The Ironic Manager Blog

An Ironic Perspective on the World of Work

Organisational Culture (and why it's dying)

Organisational Culture (and why it's dying)

Organisation life has beliefs, routines, and rituals that make it cultural. We can measure it. Describe it. Even change it. I don't think anybody would deny that organisational culture is everywhere. Unavoidably part of our everyday reality. 

But this is a benign interpretation. So benign as to be meaningless. It has no power to motivate. It's just a measurement of practice. Yet a whole industry has arisen around it.

We know there is a gap between what management wants to happen and what is actually happening. The classic definition of irony. So, we look at espoused organisational values. See where they differ from how things happen in reality. Then try to close the gap. It's a big thing. That's why words like "alignment" are so trendy.  

But this is not where the real irony lies. No, the real, bitter irony lies in the lost promise of culture. And how we've found nothing to replace it. Which is why everyone is so cynical, sarcastic, anxious and disengaged. 

The Promise of Organisational Culture

The above benign interpretation is completely different than the original concept of organisational culture. This promised long-lasting meaning at work. It would produce loyal and hard-working employees. Great engagement. Fantastic enthusiasm. Wonderful lives. 

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The Future of Organisation

The Future of Organisation

I'm trying to develop a framework of leadership and organisational design which integrates with contemporary socio-cultural life. The two theories of human society I work with are the hypermodern and the metamodern.

This article attempts to explain their relevance. I will appreciate any comments, whether supportive, critical, challenging or dismissive. 

The Hypermodern

Hypermodernity is a society characterized by movement, fluidity and flexibility.

Hypermodern society aims at expanding wealth, better living standards, medical advances, and life easing technologies. The driving motivation is to pull away from the natural limits that constrain human life.  It rejects history as a source of knowledge. The past teaches hypermoderns nothing. Everything changes too quickly to learn anything of worth from the past! 

Instead, there is an excessive faith in the ability of reason to solve the problems of humanity. The promise to improve individual choice and freedom. Money flows to companies and universities promising technological and rational solutions. Social projects are irrelevant and unfunded. 

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Are Millennials Unmanageable?

Are Millennials Unmanageable?

Millennials are enthusiastic, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, opportunistic, lazy, unproductive, and self-obsessed.  Apparently! In recent weeks, this "The Generations in the Workplace" infographic meme has been causing some distaste in millennials.  They, perhaps not surprisingly, objected to some of the negative generalisations. 

So, is it fair?  There has to be some reason for such an infographic meme.  As Fox Mulder would say, "The Truth is Out There." 

Fortunately, we are in a happier position than Fox Mulder was. We don't have some shady military agency hiding all the clues from us. It is perfectly possible to piece together a picture of the millennial environment. To understand why they behave in certain ways. To see where the negative generalisations come from. And then challenge them. 

In a Nutshell: Millennials are (a) serious about mocking past forms of existence, (b) inspired to find new ways to work and live and (c) on a journey of discovery and self-improvement.

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How to Survive (and Thrive in) Organisational Change

How to Survive (and Thrive in) Organisational Change

Moan, moan, moan ... the change management industry doesn't comprehend change ... moan, moan, moan ... recruiters have developed socio-technological constructs and methods that actively prevent them from finding the type of candidate employers are looking for ... moan, moan, moan ... models of personality aren't worth the paper they are printed on ... moan, moan, moan ... 

That's what my wife tells me my LinkedIn posts read like. She says, "it's all very well to complain, but where are your answers?"

Well, OK then....

Nobody is an Island

When people talk about organisational change, they generally mean changing the behaviour of the organisation on a wide socio-technological scale, introducing new cultural modes of behaving and new ways of doing things (systems and processes). They don't actually realise that the most important point of change is themselves. You cannot be a static island when everything else is fluidly swimming about around you. You will end up having your shores slipping away, your habitat exposed and your relevance blown away by ever-increasing turbulent winds.

We have slipped into a mindset that people should be "authentically themselves" at work, which, for me, suggests we should always guard against our core-self being changed by the chaotic ambiguity of change-based stresses and emotions swirling around us. I don't think it is a particularly helpful image. Flexibility of self is as natural to us as breathing. We constantly differentiate between requirements to be caring, forceful, helpful, demanding, relaxed, energetic, studious, active (and many more) during everyday activity. We make snap behavioural decisions thousands of times without any cognitive or psychological stress. We switch between different personas often and without a second thought. Somehow this has been forgotten in a desperate rush to discover our real, authentic selves! And that's not good. 

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Is this the Future of Leadership?

Is this the Future of Leadership?

What makes one leader sustainably great whereas another is only temporarily great, one moment a god amongst mortals, the next, like Icarus, hurtling back to the ground, his wings scorched and blackened by the sun, hoping the landing isn't too hard?

As with all questions about greatness, the answer to the second part of the question (why does a once great man fall?) is the easier. 

Reason One: The smartest leaders tend to get self-dazzled by their previous successes and end up in a myopic wonderland, feeling invulnerably magnificent in their sycophantic towers of luxury (as discussed by Dr. Travis Bradberry here and wonderfully illustrated in The Big Short, as detailed here).

Reason Two: If you become concerned and speak freely about what you see happening, you risk losing your head (as analysed by the Harvard Business Review here)

Reason Three: Because of problems one and two, irony, cynicism, sarcasm, mockery and ridicule manifest in the workforce as they are the only way to safely express what you are thinking about the increasingly obvious shortcomings of the powerful (as discussed by me, here). 

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Can We Help You?

The Ironic Manager seriously rethinks how organisations work at the most fundamental level and offers a variety of solutions for businesses struggling to cope with the ambiguity and stresses inherent to contemporary organisational conditions of constant change.

Richard has been helping businesses and people deal with leadership, management, communication, technology and change for over twenty years through his training, coaching, speaking and consulting services. 

His innovative research is highly regarded by world-leaders in management and leadership. 

Maybe Richard can help you?

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Over twenty years helping people managing change understand why resistance happens and develop quality vital communication skills that aid successful business transformation.

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Research recognised as exceptional by world-leaders in the fields of power, leadership and organisational change, receiving considerable praise for its originality, depth and rigour.

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