Eradicating the cancer of "reorgs" and "rifs" from our society

Updated March 11, 2016

The explosion in technology.

The industrialization of ICT, the IoT, 5G connection speeds, the idolatry of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the self driven cars, the list goes on and on: how will we benefit as humans, who have families, fearing  that our jobs today may be gone tomorrow?

Airbnb reservation app and a Uber taxi service disrupted our lives Now we are all contractors. The great majority of people have not the personality, the desire and the stamina to be entrepreneurs.

Even love is a serious business.  "Nearly 6% of the web’s users currently use a dating app, according to the research firm GlobalWebIndex, and that’s amounted to a roughly $2.2 billion worldwide market."

A typical press release (I look at random  from PRwire Vormetic) talks about their growth in revenues and use financial data with some  minimal marketing info to prove success. There are no data supplied on social and business benefits of Vormetic customers. I do not know Vormetic, I just use their PR at random, to illustrate the way almost all companies in high tech and outside high tech. report achievement.

A question that needs answers: how many people benefit from  Vormetic? In what way? Where  they live? How many families will be happier and why? 

The fear

Quoting Forbes article of January 15, 2016, 
  • Oxford researchers suggest that nearly half of the occupations in the U.S. will be computerized over the next 20 years
  • Gartner predicts that one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots, and smart machines within a decade.
  • McKinsey & Co. analysis finds that “as many as 45% of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.”
 Isaac Asimov wrote in 1964:
"The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders...mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom... This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences,
Fortunately never human predictions are right. The reason we pray to God, is because He is the only one who knows the future. Depending on the "Futurist du Jour"  these new technologies appear to steal jobs and will enslave us to machines.

I don't believe this is true. But I do believe each new technology must be validated by the potential of creating new jobs, not losing them. We need to study the profits of the buyers, not only the sellers. We need to measure the social improvement and the quality of life of our admirable technologies.

The current US primaries elections in states like Michigan show the voters will embrace whatever credible candidate, demagogue or not, who promises jobs. These Ford and GM companies used to be the stalwarts of family stability, In the 50's no one looked over his shoulder to suspect who is next on the layoff lists.

Today Ford established a Palo Alto subsidiary to build and invest in car mobility: GM acquired Cruise Automation in San Francisco for a rumored one billion dollars.

What does it mean for the people making the actual cars in Michigan?

The unbearable lightness of beings 

This can be avoided: Nokia reorganization 2008. Photo taken by an employee who just lost his job
Why in every large company reorganizations and "reductions in force" (rifs) are periodic and unavoidable? Because they have "a plethora of departments and boatloads of talented people, but communication has broken down."

Our top schools of business, our star management gurus, have not yet come with a solution'

Firing a future Steve Jobs

This is a typical example of the structural anomalies in a large corporation. Quoting Aaron Dignan
Looking at the organization honestly, you can see the problem. Your people simply aren't working together! You have a plethora of departments, and boatloads of talented people, but communication has broken down. Customer Insights won't talk to Innovation, and the Technology group isn’t even in the same building as the Design team. How can a company with 2,000 developers take six months to update a web page?!
You know what you have to do. It’s time to reorganize. But how to get it right this time? You could change the people in leadership roles. Perhaps if the groups had better leadership, they'd get their act together. Or you could break your departments up into smaller and more focused versions of themselves — one for each line of business. Hell, you could even divide the business by customer, creating consumer and B2B organizations that mirror each other.
But something tells you none of that is right. A voice in the back of your head whispers, “You’ll be re-organizing again in three years…”
Both Karen and the rif-ed employee are victims of a system that must be changed. If our society eradicated polio outbreaks in most countries of the world, why not uproot this cancer of our economy, called  "reorganization"?

It erodes people's self-esteem, it kills the creativity. And who says we riff the right person? Is Karen an absolute decider of people's abilities? How do we know Karen did not fire a hippy looking future Steve Jobs?
Walter Isaacson: Although I’m tempted to skip over these factoids, I’ll add that Jobs
was also a huge fan of LSD psychedelic acid, claiming
 it was “one of the best things I’ve done in my life" 

More transparency

Professor Baba Shiv from Stanford says in an interview
In corporate hierarchies there is a tendency to give greater weight to the opinions of leaders rather than their subordinates. However, those opinions are usually based on instinct rather than information. The one thing that can trump a higher-up’s opinion is data, and repeated experimentation and failure lead to a lot of it
This upsets the company culture, but a company like IBM accommodates trendsetter opinions from outside the company. Ulrika Bergström  quotes a high-level IBM executive:
"We bring in influencers to influence our development. We build relation and focus on implication and reach of content." Basically, IBM don't just hope to get influential people to speak for them, but IBM actively work with people they have identified as potentially important influencers to enable them to engage with the IBM brand and make an impact. They give their influencers access to IBM and to IBM resources, give them the credit they deserve and treat their influencers with respect. My respect to IBM! 

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We can answer questions for a client like:
  • Are we growing profit margins from new customers?
  • How the clients of the client save and make money?
  • How engaged are our employees?
  • Do we generate fear? To what extent the teams trust each other?
  • What kind of jobs we will need in the futures, that don't exist today?
  • Which pockets in the company are agiler than others?
  • How do we communicate the strategy internally?
  • How we facilitate innovation in our culture?
This list is a sample. The client selects the right questions. We call these Key Performance Questions.

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