Monday, March 01, 2004


The Three Big Lies of the modern corporation

The Three Big Lies of the modern corporation are:
1. The customer come first.
2. We make our decisions on behalf of our shareholders.
3. Employees are our most important asset.

Art Kleiner's newest book, Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege & Success explores a theory that's more parsimoniously tied to observable facts -- that the goals of organizations are determined by a small "core group" of people who matter. A friend of mine calls them "the STP" -- the Same Ten People. To Kleiner, if an organization *is* working right, then credit is due to its core group. If an organization is dysfunctional, you'll find a dysfunctional core group. If an organization is ripping off its employees and shareholders, there's probably a greedy core group setting the agenda.

Tellingly, the first chapter of Kleiner's book is called, "The Customer Comes Eighth." I told this to one corporate culture guru, and he laughed and laughed, as if it were the punchline to an unspoken joke.

If you're a student of Corporate Culture, if you're puzzled by the hidden rules of how to get things done and who gets ahead, if you're wondering why "value subtracted" is often the end result, or even if you're curious about what makes Dilbert funny, you will want to give _who Really Matters_ a read. Also, there's an on-line discussion about _Who Really Matters_ going on for the next two weels at The Well.

I thought the book was well worth the time, but I came away with two gripes. First, it doesn't present an objective set of criteria for how the core group chooses its members. According to Kleiner, core group members are who the organization's stakeholders believe they are. Second, it doesn't give a reader a detailed roadmap of how to join (or even influence) the core group of their organization. Now, these are difficult questions, considering that each core group is a complex of complex individuals. Maybe there's a second Kleiner book, on How to be Someone Who Matters waiting to be written.

Art Kleiner will be part of the action at WTF!?! A Gathering of Smart People, April 2-4, 2004.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?