My Medium.com article on the extraordinary phenomenon of how one is just supposed to know something: https://medium.com/@pfbt1/you-should-just-know-30df868b7b2e
Taking away systems, processes or procedures that actually work very well can be an excellent way of controlling your staff and ensuring that they don’t show up your inadequacies.
Some managers make the mistake of allowing intelligent, innovative, able and proactive staff to set up systems that work extremely well for the customers, the employees and even for shareholders (if you’re unlucky enough to have to worry about that lot). However, the serious danger is that these genuinely effective systems will show up senior managers and the systems they devise, or approve, as being the embodiment of inefficiency and inadequacy that they are.
So what do you do? It’s best to have outside authorities to blame – that is, to which you can attribute the demands for change. As is the zeitgeist, compliance bodies often provide a suitable solution. Of course, their demands are often as pointless, or even as destructive, as yours. But the point is, they are not you. Therefore when you tell your staff that they have to shut down their effective, efficient systems, you can commiserate with them. You can tell them how much you have appreciated all that they have done; but, alas, it is the compliance body that is forcing this change.
Of course, when you have shut down the effective systems devised by your staff, you are now completely in control. Because they have been minimally engaged with your ineffective, inefficient systems they will know little about how they work. As they adapt to the new operational protocols and systems, they will have to rely on you and your team to know what to do and how to solve the multitude of previously non-existent problems. This works to your advantage: you now have proof of how many times they log calls for assistance. Proof that they’re not as clever or as competent as people who admired their work used to think.
And, now that they’re enmeshed in your systems, it is immeasurably easier to control them. After all, you can dictate how the systems work; you can change the rules at any time to make it harder for them; you can grant or deny the various levels of security or administration access. They have no choice other than to do your bidding. Perfect.
Destroy the real expert
As a Leader you must always be in charge and surround yourself with those who will support your game.
If you’re willing to play a long game you can rise even higher on the talent and success of those who are so absorbed in their achievements that by the time they realise you are stealing and taking credit for their work it will be too late for them to do anything about it.
First you need to find the ideal person for creating and leading a truly challenging and significant project. This person must be excellent at their job but must also have the talent and contacts to find the best people to develop the project. The project could be anything from a massive training initiative, a major organisational culture change, developing and marketing a new product, or even creating an entire 3-year university degree.
You will need to give the person time to ensure the project is highly successful, very visible and generally held in high respect. Once it is well established and still growing you need to make your move.
Compliance is always a good way to get these people. Experts who achieve great things often view much compliance activity as a pure waste of resources and time (which you and I know is often true) so they will have been putting minimal effort into just the amount of compliance needed so that they can continue to focus on their passion.
There will be policies and procedures that they won’t have been following to the letter. You can start demanding that they spend time updating their localised procedures to fall in line with the organisational policy.
Naturally, you quietly create new policies and ensure they are available to all. But it’s important that you mask the availability by using an intranet that is labyrinthine and consequently confusing. Any attempt to find your new or updated policies will be abandoned in frustration at the time wasted and the inability to find the required policies (especially as the policy titles are a poor reflection of their content). Of course, not much time will be wasted by people looking for the policies because you won’t have told them that they’re there. Doesn’t matter, because you’re still in a position to say, for example, “Well, you should have known about the policy, it has been available on the intranet for the last 18 months”. They can’t argue with that last statement. Checkmate!
If you do this enough, they will often leave voluntarily. But if they don’t you have used their non-compliance to create grounds for giving them a wonderful opportunity to diverse their workplace experience … somewhere else.
Inspiration for this comes from Australia’s Liberal Party, sections of the Labor Party, One Nation, and various others.
The darkness arises with the dawn
waking with fell purpose bred in festering dreams.
Soulless vapour cloaks its empty blackness
in a facade of humanity with skin all soft and cream.
A suit and shoes, briefcase and accessories added,
accoutrement of political mundanity worn with guile,
effective deceit oozes smiles into the day
and charms with urbanity as its disguise.
The cloakéd darkness welcomes your despite –
there is no heart within, which you can hurt –
and its enduring immunity to your cries
intends the wearied indifference of your spirit.
Its awful purpose pierces through each day’s future
stealthily weaving insidious worship of greed;
self-interest and entitlement are what it nurtures
and the pain of the unfortunate feeds its need.
All words of comfort and pure intent,
they wield with surgical precision,
slicing deep into the heart of your fears,
and, seduced, you hear not their silent derision.
They follow only a path of self-absorbed ego
emboldened by the strength of dark alliances
which entice such beings their souls to forgo
in exchange for the power to shape their dalliances.
A game to them is this play with your heart
and seeping of poison into your mind,
their sepulchral smiles won from your hurt
as they turn you stealthily from your own kind.
[ 30 Aug 2018, still a work in progress ]
A sign of a brilliant manager is your ability to take a word that can have deep significance to people and give it prominence in your organisation by linking it to projects, logos, “values”, and the frequent use of fatuous jargon. Your ability to force this use of a word on the minions below will signal your alpha status.
Take “Champion” (it must have the capital), for example. It has strong links to sport and much of our population are addicted to sport and suck up its jargon unquestioningly. It also has the suggestion that you’re on people’s side and that you’re fighting for them.
Your triumph comes when you can force people to link it to something as mundane as moving office. The whole process of moving office and enduring the building works on site will be so much better and easier because you know that there is a Move Champion.
The scramble to get a car park brought on by a large parking area being closed will be bearable because you have a Move Champion fighting, somewhere, for you. Just knowing that there’s a Move Champion will help you cope so much more easily with the extra traffic in the area.
If you get shovelled into a smaller office and have nowhere to store all the compliance documents you’re supposed to store – don’t worry, there’s a Move Champion. Just knowing that there’s a Move Champion out there … somewhere … doing it for you, makes all the difference.
How to run IT Support
In order to make sure that your IT support section is successful and is always needed, you must first make sure that your organisation is using software and systems that are going to require support. There is a multitude of ways to do this, so the focus today is on how to make sure you do it with software, whether it be a customer relationship management system, some form of database, an office suite, or some other in-house custom software.
So, you will need to find friends in the industry who can make sure they do a good pitch to your organisation and sell software that is inadequate. Of course they won’t sell it as inadequate; they will sell it as the best thing since sliced bread, and there will be endless promises about how it will increase productivity, efficiency, worker satisfaction, customer satisfaction, shareholder value … you name it, it will help it.
Then, you must work with the most intelligent and the most invested senior managers to make sure that they can use the system and end up being champions for it. It’s ideal if they have idiosyncratic learning processes, different from all the workers, which work very well for them but are the sorts of things that real people simply can’t do. That way the managers can learn enough of the system – albeit by the inefficient trial and error, hunt and peck system – to be able to do what they need and pronounce to everybody else in the organisation how useful the system is. It’s particularly helpful if they have a condescending and acerbic attitude to anybody else who has any appearance of having any trouble with the system so that they can treat them as some form of imbecile, albeit diplomatically, and do it with great lashings of passive aggressiveness.
Next, you have to select suitable staff. They need to have grossly deficient communication skills: that shouldn’t be difficult, these people are in plentiful supply. They also need to have a significant level of disdain and contempt for the people they are supposed to be helping. It’s ideal if they can always speak in a fairly bullying manner and with an air of authority as if they have a direct line to the CEO and speak as their proxy.
There are several things you can train your staff to do to make sure they keep the ordinary worker under control. A principal one is that they must always be aware of policies and procedures that nobody else knows about. That way when your system allows somebody to do something you can maintain your control over the organisation with a scenario like this:
Worker: I went through this month’s products and added the missing details.
IT worker: well you shouldn’t do that! [Make sure this is said abruptly and rudely.]
Worker: but this had to be fixed by tonight, so it’s rather urgent, and the system let me do it. If the system lets me do it, why shouldn’t I do it?
IT worker: it will allow you to do it, but you shouldn’t do it because it is not our process.
Worker: well how was I to know that it isn’t our process, and where do I find out about these processes that no one told me about?
IT worker: you need to ask the question!
Worker: what question?
IT worker: the question about what the process is.
Worker: but if I don’t know that there is a process that I’m supposed to ask about, how do I know that I have to ask the question?
IT worker: well, you have to ask! [Abruptly, loudly, and more rudely]
Worker: but if I don’t know either that I have to ask or whom to ask, how am I supposed to know that I have to ask and whom to ask?
IT worker: well, your manager is supposed to let you know these things.
Worker: I’m not sure that it’s your place to tell me what my manager’s job is.
IT worker: well, your manager is supposed to know the processes.
Worker: but if neither of us has ever heard about these processes, and none of our higher-up managers has told us about them, how was my manager meant to know that he has to tell me about them?
IT worker: he has to ask!
Worker: but if they don’t know that they need to ask, how are they supposed to know they need to ask; and who do they ask, and how do they know who to ask?
IT worker: they need to refer to the process or policy! [Even more abruptly and rudely]
Worker: [screaming by this stage] but if they don’t know that there is a process or policy about this, how do they know that they need to ask about the process or policy?
Once you have a worker screaming in frustration, you know you have done your work. This helps ensure that they feel powerless and that they know who is in control. However, it’s always good to finish off with just one more barb…
IT worker: they need to ask!
A great way to keep staff under control is to ensure that you reprimand them — nicely, of course — for little things to do with protocols and procedures. This helps them understand the way things should be done and act in a way that helps you fulfil your incredibly important role.
Naturally, at times, there will be times when you refine processes by streamlining or even by realising that the opposite of what has been the process until now would be better. When you inform staff that this is now the way, and not the way you previously said, some might complain about inconsistency or confusion. Be firm, and simply advise them that in the spirit of continuous improvement things have to change and that they need to ‘get with the program’.
It’s true that some people can lose confidence when, over time, they are given instructions which appear to contradict each other. There’s no need to be concerned about that to any great extent. You might get more interruptions with people asking you to confirm how you’d like things done; but, as long as you deal with their enquiries quickly, you have the advantage of knowing what they’re up to. Overall, this has the advantage of giving you general overview of activities and maintaining your control and status.
One of the best ways to assert your dominance in an organisation – as long as you are far enough up the hierarchy – is to have a reorganisation in which you make perfectly competent and able people reapply for the jobs they are currently doing spectacularly well.
The more integral and essential they are to their department, or indeed the organisation, the more disruptive the reapplication process is. This is a good thing because it lets people know you are in charge. If you can make the best people in the place reapply for their jobs, that is bound to shake up everybody and let them know they are on notice. And, a little bit of demoralisation does help keep people on their toes.
You must make sure that you use an external organisation to do the interviews. Ideally, the interviewers will have the following qualifications:
- they will know nothing about the industry of the people they are interviewing
- they will know nothing much about anything really as they will have been working in HR or marketing since they left university
- they will be one-half or one-third of the age of the people they are interviewing
- they will have a ferocious disdain of anyone over the age of 40
- they will count workplace experience and achievements to be of far less worth than the person’s ability to “sell” themselves
- they will not take the time to come on site to actually see and hear what people do in their jobs: it’s so much more efficient to simply work from stereotypes and unfounded assumptions
- they will focus on the interviewees’ self-promotion and self marketing skills rather than actual facts: as long as interviewees use the latest buzzwords and spin, they will be deemed acceptable.
You also need to:
- ask applicants to complete timed assessment tasks as part of the application process
- notify people of interviews at 4:30 pm the day before the interviews
- (for those not high enough on the management ladder) structure the interview so that a series of questions is flashed on a screen and have the interviewee talk to a camera instead of a person.
- make applicants go through police checks again even though they have a current clearance.
If people who lose their jobs are considered by their peers to be essential to the organisation and to be people who are committed to quality in their work this is a good thing. It reminds that no one is indispensable (except you, of course) and that all must be agile, innovative, creative, and – above all – adaptive to new circumstances.
Use words/phrases of comfort such as: time of great change; the only constant is change; move with the times … you get the idea. That should do it for them.
Recently, our Prime Minister started referring to media such as the ABC as “elite media”.
Now, what does the word “elite” do?
First, let’s look at the definition.
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of the adjective as:
“Of or belonging to an elite; exclusive”. And the noun – the elite – is: “The choice part , the best , (of society , a group of people , etc.); a select group or class”
Ideally, that would be considered a compliment; but all indications are that it was manifestly pernicious manipulation of language with the intent of causing disaffection with the ABC, Fairfax Media, and other media outlets that (more often than not) look to facts and seek to provide a genuine mix of perspectives.
How many of you are elite sportspeople? Few, as that term refers to those who are at the top of their sport. We like to watch, cheer for and be amazed by feats that can seem superhuman. The accomplishments of such people can inspire as well as provide a vicarious sharing in the thrill of winning. But for those of us not numbered amongst the elite sportspeople, we still remain separate from them.
Some will look at the social pages with envy as they see the rich and the powerful gathering at glittering events and partaking of expensive champagne, delicate canapés, and gourmet meals. As the glossy people bask in feigned admiration of each other, many might look on at these socially and financially elite and wish they were included. But they are not – that is the point. These elite will not include you unless you have the money, can gloss and glitter in expensive clothes and say the right things politically. You are separate from these elite.
So what happens when you suddenly find that “Our ABC” is not part of “elite media”? Does the organisation still speak to and for you? If the mischievous use of “elite” is doing its work effectively in your unconscious, there is a high probability that the answer is “no” – unless, of course, you count yourself as a member of the fact-seeking and fact-honouring elite.
When so much political discourse now refers to “Australian families” (never, single people you might notice), “mum and dad investors” and “the average punter”, we see politically inspired and driven support for those media which speak for and to the crowd, and which are not for the elite.
What has “elite media” to do with you, the average person, the mum or dad investor, the Australian family? “Elite” is separate, not you.
So now where will you find fact-based reporting and news (if you actually care to look for it)? No doubt the suggestion is that whatever you hear from shock jocks or read in tabloids or see on Facebook is good enough for the crowd. Apparently none of these sources is “elite”.
But the next time you see a very wealthy Prime Minister dipping into the canapés of other very wealthy people – the socially and financially elite crowd – you might like to wonder why a genuine member of that elite group wants to separate you from fact-based reporting and writing that offers some intellectual quality.
If, for example, the ABC is “elite” – that is, separate from you, not for you – will you care if it’s sold off, dismantled or corporatised to the point where it’s indistinguishable from the rest of the non-elite media?