

No one who has any interest in running a successful organization would do the things I’ve suggested here. On the other hand, there are people with great interest in running successful organizations who remain highly resistant to welcoming the contributions of others, to transparency, and to change. And, however unwittingly, they resist those things at their own expense and the expense of their organizations.

That raises the age-old philosophical question: Would you rather be right, or would you rather be successful?

Choose wisely.

1 reply
  1. Frank Zaccari
    Frank Zaccari says:

    We tend … to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *