Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Being a professional IT-nerd, I have the nice chance to both work at many companies in a year, spending a few weeks or months wherein I interact with every layer of a company that even remotely thinks about using computers.

And though the technical knowledge I gain at these different jobs is a very good economical motivator to keep on doing this line of work, the social knowledge and experience is something I highly value for myself.

In earlier days I generally scoffed at those studying management, business and HRM, but I've learned that a company is a very complex creature and I've gained a modicum of respect for those whom manage this well or attempt to do so.

I say a modicum, since I've seen the same all too human story of failure and ineptitude played out in every company, albeit in different amounts (And in some companies the story actually ends well, bless them).

It starts out small and well-thought. A few people find a way to make money and start applying their effort and ideas. It works and soon they start repeating and expanding upon their initial idea to fill their niche. This is probably the most basic description of any business. But as the idea grows, more people are hired and employees are no longer able to discern the workings of the company as it has grown more and more complex. And why should they? They (The new ones) are just employees, whilst the original owners are moved up and lose sight of the primary process of the company. The owners reap the benefit, but the employee has a steady job and just has to 'do his job'.

Groups form. Every group starts off to do work, but parkinsons law quickly starts to apply, with every group isolating themselves. This happens both in work time spent in contact with other groups and physically in the location one occupies with a group or department.
In one way, this is the direct result of specialization, but i'd like to argue that this also encourages "I just do my job, and the rest is not my responsibility" as a work ethic.

It is at this point where communication starts to falter. Sales sells something impossible, management sets lofty but unattainable goals or key employees taking a holiday. The point is, that as a company grows, it is virtually impossible for an employee to actually know and see what is going on in the company. Heaven forbid that they actually try to do anything about this, as it is a social taboo to encroach upon the domain of other groups.
Besides, shouldn't you be doing your normal work?

In our collective wisdom, however, we have decided that someone needs to have an idea of what is going on. We have a word for people whom are supposed to make sure that we can do our jobs well whilst also keeping the company running as smoothly as possible : They're called managers. (For those in the know. the non-pointy-haired version)

I am tempted to go on a rant on what strange social mechanisms have been involved in evolving the previous job description into the simple word "Boss". (Or take the civil servant, an oxymoron nowadays.) But i've got another point i'd like to make:

We have shifted the responsibility for the company away from ourselves. It is now the domain of that elusive group of managers, whom are now the sole owners of that responsibility and like all other groups, have formed their own culture and extra work to inhibit the availability of their time.
And as this group detaches itself from the other groups, it loses that key quality that is generally found on the lower rungs of the workplace : Actually knowing what it all is about. The group of managers are no longer able to grasp the other groups. My point? A good company has managers AND leaders that are aware of these groups encroach upon the working enviroment and are knowledgable (or preferrably: experienced) in navigating and working in the other groups.

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