Do You Work for Stupid Inc.?

Last Updated Sep 10, 2010 11:07 AM EDT

Most organizations are so incompetent that they're best described as flat-out stupid. Does this label apply to the place where you work? Take the Logan Organizational Stupidity Exam (LOSE) and find out. Every time you say "Yep, that's where I work," give your company a point.

1. In the last five years, at least one senior manager has sent out many copies of a small business book with big type and a catchy title that is painfully devoid of thought. Now, some business books are of value. I visited a company recently where the CEO sent all employees a copy of The Essential Bennis -- the antithesis of the bad business book I ranted about a couple of posts ago. He asked people to read it carefully and with personal reflection. Not surprisingly, that company is doing well. Replace Bennis's great book with any text about cheese, and you're at Stupid Inc.

Bonus: In a related move, if people boast about having attention deficit disorder, give your company a bonus point. Stupid thrives when people brag about not being able to have complex conversations.

2. When someone at the top royally screws up, it's never discussed, but when someone lower down makes a mistake, it's fodder for endless root cause analysis. Stupid is most incapacitating at the top.

3. Every executive speech follows this format: things were bad when I took over, I've worked hard to turn it around, and now the future is rosy. This statement is stupid for two reasons: (1) it repels any lessons from the prior regime other than it was incompetent, and (2) focuses on the action of the leader rather than the group. "I," "me," and "my" talk is a sure sign of organizational stupidity, and an inability to think past the tenure of the current leaders is a sign that the stupidity is here it stay.

Bonus: If the executives routinely use "we" instead of "I" but clearly mean themselves, give your company two stupid points instead of just one.

4. Organizational learning is seen as nirvana. With deep respect for the pioneers of organizational learning, my two year old learns a new word every day and recently figured out how to work my iPod. Learning is simply a prerequisite to thinking, and organizational thought (mass innovation) is the real key to growth. If your company aspires only to do what a two year old does naturally, it's high on the stupid scale.

5. Managers follow standard HR advice and get in trouble if they don't. This advice includes:


  • Hire for skills, not for values. Standardize interview questions to drive out any chance you might actually get to know the person.
  • Give out salary increases to people according to a bell-shaped curve, telling people that an extra 1% is proof that they are deeply, deeply valued.
  • Measure employees against pre-determined criteria rather than other results they produced. We don't want our employees distracted by opportunities we didn't plan for.

Bonus: The need to hew blindly to HR advice makes for a nifty-looking employee handbook that will be blessed by corporate counsel. And that will make stupid spread like mosquitoes in summer. If you have this handbook on your bookshelf or accessible over your intranet, give your company an extra point.

Scoring:

Organizational stupidity is more than fodder for Dilbert cartoons. It's the reason our country is lagging behind in competitiveness and why American wages are declining. If your company scored 4+, the place you work is part of the problem.

Do you work for Stupid Inc.? If so, please tell us about it (no names, please) in the comments below.

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Photo courtesy andryone, CC 2.0


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    Dave Logan is a USC faculty member, management consultant, and the best-selling author of four books including Tribal Leadership and The Three Laws of Performance. He is also Senior Partner of CultureSync, a management consulting firm, which he co-founded in 1997.