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

Toddlers, with shotguns

Perhaps it’s age, or perhaps a genuine change in corporate behaviour, but where did all the grown-ups go?

The more you look around in today’s corporate management structures, the more it appears we’ve unleashed a bunch of toddlers with shotguns. Primed to have maximum impact on the business, armed to the teeth with great ideas, filled with enthusiasm, but sadly, all self-serving. No more strategic alignment, commitment to customer, sense of moral responsibility or even a touch of fear of consequence.

Today it seems to be about randomness and inconsistency to build, develop and shape the corporate culture. Less about building people up, coaching and mentoring, more about surprising them with profound actions or even a bit of fear.

Today corporate culture seems to be more about cringing, keeping your head down and not drawing attention to yourself… but then again, with those toddlers with shotguns around, who’d blame you..?

Just tell the customer…

Bizarrely, there are staff that still seem to think customers care about nonsensical internal processes. That the customer should be grateful that we are to entertain their business.

Just tell the customer… That’s not how we do it, or perhaps, that’s not when we do it.

It may be something as simple as a variation to a contract, a slight change in a required solution or even a customer’s timeline, that unleashes the wrath of the back office. It is at this point that we are told just how important a process/person actually is and more likely this real pearl of wisdom… this is how you should manage the customer through this sale (really?)

In most businesses we have these people, the first to point out how Sales and Marketing just don’t perform or how the customer just doesn’t get it, yet are the first to go out of their way to scupper any new business opportunity before its even begun. Its almost as though each new customer is really just another load of hard work, best dealt with in the adversarial way their inconvenience deserves.

It is in these businesses too, that we see a truly remarkable Sales behaviour come about. The one where after hitting their heads on internal brick walls repeatedly, the seasoned sales pros, hightail it out of there…

Oddly, this is usually followed by a similar customer behaviour, but does the back office ever actually understand this?

When politics trumps purpose

As bizarre as that sounds, it does… (most of the time)

It wasn’t that long ago that a business and it’s collective shared in a common purpose – to make the business great at what it does best. Sadly, since then it seems that most of the grownups have left the room and left the business’ fate to the school-yard bullies and inconsequential, petty politics.

So many businesses nowadays are so racked with petty internal power struggles, distractions, veiled threats, intimation and all the inefficiencies that come from that, that the actual business’s reason-to-be seems long forgotten. The business seems no longer able to do what it is good at… instead it has become a confusion of petty politics.

It does not take much imagination to predict where a business following this path will find themselves in just a few years, yet the politic internal seems not to see this, nor frankly to care. Surely this should be called out as corporate delinquency, or are we too politically correct (or just too scared) now to point this out?

Whatever happened to a sense of corporate responsibility, duty of care to the company and it’s staff? To actually inspiring and leading the business to once again be great, to be competitive and to have a clear purpose that inspires and excites?

When will the adults come back and take control?

Counting chickens

Anyone that has anything to do with Sales Management has probably been there… attempting to provide the business with a reasonable forecast, only to have “the business” strong-arm Sales into over-committing, because that’s what they need…

This begs the question, “why would a seasoned sales manager allow this to happen?”

The answer though, is not quite so simple and is dependent on a few factors, the most significant being an immature business. By business, I mean the finance team that are going to try interpret these forecasts to upward revenue reporting and capacity planning, often with very little understanding of the stages of a sales-cycle or more likely, complete contempt.

Contempt for Sales

Where does this contempt for sales originate? Well, probably from the many earlier forecasting cycles that have resulted in their reporting being overly optimistic or wildly wrong! They told Sales what they needed… Sales agreed it was possible… they reported and banked on it… someone got slapped ‘cos it’s all wrong. They don’t trust Sales much, anymore.

This problem lies in vicious cycle created by the finance team pressuring the Sales team into upgrading their forecasts – often optimistically spinning it up – to tell them what they want to hear. Then not having the experience or understanding enough to question and qualify what is being given to them to allow for some basic contingency coverage to be included in their own reporting.

Who started it?

Nobody in particular. What this illustrates is a symptom all to common in businesses today, one coming from a culture of fear, distrust, lack of ownership and accountability and most of all, respect. Respect for people’s specific experience in their roles and their role’s accountability. You start second guessing your professionals in their jobs, you not only foster a culture of dis-empowerment, you set yourself and everyone around you up for a darn hard slap.

Who’s the victim?

Yes, it is a trick question, because everyone involved in the business will feel the effects of this roller-coaster ride, but there are some that will feel it far more personally.

Finance will feel the effect of their lack of consistency and inaccurate reporting they provide to their business, making it impossible for the business to plan its future. There will be plenty of stuff hitting a fan here and much of that is going to go downhill.

Sales management look like fools when they consistently overestimate their position and demonstrate their inability to assert control and reason on their part of the business. For their continual dis-empowerment and distrust of their staff, some of that fan hitting stuff will land quite hard here, but it’ll still be moving downhill.

At the bottom of the hill, they may have forecast accurately, for the stage the deal was at, the probability of closure and even highlighted the risks and erred on the side of caution…

But, for the Salesperson, that means nothing. It was their fault that that business wasn’t all won, their fault that their manager looks like a idiot and their fault that the business is managed erratically.

In the sales world, a business that starts counting chickens before they hatch only drives sandbagging behaviour, suspicion and discontent – and an ever-churning sales force…