March 15; Back-Stabbing Office Politics
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful


15 March

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.

Exodus 23:2a

Back-Stabbing Office Politics

Et tu, Brute?

The CEO was fired. He didn’t deliver. Did his staff really help him or “help” him implement needed changes? Did he get what he deserved? Or was he stabbed in the back?

The Board of Directors of Xerox had rapidly promoted Gordon Richard Thoman from COO to the top slot for his leadership and track record in containing expenses. He knew how to cut costs. Thoman knew that more positive change was needed and set in place two re-organizational efforts.

The first was to streamline operations from 90-plus administration centers down to four. (Bossidy 2002)

The second was a customer refocus by moving from a geographic organization to an industry-specific org chart. The two big changes were long over-due.

Thoman attempted to do both at once. And this might have been possible in another organization. But the “clubby culture” of Xerox’s crowd of senior managers “did not take kindly to an outsider.”

One gets the sense that the bureaucracy did exactly as the CEO Thoman had directed. He was not well liked and was described as “haughty,” as one might expect from a Francophile with a Legion of Honour and a Ph.D.. Thoman’s detached, indifferent demeanor may not have demanded a rigorous debate big changes deserve.

Or perhaps his leadership teams were ‘yes men’ who simply saluted and passed down the orders from on high.

“We will give the boss exactly what he asked for,” may have been the Xerox establishment’s unsaid response. “And watch the disaster Thoman created.”

The ‘iron cage’ — as Max Weber called bureaucracies — can lift up any incompetent manager. And can destroy the best and stab any genius in the back. Bureaucratic office politics is an art form in any organization.  But in-fighting took on the pallet of painter Jackson Pollock logic-dimensions in the technology company. Insiders called it “BuRox” short for ‘Bureaucracy-Xerox.’

The manager cannot succeed—if he does not have the support of the bureaucracy.

The manager cannot fail—if he has the support of the bureaucracy.

Yes, the new CEO attempted to do too much too soon. He may not have failed in the planning but in the leading/motivating. He is ultimately responsible for all the company did or failed to do.

But it would have been interesting to see a few more professionals in the senior leadership of the organization deliver on execution even from a flawed tactical decision.

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong, Exodus 23:2a


See Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done2002, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan


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