An experiment in corporate culture

Here’s an old blogosphere lesson in corporate behaviour


A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on top.

Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with ice cold water.

After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the other ones beat up the one on the ladder.

After some time, no monkey dares to go up the ladder regardless of the temptation.

Scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was to go up the ladder and immediately the other monkeys beat him up.

After several beatings, this new member learned not to climb the ladder even though he never knew why.

Then a second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated on the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. The fourth was substituted and the beating was repeated and finally the fifth monkey was replaced.

What was left was a group of five monkeys that even though they had never received a cold shower, they continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.


Why, you ask?

 Because in  their minds… that is the way it has always been!

 This, my  friends, is how many corporate cultures operate… and illustrates why, from time to  time, all of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share this classic from the blogosphere with others as they might just be asking themselves why we continue to do, what we are doing, if there is a different way out there.


The Corporate Distractor

Have you ever been in one of those meetings where you just know that the same someone has once again not lived up to their commitments and there is no escaping it, they are going to take a serious fall for it… then miraculously they escape, only to have the focus put on someone else?

Well, you have been witness to an old classic in the world of corporate psychopathy, the “corporate distractor”. More specifically, you probably didn’t see the art of distraction being skillfully applied.

This trick usually relies on years of practice where the illusionist (let’s just call them the perpetrator to keep it simple), swiftly deflects the attention from the gaping issue (and any impending discussion of consequence) to another part of the business, just by throwing a simple observation at the weakest bystander available.

For example; the perpetrator knows he has done nothing for three weeks and allowed a significant project to slide into near oblivion. When questioned, he may casually point out that he is still waiting on a specific piece of information, from Bob. He may go on to point out that he’s been offering to help Bob, just it looks like Bob is just not coping. As a result, Bob looks completely flustered (he is, he’s caught off guard and is trying to figure out what he has neglected to do), which is exactly what makes this distraction look so convincing. The perpetrator now has everyone doubting Bob’s ability to stay on top of things and this one minor point has successfully won this battle. Bob, clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing…

In the corporate world, there are many skilled in this art of distraction. They are sly, sometime genuinely nice folk, but usually at there core you will find someone with deep seated corporate psychopathy tendencies – just remember, it’s nothing personal, just a simple survival strategy

Email is not a job

“Doing email” is not a job…OK?

It will never be in your job description, and along with essential activities like making coffee, taking toilet breaks, greeting your fellow workers, watering the office plants and refilling the coffee machine, you do not get paid for it. “Doing email” for several hours each day means you are wasting time. It’s the same as opening envelopes in the old days: instantly throwing out the junk; reading and filing FYIs and simple notifications; and putting the rest in your in tray for future action. This doesn’t take hours; it’s a task that should be done quickly and effortlessly, rapidly sorting wheat from chaff.

Your are however paid to communicate constructively with your colleagues, your customers and your suppliers. Imagine handwriting a letter to your most important customer. You think about the paper (120gsm, bond white), the pen (fountain pen, royal blue ink), take care with your script, sign your name with an elegant flourish. A lot more care and attention than you employ when wielding the letter opener and skimming inbound correspondence. A bit more effort and positive thought than the sigh, scrunch and toss elicited by yet another conference advertorial / stationery catalogue / (insert favourite junk mail item).


Why is it when you sit down “doing email” for hours each day you include writing critical communication in this activity. “thanks”; “ok”; [delete]; and then a casually defensive reply to a customer complaint, oops another one just popped up, yes I would like pizza for lunch, no it wasn’t our fault you must be mistaken.

Be honest with yourself. Your email has become poly-filler for your calendar, expanding foam in your brain. It has swollen to fill all available thinking time, making you very, ahem, busyjust remember, email is not a job!

Strategic Initiatives

January is the time for making commitments, setting resolutions, designing a better you. Thinner, faster, smarter, stronger, kinder, healthier, richer. Reflection, dreaming, then planning. Trim all the things you don’t like, and where once there were gaping holes in your physique, psyche, pathology, you will soon have a whole wardrobe full of shining new capabilities!

Companies set resolutions too, dressed up as strategy. Strategic Initiatives they are often called – a concept which in the corporate lexicon has come to carry pretty much the same weight as the good old fashioned New Year Resolution.

Strategic, coming from strategy, meaning it’s somehow part of your plan. Initiative, from initiate, hinting you might be starting something. So does that make a Strategic Intiative :
a) something at the start of your plan;
b) the start of your planning; or
c) a brain fart in the key of B flat announcing to the world that you are planning to start your planning process to deliver the world’s greatest plan?

The Great Euphemism

Or is the phrase “Strategic Initiative” really just fancy words for “important stuff we need to get done”? The thing is, your staff and customers know what’s important because that’s where they see you spending your time, energy and $$$…not where you are paying lip service. So if you come up with a good idea for improving profit, making more sales, making your customers or staff happier, don’t just talk about it, or give it a fancy title, or plan it out; DO! Because even the world’s best PowerPoint presentation won’t effect change in your business – only you can do that!

Serve Us… please


Q: How do you know when your customers are happy?
A: We measure our service and we’re at 99.9%

Q: But how do you know if this makes your customers happy?
A: Well they must be. We answer 98.2% of queries within 24 hours.

Q: But does this mean they are happy?
A: Well sure it does. We measure ourselves, and we’re doing a pretty good job. The reality is that our customers don’t really know what they want. So we give them what they need.

Sometimes customers expect miracles. But most of the time they just want your product or service to be what you told them it would be. And that’s what they think you told them – not what you thought you said. They have expectations, built on what they understood you promised, their previous experience and what they see in the market place. This may not be be fair, but if they are expecting something that you are not delivering, the seed of dissatisfaction is sown.


The thing about service is that only the recipient can determine if they’ve received it or not. It doesn’t matter what your metrics say, how many cases you open and then close each day. If they’re not happy, they’re not happy. You can’t “metric” your way to good service and happy customers. Only your customers can tell you if they are happy.

At some point in time, your current customers voted for you, and handed you the privilege of servicing them. They were wooed, promised, convinced, persuaded. Perhaps they even piloted your service, and found that it tasted good. Sooner or later, they will vote again, with their feet. When the worm of public opinion starts to turn, and crowd behavior takes over, you’ll be left with a great service, meeting all of your internal metrics, that no-one wants to buy.


Analyst’s Rule… ok

One of the greatest inventions of the modern computing era is the humble spreadsheeting program. This tool gives high end mathematics, statistics, accounting and finance power to ordinary everyday office workers, enabling them to access levels of knowledge and understanding that was previously off limits to them. Said differently, it puts WOMDs in the hands of those simply unqualified to use them.

With the power of spreadsheets I can understand and model the present, and then predict the future. If I just continue the line on the chart, it’s like my 10 year old on a skate board ramp – it just keeps going up. If I add 1, and 1, and 1, and 1 surely I get to 15 eventually. And if we do 7% per annum over 10 years, that’s like 70%. And the margin just gets better every year, cos our programmes will save 10%.

Man, this business is really going places – my spreadsheet tells me so. And I really trust my model, cos I spend all day with him. He even has a name – WorldsGreatestBusiness.xls. WGB and I have such a deep connection… I really trust my model.

We do simply everything together. Sometimes it’s like WGB knows what I’m thinking even before I do! With WGB at my side, I am the font of all knowledge. I know what happened, and what’s going to happen. On average, (that’s AVERAGE($me$1:$u$99), WGB tells me you’re lousy at your job. And the sum of my performance (SUM($then$1:$now$1)) is really good…oh hang on, WGB absolutely relatively screwed up. Just give me a minute and I’ll drag him in to line. Control See, Control Vee, that will do it. Now I’m even better than before. Oh, and your average is still average.

What’s really cool is that WGB and I have been putting this model together all day. If you give me another week we’ll be able to play with the colors, the thickness of the lines, the scale and make it look like you didn’t lose so much money last month. It really helps those that can’t understand the numbers; they can just follow the colours. Especially when I copy it to a slide for you – the numbers are a bit hard to see, but you can see the general trends….

Don’t question my data, don’t question my model. Analysts rule… ok?