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Archive for November 27, 2011

Fiona Apple: Criminal (1997)

November 27, 2011 1 comment

Another somewhat older music video by Mark Romanek.

Enjoy. Comments?

Categories: Music Video

Why All Corporations Ultimately Succumb to Short-Termism

November 27, 2011 9 comments

I have previously talked about various reasons behind the inevitable decay of corporations, countries and empires. One peculiar reason, which I have have previously hinted at but never discussed at any length, is the problem of increasing short-termism in large organisations. But that presents a rational paradox- why would a large and stable organisation become more obsessed with the short-term as it becomes bigger and potentially more stable?

It comes down to promotions- or who is promoted in the hierarchy.

To understand this problem it is necessary to grasp the idea that an organisation which grows bigger has to promote people up the hierarchy. In my opinion and observations, promoted people fall into two broad categories.

Brown Nosing Charlatans: Most promotions in any organisation go to people who kiss ass, scheme, plot, try to bamboozle and are generally the least competent of the bunch. However they are also the most politically savvy, connected and charming. The net result is that promotions tend to concentrate scheming incompetents in the hierarchy such that they come to run the system- with predictable results.

Competent People: Unless there is an external challenge, war or disaster they account for the minority of promotions. Under steady state conditions, only a few are promoted- mainly to keep the organisation from falling apart. Even their promotion is meaningless as they now have to clean up more of the messes left behind by the brown nosing charlatans.

Therefore all large hierarchies are run by, and for, incompetent but cunning schemers.

The next question then is – How do the scheming incompetents demonstrate enough competence to make their promotions looks partially legit? or are they promoted for no other reason than favoritism and politicking.

It is the answer to this question which reveals a fundamental flaw in the current methodology of legitimizing promotions. Since all legitimization comes down to metrics- an incompetent person who is politically savvy can game the system to show better performance than a competent person who won’t sink the ship to make it run faster. Actions geared towards fluffing the short-term will often look good on the 3 month to 1 year time scale, even though they will sink the ship in the medium term and beyond. Since the rise of brown nosing charlatans in organisations is linked to short-term shenanigans, they simply do more of them (and on a larger scale) as they are promoted upwards until the organisation falls apart. The lucky ones then jump into other organisations and continue their ‘work’.

Therefore all large organisations which have existed for a while without a serious external challenge are always run and controlled by incompetent but politically savvy people who will game the system to progressively greater degrees thereby making it malfunction and ultimately implode. Usually the demise of such systems is facilitated by a emerging, younger and less incompetent organisation- until it becomes what it defeated.

However this cycle is not inevitable, as long as people in the organisation understand what is really going on and are prepared to act on it. In the past- poor communication, low levels of literacy and family obligations kept people quiet. That is however no longer the case and things will change, though it won’t be aesthetically pleasing to many.

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