Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Jury's back!

Originally I intended to post a silly conversation I had with my boss where his final argument for not doing something was "I'm your boss, that's why!". And by that showing that VP and his boss P behave like children when nobody's looking.

However, it now seems the jury came back with a verdict regarding my job.

I get to keep it and my boss probably is not going to be around.

Bummer, I was looking forward to that severance package ..... Come to think about it, keeping the power position is OK too ;-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Personal winning dressed in corporate bullshit

How many times haven't we seen e-mails being cascaded to all employees with content similar to this: "So and so has decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. We wish him/her success in his/her future endeavours"

Now, this may just be a sincere wish from VP. Or .... it's Corporate BS. It all depends a little on how it is framed.

Let's say that the e-mail also has an overview of the recent re-org. Then the non-bullshit version of the e-mail should read: "We competed. I won! So and so lost and is fired".

Or the context is general downsizing. Then of course the non-bullshit version is: "So and so cost too much and does too little, so he's fired".

I'm sure you can come up with more scenarios.

The bottom line is that the sender always comes out on top which is the whole purpose in the first place. Even in the unlikely case of a sincere wish from VP.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The 1 hour manager

Why is it that all meetings and conference calls are scheduled to go on for one hour?

Where did all the twenty or forty minute meetings go?

I know it's Parkinson's law that makes us fill the the time scheduled. But which law governs our scheduling?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Alpha male e-mail fencing

Some things just speak for themselves. Below you see an edited chain of e-mails that just reek of testosterone.

The actors are VP1, VP2 and VP3 (plus the usual cc: audience). Guess which one is me.

The subject concerns all three but they head up different divisions. Note the use of cc: and the time. In real life everyone could see the e-mail history.

From: VP1
To: Team of VP1
cc: VP2;VP3
Subject: Something that concerns us
Time: 11:20 pm

Team, I just want to inform you that we now have the funding to go ahead with XYZ. Please go ahead and execute as planned.


Replies VP2 in a seemingly innocent tone:

From: VP2
To: VP1
cc: Team of VP1;VP3
Subject: Re: Something that concerns us

Time: 11.30 pm

Can you please share the details as you progress.


Enters VP3:

From: VP3
To: VP1
cc: Team of VP1;Team of VP2; CEO, CTO, CFO, CMO
Subject: Re: Something that concerns us
Time: 11.45 pm

I don't approve of this. How come I was not informed. It's the wrong approach and is basically a waste of money. It's not planned properly and I ask you to stop all further activities!!!

VP3 (From my Blackberry)

Replies VP1 patiently:

From: VP1
To: VP3
cc: VP2
Subject: Re: Something that concerns us

Time: 12 pm

I'm surprised to hear that you haven't heard of this. It was in the plan document that we reviewed two months ago and which you approved.

We're just executing that plan.

If you have further questions don't hesitate to call me.


Replies VP3 going for the kill:

From: VP3
To: VP1
cc: Team of VP1;Team of VP2; CEO, CTO, CFO, CMO
Subject: Re: Something that concerns us

Time: 12.15 pm

it's not your call to decide on this. I have said that I don't approve and that's it. Stop further actions immediately.

Interacts VP2, making a reference to his earlier reply (50 minutes ago!), insinuating that VP1 hasn't delivered to his promise. And re-invents himself as a a player in the approval chain.

From: VP2
To: VP1, VP3
cc: Team of VP1;Team of VP2; CEO, CTO, CFO, CMO
Subject: Re: Something that concerns us
Time: 12.17 pm

I haven't received the details I asked for yet. Please send so I can have an informed view. I'm not going to approve until I know more.


So now VP1 is caught in a snag. The other two VPs who approved a plan just two months ago are now aiming for his throat.

It continues for another couple of hours and it gets a lot nastier. I leave it up to you to do the analysis of the hidden agendas.

This is not an atypical event in my daily routine.

So who am I? Well, I'm not VP1.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Small Person Behaviour

I'm not saying that a small brain is a prerequisite for making a corporate career, that would be shooting my self in the foot. But, observing some of my VP colleagues I cannot stop wondering what piece they're missing.

It's not that they're unintelligent. I most cases their IQ would be worthy of a chess grand master.

It's not that they're socially dysfunctional. Hmm, well at least not completely. Most VPs don't look very becoming in jeans for instance. Don't know why ...

But when cornered and in times of change, the majority of senior managers show off the same three features:

  • Complete lack of coherent communication. For example, the only information you can expect to get is what you already knew. The reason is simple: they think that if you tell the truth people will obstruct, which we all know is nonsense. I admit I do the same thing, it has become an automatic behaviour. If you haven't said anything you become less vulnerable. And complaints about lack of communication only show up in employee surveys a year later. And we all know about how seriously they are taken.
  • Blaming others. Especially other VPs and their organizations. It's very much like a beauty contest with only ugly people. You need to make the others look uglier. It's fascinating how things can go from good to bad in just one day. Just to give you a flavour, I got an e-mail from a VP praising my organization dated one day before a complete slashing. The interesting thing is that the praise was given to me privately but the slashing had a larger audience. Which brings me to the next point.
  • cc:lists from hell. Oh, the wonders of cc:lists! Not only do all cc:mail clutter up your mailbox with things you don't want to know about. cc: is a lethal weapon! A very common tactic to get an upper hand is to criticize someone putting some of the officers of the company on copy. It creates the illusion that a problem has been around for a while and is now being escalated. Not only that, you can't respond without appearing to be defensive and cluttering up the mailbox of others. So the initiator has shown the rest of the company that he's taking responsibility to set things straight. And you get blamed for inactivity, lack of quality, etc without the means to retaliate.

Trying to appear bigger than you are is the nucleus of the small person behaviour syndrome, in short Small Person BS. The result of their actions is always Corporate BS.

But it is actually worse. Your future is decided when VP is in this state of mind.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back in Business (?)

So I had to spend some time saving my job. Hence the quietness.

Quite an interesting exercise in human bad behaviour. Not so much on my part (I hope) but referencing to my earlier post on re-orgs (http://corporatebullshitwiper.blogspot.com/2007/10/reorgs.html) I've endured some serious Corporate BS during the past couple of weeks.

For the moment I'll just give you the menu of topics to be covered in posts to come

  • Small person behaviour: Not in the sense of people being small but having seriously small brains attached to an oversize ego
  • Alpha male e-mail fencing: You'd be surprised of the level of testosterone that can be stored in an e-mail.
  • Personal winning dressed in Corporate BS: Ever wondered what it means when VP writes a note like this: "X has decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. We wish him luck in his future endeavours"?
  • "I'm your boss!": Hmm, I knew that already. What does VP want?
  • Strategy: The art of doing the same damned thing again
  • Synergies revisited: Is it really that brilliant to follow a two year old plan?

So did I save my job? The jury is still out. Well at least I hope there is a jury.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The time for re-organization is soon here. Have you ever wondered why the major corporate reorgs are happening?

Typically there's a major change around Christmas and an adjustment in June.

To me they have always been a mystery, even if I sometimes am instrumental to bring them about.

Often reasons like simplification or effectivization are used.

For who I wonder.

I'm sure most of you still do the same thing now compared to last year.

And VP is still doing his/her stuff.

I suspect it's easier to reorganize than to explain what to do, because it buys time.

So having excluded the impossible only the probale remains.

It's Corporate BS.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Matrix fix

I guess most of you have come across matrix organizations in some shape or form.

They're considered the modern way of doing things.

You like them?

No, I thought not.

One of the purposes is to make the company more agile and susceptible to change.

To me it seems more like a very complex way to avoid getting decisions made. And having more VPs of course.

To get some action you instead deploy "high performance teams" or "tiger teams" giving people titles like "captain". A bit silly perhaps, but they actually get the job done and the teams seem to enjoy the work.

Here's the twist. These teams are based on police or military principles. And the army isn't exactly matrixed, is it.

So hopefully the matrix will be be remembered as a movie only. Or maybe Uderzo should invent a square character Matrix in the Asterix comic.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Experienced BS

Leadership meeting on staff reduction (actually the Corporate BS term headcount was used).
HR VP saying: "we need to make sure that people get a positive downsizing experience".

Stunning! Not only are we firing people. We're going to make people smile in the process.

I guess VP is not so decent on the descent.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Space of mind

Today I personally created a Corporate Bullshit phrase that very well could turn out to be classic.

But first some word definitions.

Occupy = take over somebody's place in a hostile way.

Mind = a person's very private place used for thinking.

Customer = person.

Space = nothing.

OK, hold on tight. This is what I told a sales person after he told me we wouldn't win a deal:

"We haven't occupied the right place in the customer's mind".

I could've said that he's not thinking about us. But why use plain words that mean something?


Monday, October 8, 2007

Winning argument?

So, I've spent yet another day at a major industry event. Millions of [insert currency] spent on grand booth designs and ugly ties.
The prime argument for being here is to meet intimately with customers.

Hmmm, To examine the investment I did some math.

70% of the delegates are competing with my company.

50% of the exhibitors have almost exactly the same slogans as the other 50%.

100% of the companies are meeting with 100% of the customers.

0% of the presentations contain any surprises.

Yet, I signed off on our participation, knowing this beforehand.

The argument used? "Everybody is going there! We'll look like loosers if we don't do it".

To be exact, it was my argument. Told you, I'm av VP.

I'm not sure how compelling that was.

It kind of reminds me about when I, as a kid, asked my mother about going somewhere knowing she would say no. My argument was: "but mom, everyone's going!"

I was a bit surprised when it turned out only I got permission to go.

I didn't exactly look like a winner.

Deciphering dress codes

There are few things that confuse people more than dress codes. More precisely, there are two kinds of codes that reek corporate BS.

Dress codes are supposed to do things like creating identity, recognition or a certain style. So you wear uniforms, business suits or silly hats. You always have the choice to like it or not but for the most part there is a sound purpose for the defined dress code.

However, there is Business Casual. What's up with that? Does anyone know what that really means? No, and that's exactly the point. When VP doesn't know the social intricacies in a given situation he leaves it up to you to decide. Giving you ample chance to do a faux-pas.

Is blue jeans business casual? Probably not. But black jeans most likely are. Or at an international event, what are the exact rules then? What's business casual in Burkina Fasso?

Secondly you have the real red herring: VP announcing that the company has no dress code at all.

Ha, not true. It simply means that you should've known better when you come to work under-dressed. It means that you will have to earn your place in the team by conforming to unwritten rules that are only communicated by frowning if you break them. That's mean!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Burger BS

So I had had my Sunday brunch at a burger bar. It's fairly well known chain. A golden letter as logotype and a clown as mascot.

On the tray-zine they claim the following with pride: "30% of our staff, including managers, have foregin origins. 95 countries are represented. This makes our service better"

Well, on the surface this looks pretty good, doesn't it. The good corporate citizen offering a diverse workplace.

But it's corporate BS!

Working for a hamburger bar isn't a qualified job. I refuse to admit, belive and accept that people not born in my country can't do better than flipping burgers.

And saying that service is dependent on your background??? Dangerous ground.

The truth is that this is an under-paid and unqualified job and the only option available for many people. Even if the burger chain in question claims it's a career item on your resume. Duh!

I would be impressed if, say, a doctor's practice made the same claim.

Admittedly, as a VP I frequently use stats to reinforce my point as you will see further down the road. But I'm trying not to leave glaringly gaping holes in my logic.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Weekend chores

I was promised by a VP collegue that he would "work over the weekend" on something. So I called him today about some details. No reply.

Then I remembered. He told me earlier in the week that he would be in Munich.

He's not doing his chores in Munich in October! He's downing masses of beer (pun for those who know German).

So he did a Corporate BS trick on me and I believed him. I guess nobody's perfect.

"Working over the weekend" means "I'm not going to bother until Monday".

Unless of course VP tells you to work over the weekend. Then it means you're working over the weekend.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Penn & Teller rip-off

Two days into my blogging career I'm accused of intellectual property theft. Someone suggested that all I'm doing is a Penn & Teller rip-off.


One - they're artists, I have a real job. VP, remember?

Two - I never ever generalize!

Nothing magical about that.


So, Siemens , the German telecoms equipment provider was sentenced to pay a €201m fine for bribery. Read the article here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/160aa23a-72ad-11dc-b7ff-0000779fd2ac.html

Are you really surprised? Corporations are run by people and people do bad things. What's the big news?

Actually you can trust people a little more because most have a conscience.

Hmm, leads me to believe that som VPs might not be human. At least not humane.

Corporate Values

This is so popular nowadays.

VP trying to establish (fairly general) corporate values and trying to make the staff gather around them to create a sense of common understanding and beliefs.

OK, so things like Customer First are going to be cloned into you DNA and your moral system?

Corporate BS!

Whatever values you chose will have different meanings for everyone. For it to work as guiding stars you really have to believe in them but the second you make your own interpretation and internalize them you have automatically created a disconnect and the point is moot.

Budget time

We're heading towards Christmas. Ooops, sorry, the Holiday season is approaching. But before that it's the feast of budgeting.

Do you believe any of your planning and thinking ends up in the corporate budgets? Of course not.

Truth is that most budgets equal whatever you did this year plus 10% revenue minus 10% cost. Giver or take some percentage points. God forbid any new investments if you're out in the field.

In the best case VP looks at market trend charts like this and tells you how much you need to do to keep up with competition.

Hmm, don't they always look like this? Even the year before the dot.com slump. Does anybody really look back? Hindsight is a scary thing because it means you have to analyze your mistakes. VP doesn't like that too much.

And VP really believes in charts like this:

VP will use words like "synergies" and "optimize" to push you to do more with less. OK, I guess it's a good thing as a principle to be more effective as you move forward.

But it's Corporate BS because: The bigger the gap, the higher the VP's bonus gets. And do you think VP will lose his job when you don't succeed. Maybe, but only after you lost yours.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Trusted Partner

You've all heard it. VP saying: "We're going to climb the value chain and become the trusted partner or advisor to our core customers".

Yeah right. If you've done the same thing for the past hundred or so years, chances are that you will keep doing exactly that. Your place in the food chain ain't changing.

Unless you do a corporate sex change. Which will be as painful as the real thing. For more people!

If you're really serious about it, there are no two ways about it. You must cut off what you have and get some new stuff in. Well folks, that means getting rid of people. And they aren't likely to cut themselves off. Especially not the guys with titles starting with capital C.

So, if your customers aren't taking your advice. Take a hint!

Cost Savings

So you're suffering from cost containment? No discretionary spending allowed unless it has a direct impact on this quarter's revenue? No travel unless it's a customer meeting? Absolutely no training or education? No social events? Boring?

And your VP has to approve everything!

Guess what. As a VP I can make anything into a customer meeting, fly where ever I want (even business class), go to any conference I'd like and treat anyone to dinner with all extras.

But I will not approve your expense report for those ten beers you and your team shared after successfully completing a project.

That's Corporate BS!

I don't get it. Why the approval hysteria? Tell people how much they can spend and leave it at that. If they spend more they should be in trouble. If they're under budget, let them have that beer.

And I won't have to get like 100 requests for approval per day.