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Previously in 10 Ways to slow poisoning an organization:

Script 1: I just know. Subtitle: I just know that we’ll do x, but go and explore all the options
Script 2: Let them fail. Subtitle: Wrong path but they need to see it for themselves.
Script 3: Try harder
Subtitle: Guess what I want.
Script 4: I have the answer, what’s the question?
Subtitle: Been there, done that, trust me, I know.
Script 5: Legitimised suicide
Subtitle: You decide who is redundant – this is a very humane M&A.
Script 6: Do but don’t do
Subtitle: Feel free to do, but make sure we tell you what.

Script 7: You are empowered to believe me
Subtitle: We are all empowered, but I am more empowered than others.

This plot borrows heavily from the ‘We are all equal but some of us are more equal than others’ concept. Empowerment is a heavily-used buzzword in the organisation and figures prominently in its mission statement. Life is relatively peaceful until a manager asks the question: “What does it mean?”. Infuriated senior management responds with a long sermon on trust, culture, values and principles. Small guy asks again: “But what does it mean to be empowered?” Big guy says, “Look how empowered I am by the Board.” Graffiti starts to appear on walls, doors and toilet partitions with unpleasant statements about the credibility of the company rhetoric. The organisation slowly dies of buzzword intoxication.

Script 8: Maximum accountability, minimum authority
Subtitle: Great titles, great visibility, great blindness.

In this script, the organisation’s accountabilities are well defined – everybody knows what they’re accountable for. But hidden, small doses of toxicity come from giving staff the impression that they have the accompanying authority. It turns out that this simply isn’t true. Authority lies elsewhere, with people not very accountable for anything other than accumulating as much authority as possible. Managers’ egos are boosted with big ‘accountable’ titles such as Global Project Leader (a company equivalent of UN Secretary General). A few staff discover they have no real authority, and escape from the organisation. Those trapped in become blind. The Big Titles’ game is up when more and more managers become suspicious of the mismatch of accountability and authority. The CEO responds by creating a new layer of highly-accountable managers with very sexy titles on their business cards.

Script 9: Great goals, great future, great cuts
Subtitle: We’re doing well but you’re fired.

Growth has been declared within the organisation, and its annual results aren’t bad. The CEO declares high hopes and possibilities. Almost simultaneously, R&D is cut by 20% and those in the wrong place at the wrong time are fired, regardless of their talents. The pattern repeats itself several times as the plot progresses, until a Pavlovian reflex develops: every time the CEO announces a “good year, excellent results, we need to grow”, staff tremble. At some point, a  ‘cut to the bone’ structure starts falling apart. It becomes a very attractive ‘cost structure’ and the company is bought as a bargain. There in an alternative ending in which the CEO hero, not the organization, dies whilst pronouncing My Kingdom for another cut.

Script 10: Frog boiling
Subtitle: There are two ways to boil a frog and you should be feeling a bit warm by now.

This is based on the old adage that there are two ways to boil a frog. One way is to get a pot of boiling water and throw the frog in. The frog burns himself, but hops out quickly and survives. The second way is to put the frog into a pot of cold water and switch the heat on. The frog is very happy in his progressively warm and cosy environment until he boils without noticing. This script is offered for free interpretation and application to the life of managers in organisations.

Script 11 – mathematics have never been my forte – is based on a combination of the other ten. In this script, managers believe all the previous scripts are a bit of a joke, funny stories with ideas barely elaborated on, certainly not a reflection of real life, a bit of amusement disguised as management thinking. Readers in script 11 mode perhaps feel rather warm and cozy. Please check that the heat is off.

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  1. Carol Routledge

    10 ways to poison an organisation – absolutely brilliant and so apt for modern Pharma!

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