Yesterday’s post took a look at a list of signs of a poor corporate culture. As something of an expert in poor – make that piss poor – corporate culture, I thought I’d add a few more to the list.
- Too many meetings - I understand that the higher up the management chain you go, the more likely you are to spend a lot of time in meetings. But there’s spending a lot of time in meetings, and there’s spending a lot of time in meetings. I worked at one large company, which became briefly famous back in the early Internet days as having launched the largest (and largest failed IPO) of all time. That was back in the day when a billion meant something. Anyway, you could literally spend every hour at work (including lunch) at meetings that extended from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. If your dance card wasn’t full, you weren’t consider a pllay-a. We’d all march around, Palm Pilot in hand, figuring out where we were due next, passing in the halls as if we were in high school, trying to get to the next class on time to avoid a demerit. Nothing was ever accomplished at these meetings unless, of course, you brought your laptop with you and actually did some work. In what I considered quite the bold move, my friend Rob went to a meeting (maybe 20 of us there) chaired by the company president and sat there checking his emails.
- All decisions made at the top – And I do mean all decisions. And I do mean at the top. At Wang Labs, I was a senior product manager. At my prior company, I’d been able to decide to make a field or customer visit, let my manager know, make my arrangements and go. At Wang, I had to have the sign of my boss, the director he reported to, the VP he reported to, and the EVP. Oh, and you often didn’t find out that your trip was okayed until the night before you planned to leave. This process was such a ridiculous waste of time, not to mention completely demoralizing. But if you went without EVP sign-off, you risked not getting reimbursed. (It was rumored that Dr. Wang was so intimately involved in the minutia of the business that he decided on the quality of the paper that data sheets were printed on.
- Bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy – Once a company gets to a certain size, you really do need some sort of bureaucracy, mostly useful to take care of all that crap that no one wants to deal with. Let the bureaucrats order the pencils! But I worked at one smaller company (fewer than 300 employees) that once published a 50 page flowchart we were to follow for everything we requisitioned, including – ta-da! – a pencil. (At Wang, on my first day on the job, I put in a req for a bookcase and file cabinet for my cube. The req came back to me because I hadn’t put in a reason for my requests. I sent it back with “bookcase to hold books, file cabinet to hold files” and it was approved.
- Too much “keep me in the loop”-ing going on – I’ve worked in places where pretty much every memo you wrote, every document you created, had to be shared with dozens upon dozens of individuals. I think that folks collected circulation lists to be on just so you could talk about how important they were. And, of course, you always wanted to get on the circulation list for any item that those higher up in the organization was on. Nobody ever read any of the stuff being circulated, let alone contributed anything of value around it. They just needed to be in the loop.
- Senior execs making bogus attempts to be seen with “the people” – Hey, it’s great if I run into you in the lunch line or elevator and we chat a bit. Great if we actually have a need to meet for some reason. But spare me the Santa hats and dishing out rubber turkey dinners on Christmas Eve. Thanks but no thanks for annual wheeling or the ice cream cart around giving out Good Humor bar. Sorry, but completely meaningless. I’m all for management by walking around. Just don’t show up in a white paper cap with a goofy grin on your face.
I could go on, but that’s it for now.