Does the drive for efficiency lead to corporate insanity?

What is insanity?

First let us consider some informal, but commonly accepted definitions of insanity:

According to Einstein, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Another definition of insanity is non-sequiter responses to communication or situations

Another definition of insanity is continued non-survival behavior.

Another is the inability to understand the nature and consequences of ones acts

Still another definition, insanity is when you try to make reality conform to your views, rather than to conform your views to reality.

Dictionary definition: Insanity is the condition of the mind, when a person cannot separate reality from fiction, cannot draw intelligent conclusions …

What is corporate insanity?

For those of you who do not see where I am going with this, let me pose a few questions:

When was the last time you talked to a Customer Service Rep and got mechanically scripted answers that did not apply to your questions?

When was the last time you talked to your boss about your performance and got meaningless gobbledygook?

When was the last time you encountered the Phone Tree From Hell when you had a problem that required a human answer?

When was the last time you were in a weekly staff meeting that made no sense?

When was the last time you attempted to point out that a proposed design or product had already been soundly criticized by existing customers?

If any of these scenarios are familiar to you, you are well inside the corporate twinkie zone and you probably need a change of scenery.

How much efficiency can we stand?

In my simplistic view of the world, actions either make things better or they make things worse. I realize that this is not sufficiently nuanced for many self-professed experts, but it’s something I can observe and measure, so it works for me. As a result, I believe organization is a good thing, unless carried to the point where you substitute machines or fixed procedures for people communicating to people.

Once you get organized to the point where individual decisions are no longer permitted, except at the topmost levels, you have essentially recreated the Soviet Union in all of its glory. This is not a recommended solution.

The random problems posed by the real world will overwhelm the ability of a centralized system to handle incoming traffic and the system stalls or goes psychotic. Unfortunately, by then the customers have gone psychotic and left for saner suppliers.

There are several ways to address this problem of corporate efficiency without recreating the nightmare visions of I, Robot (2005) or Metropolis (1926), but it requires more space than I wish to burden you with at this time.

I have already written about other aspects of this in Avoiding Corporate Meltdown and Higher Speeds = Corporate Meltdown.  If you have not read them, you might find that they describe situations you are currently facing.

I will try to wrap this up in the next few posts. Stay tuned if you find this interesting.

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