Do you want dirty or clean consulting?

Do you want dirty or clean consulting?

We went to sit in the garden to drink wine and chat.  Her sister scurried about the kitchen as we talked, the smell of simmering spices drifting on the breeze.

 I hadn’t seen her for nine years - my time in Australia detaching me from her life of high-end consulting in Europe. A couple of years prior, she’d been approached by a previous client to become Head of Projects - her dream job - so she’d quit her VP role at a major consultancy and thrown herself into it. That’s what we chatted about.

And she hated it. Oh, how she hated it.  

20-odd years before, she’d cut her consulting teeth on a project for this company. It had made her career. She had revolutionised the service offering, producing a system that enabled employees to contribute to the design of the working environment in a dynamic, ongoing way in direct response to their customers’ needs.

If the core customer was a hurried and hassled office worker, design around their behaviours. If a suburban housewife, then around hers. If a high-end executive … you get the picture.

The result of the system was spectacular. Employees were engaged, the bottom line improved, and profits rose. Even better, because the design varied from branch to branch, competitors couldn’t copy it. They couldn’t find a pattern to copy, because the ideas were contextually unique.

Long story short, she became the blue-eyed girl of the consultancy and started on a stellar career.

But it was now different. Her previous client had been through the wringer, all its competitive advantages thrown away. So they hired her back to recreate the magic. But she couldn’t. I asked her why.

She was very precise in her answer. When she was the consultant on the project, she refused to advise until she knew what she was advising on. She would work a night with the night-shift, spend a day with the truckers, work the warehouse, visit different branches and speak to white and blue collar workers about their experiences. She never assumed she could make a good call without knowing how it would impact jobs across the company.

But she couldn’t do it anymore, for two reasons.

Continue reading
437 Hits
0 Comments

This is how you should think about culture if you want to be ready for the future of work

This is how you should think about culture if you want to be ready for the future of work

Culture is not something your organisation has. It's something your organisation is.

What does that mean? Settle down comfortably and I'll do my best to explain.

Organisational culture became a thing in the 1980s. It was dreamed up as an American response to Japanese competitiveness. In very simple terms, Japanese workers worked longer hours and were more loyal to their companies than American workers. They seemed to live, breathe and sleep work in a way that the American worker did not.

The reason, it seemed, was because Japanese companies had strong cultures and American companies didn't. The Japanese workers understood and shared their company's values, beliefs and norms. That wasn't the case with the American worker.

For the American worker, work in the 1970s was purely technical. He didn't have to live it or love it. He just had to do it well and take home his check. That was the psychological contract. A fair day's pay for a fair day's work. While the Japanese worker's work infused all parts of his life, the American worker left his work at work when he went home.

Now it's a bit more like this!

Continue reading
162 Hits
0 Comments

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. 

Continue reading
695 Hits

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. 

Continue reading
598 Hits

© 2017 The Ironic Manager. All Rights Reserved.

The Ironic Manager website is owned and managed by Richard Claydon and Richard Badham.