The Ironic Manager Blog

An Ironic Perspective on the World of Work

The Long, Slow Death of Organisational Culture

The Long, Slow Death of Organisational Culture

The idea that culture was the best way for companies to ensure the beliefs and values of senior management were shared by their employees became extremely popular very quickly in the early 1980s. Books such as Corporate Cultures: The Rise and Rituals of Corporate Life, Theory Z: How American Management Can Meet the Japanese Challenge and In Search of Excellence kickstarted a powerful trend in research and practice. Given further credibility by John Kotter and James Heskett's Harvard-sponsored research, Corporate Culture and Performance, organisational culture became the hottest topic in management theory since Frederick Taylor first started thinking about the mechanistic organisation in the early 1900s. 

Culture gurus were everywhere, speaking at keynotes, offering consulting advice to anybody who wanted it (and a lot of people did) and generally making obscene amounts of money. If any company struggled, business magazines and newspapers would rush to blame some aspect of the culture and suggest it needed to quickly change into something else for the company to regain its feet (which kickstarted the change management boom, but let's not get started on that (too late, already have, here and here!)). But here's the thing. Companies that had been held up as the be all and end all of excellent cultures were also struggling or failing. Hewlett-Packard, one of the excellent companies named In Search of Excellence, is is the obvious No 1 contender after it very publicly fell into very hard times a decade or so after the book was published, but many others were too. So what happened?

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The Sophistication of American Irony

The Sophistication of American Irony

The clichéd critique of Americans is that they “don’t do irony” and are thus somehow lacking in sophistication, intelligence, or both. My last post, The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm, prompted Giles Watson to ask me the following question:

Is there any validity to the arrogant assumption that English have a superior instinct for irony?

Short answer. No! The longer answer actually turns the question on its head and suggests Americans, not the British, are the current kings of all things ironic. Why may, or may not, be a good thing!

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The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

One of the great ironies of irony is when people think they are being sarcastic they are being ironic. Given the amount of irony and sarcasm generated in modern culture and its institutions, it is vitally important to understand the difference between the two. One can really help leaders and managers develop novel solutions to complex problems. The other just makes people look like idiots. 

Irony

What irony means has been debated for millennia and is hotly contested. Let's ignore all the confusing complexities and look at it via three categorisations:

  • The ironic perspective: perceiving the gap between expectations and reality
  • The ironic performance: transmitting that perception by saying one thing and meaning another
  • The ironic personality: being comfortable living with such gaps
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Are You an Ironic Manager?

Are You an Ironic Manager?

Management and leadership are traditionally seen as a deadly serious things, full of efficiency, decisiveness, effectiveness, clarity of vision and focused strategies. Drawing from en vogue ideas on purposefulness, mindfulness, authenticity and emotional intelligence, the current popular trend of management thinking illustrates how serious leaders can mould their organisation into an excellent shape, ensuring it is populated by hard-working, committed and enthusiastic employees who embrace the organisational vision, mission and strategy. Sounds good, eh?

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

There has never been a school of management thought that hasn't promised to deliver hard-working, committted and enthusiastic employees who embrace the organisational vision, mission and strategy. All previous theories informing these schools have fallen by the wayside, victims of internal contradictions and an enthusiastic myopia that ensured they imploded from within. Will that always be the case? Are we so lucky to be the humans living at the exact moment of the birth of the perfect form of management? Probably not. Some flaw will appear and undermine all the good work being put in. So, what do we do? 

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Your Identity is Fluid

Your Identity is Fluid

When discussing the misconceptions of identity currently littering much of the organisational tracts on the subject, Kevin Sinclair, an Organisational Coach based in Newcastle, New South Wales, and I recently had a brief online conversation about this article written by the philosopher, Julian Baggini. We agreed that (a) the literature fails dismally to capture the idea of the self being fluid and (b) comically (and perhaps tragically) regards fluidity of self as being emotionally stressful and psychologically harmful rather than a necessary and core element of what it means to be human. 

I've written stuff on the idea of a fluid self previously, but have failed to articulate it with any clarity. I always get caught up in socio-psychological jargon that hinders rather than helps the reader. I think it is an important, perhaps vital, topic for those experiencing the pressures of contemporary organisational life. So, not being able to explain it clearly is hugely frustrating. So what to do? 

Obviously, like any good son, I ask my mother for help!

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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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