- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Organizational Pathologies (5 of 10): The company in rehearsal mode (or Waiting for The Barbarians)

‘Postponing’ (AKA as procrastination) maybe healthy and reasonable, maybe not.

Cultures are created by behaviours. The best predictors of behaviours are previous behaviours. Make a habit of postponing, delaying, waiting for the right opportunity, and soon the culture will have learnt to wait, to postpone everything, those things  that needed to be postponed,  and the ones that did not.

Procrastination is a habit. It is an individual one. But we are talking here about organizational-cultural pathologies.

Many organizations (mostly the ones who would deny this) work on rehearsal model. Nothing is real today, it’s all for a future, about to come, but not yet, in which the real thing will take place. Like Saint Augustine (‘Lord, make me chaste, but not yet’) it’s never the right time to bite the bullet, but they all agree they need to bite it.

When that habit has taken roots, people will be in rehearsal mode for when (here are 10 typical reasons)

  1. We have the right headcount
  2. The leadership team is complete and we have hired those two new people
  3. Next budget
  4. After the potential merger
  5. Once the new guy in HR has come in, just in case he wants to change things
  6. When the split into business units take place
  7. When we have a bit of stability, for goodness say, this has been a moving target
  8. When Joe retires
  9. When the new restructuring is completed
  10. When the culture between A and B has truly integrated

Postponing, procrastinating, running the company in rehearsal mode, is very frequent. There is BTW a handy benign form: nothings should start in June, just before everybody switches off for summer holidays; September is too early after that; October is budget time, no way; then who in his own mind would start just before Christmas?; January, people are still settling; February and March, so packed; Easter holidays are a pain to get people; May will be too late. Surprisingly, the pay check comes season-less, every month

Many times I have asked my clients to  read Cavafy’s poem ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ [1]. In the poem, the entire city is preparing itself for the coming of the Barbarians. Here is a bit:

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

But then:

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly, everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

What would be of many organizations, I know, without their Barbarians?