18 October 2010

Cubicle Coma

Cubicle Coma (Urban Dictionary): When you wake up and feel engergized but as soon as you enter the work place, a wave of exhaustion runs over you and you have trouble staying awake for the rest of your work day. Amazingly, once you leave the hellish work atmosphere, you suddenly feel energized and ready to run a marathon.

Much as I was amused by this new phrase posted on a friends 'facebook' status, it got me thinking about the state of affairs that I have experienced working with some of the largest and well known Indian and multi national organizations. It wouldn't be completely wrong to say that large organization has many managers suffering from Cubicle Coma. The decision making processes; atrocious at times are probably  attributed to this phenomenon of cubicle coma. Its difficult to otherwise understand why the best of brains start behaving irrationally. Cubicle Coma - this dreaded disease manifests in form of symptoms, one of which I will share with you in details today. Its called Mismanagement by Objective (mMBO). This should not be confused with MBO - the management practice by Guru Peter Drucker in 1950s, yet I have to admit, if we were to delve deep mMBO would find ancestral linkages with Druckers MBO somewhere (pun intended). 

Here is my take on Mismanagement by Objective (mMBO), where all that matters is the end game. This style is the favorite of many senior leaders. Lets dwell on what makes this management style so popular.

1. Its just so simple: I couldn't think of any better reason why mMBO is so popular. The top guy just needs to set an objective. And if you thought that this is the hard part, these objectives are more often than not set up by shareholders and market expectations. The CEO of a large  fortune 500 organization i worked for said "10% growth year on year is what we need to achieve - no less no more". He ofcourse has the whole organization to go and figure out how to get the target. 

2. Absolute clarity: Does this need any detailing. There is only one person who sets the target, everyone else has to accept it.  We do however go through the usual engagement sessions with our line managers who try and convince why we must take the stretch target for our own growth and development (can it get any funnier)

3. Motivation & rewards: Corporates are a scam, wherein few guys at the top run the organization with strong focus to maximize their returns. More often than not the inexplicable bonuses are linked to performance against committed plans. It is therefore here that mMBO comes into play to maximize the bonus. Under commit and over deliver is a fall out of this, a golden principle - all budding managers must learn soon. This however, doesn't mean that same principle holds true for managers at middle management level. They are given the stretch targets which even if they miss, they still enable success for their bosses. Magical isn't it. 

4. Alignment within organization:  There are two bands of alignment that is easily achieved using mMBO. One layer (the top one obviously) which is completely aligned to such objectives and the other layer which is aligned against the objectives given to them. The top layer works relentlessly to ensure they earn their bonuses and the other layer works relentlessly to ensure they keep their jobs. So much better than alignment challenges that exist in other forms of management styles. 

The unfortunate part of this style however is that the two main stakeholders of any corporate entity - the shareholders and the customers stand to loose. But more on that some other day. 

DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance with any organization or practices therein is purely unintentional and coincidental. All of what is stated above is the writers prejudiced views shaped by years of being part of corporate and probably suffering from Cubicle Coma. 


Anonymous said...

very interesting, thanks

Anonymous said...

very interesting, thanks