In The Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams writes about the signs that your company is doomed. Among these he includes: teamwork, presentations to management, reorganizations, and processes. He partly meant this to be humor but I think, as with all humor, there is a grain of truth in it as well. So, with that in mind, I think we can add three to this list of signs that your company is doomed.
The leaders of your company have never even heard of Clayton Christensen, Dan Pink, or Seth Godin
The specific authors I’ve mentioned here are not as important as the ideas they signify. The notion of disruptive innovation, the fact that we are all in sales, how motivation works, the important of being remarkable. All of these ideas have generated a great deal of discussion and have had major impacts in the business world. If you’re in a company with leaders who are complete unaware of such big ideas and their importance, your company is doomed.
The leaders of your company think the company is nothing like Borders Bookstore.
In other words, the leaders of your company are in denial. Your company doesn’t make a product that others could make cheaper or make available for free. Your company provides a product or service that can’t easily be automated or outsourced. So, your company is safe from the process of creative destruction. After all, your company is in the field of education or health care and there will always be a demand for what you provide. Uh-Oh. You really are in denial! Yes, education and health care are growing but they are also being disrupted and will continue to be vulnerable for many years. Perhaps you remember shopping at Borders Bookstore. Now they’re gone. And you think that can’t happen to your company? Then your company is doomed!
Everyone in your company is obsessed with the amount of work everyone else is (or isn’t) doing.
If the employees in the company are constantly documenting everything they do and being reviewed or preparing for reviews, your company is probably doomed. All that effort being devoted to documenting work or requiring others to document their work means there is a serious lack of trust in the company and a serious lack of motivation. If there were trust there would be less of a need to document and if there were motivation more things would be obviously getting done thereby eliminating the need for obsessive documentation.
In their book Scaling Up Excellence, Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao point out that "as organizations and programs expand and age, they often propagate ever more convoluted procedures and processes. Ballooning brigades of administrators must justify their existence. So they busy themselves by writing more rules and requiring colleagues to jump through more hoops." A common hoop is the documentation of workload. But, "this penchant for organizations to devote more and more resources to the care and feeding of the bureaucracy and less and less to the work itself spells their ultimate doom."
In a world of fast changes and creative destruction, even well-run companies are vulnerable unless they remain vigilant in the face of such problems. But, for companies that are willing to innovate and adapt opportunities are plentiful. The question is what kind of company are you in and what kind of company do you want to keep?