Thoughts after tea with Neil Perkin

I should write a longer and more lucid post about this, but those ones never get done. Please regard this as a starter for 10.

I had a cuppa with Neil Perkin yesterday and we talked about, amongst other things, what stops big organisations from being agile. One thing is the massive but often unspoken impact of things like a visit from the boss. Neil was quite lucid on this point and here’s a summary of what I took from it.

The boss says he’s coming over and asks some subordinate A to talk to him about X. A cancels a series of meetings to devote time to making an impressive powerpoint presentation about X.

In fact, A asks his near subordinates B, C and D to prepare some stuff for him on the subject.

B, C and D then basically replicate A’s behaviour, cancelling their own meetings and interfering with the lives of E/F/G, H/I/J and K/L/M.

Depending on the size of the organisation, rinse and repeat through various layers.

A probably didn’t realise it, but by the time he arrives, the lives of lots of people have been disturbed. A thought he was just doing his job. And B, C, D etc did too. But a lot of the organic functioning of the organisation has stopped in service of maintaining the status games built into hierarchy.

I wonder if A was asking for some ideas about how to be more innovative? I wonder if the result of all these powerpoints is creation of a heavy-handed innovation programme. The very creation of which has probably interfered with the natural, non-linear growth of a whole lot of simple ideas.

Update: Neil does the maths on his idea.

1 thought on “Thoughts after tea with Neil Perkin

  1. Dwight Towers

    Spot on. When you’re riding the horse, you don’t think much about it. But the horse thinks a lot about you…

    There’s a great funny short novel about just this, by Michael Frayn. It’s called The Tin Men, and it’s about the utter chaos a prospective visit from the Queen causes at a research establishment. Comic, piercing, hilarious….


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