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.


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…

Inaction through non-consensus

Is it just me or has there been a really big change in general business culture over the last ten years..?

I seem to recall businesses having people that were empowered to make decisions, accountable for those decisions and their consequences – good or bad – and generally expected to make hard decisions. But no more, it seems.

Seldom do I now come into a business that is not thick with underlying politics of non-ownership, non-accountability and an army of Teflon soldiers. All just waiting to voice their opinions, to have a say, but when it comes to someone actually making the decision… or worse, actually being accountable for it… (the sound of crickets)

What happened to those business leaders, the decision-makers?

So it seems that many (if not most) business decisions are being made by a form of mutual non-consensus, where everyone seems to avoid making any specific decision and effectively watching to see what happens on its own – a kind of group thinking and group safety position.

Consensus by agreed non-consensus or I guess you could call it – decision by group non-consensus, where a decision is made through the lack of actually making a clear decision, allowing the decision made to be a decision left to fate. Let’s all look the other way and hope that someone actually takes control, sometime.

Then we wonder why so often we see businesses doing things that just don’t seem to make any sense at all, perhaps cost the business dearly or even step well over any ethical lines – yet, how often do we see any real accountability result from that?

It goes beyond business

I can only assume the same practice of inaction persists in many of our government structures?

Is it too much to hope that someone must be steering these massive supertankers, or is that just me being far too hopeful..?