"So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work."
- Peter Drucker
This morning at breakfast, my buddies Bill and Eric were bemoaning the fact that Detroit has wasted decades in responding to Japan and Germany's lead in cars. They were incredulous that we could still be regularly falling behind and did not understand why these companies had not yet been transformed.
I wonder if the measure of an organization's efficacy isn't a function of the difference between what it takes to be successful within the organization and what it takes to be successful within the community. If the gap is big, the organization is flawed, perhaps pathological. If the gap is small, the organization is healthy and vibrant.
For instance, what it takes to succeed within a gang is criminal behavior. This is the opposite of what it takes to be successful within the community - in fact, "successful" gang members will often end up as failures. Gangs are bad organizations.
Companies often divert a great deal of attention to pleasing management - people who sign paychecks and vote on pay raises but don't actually finance employees with their own money. To the extent that success in the company is dependent on how well employees please management rather than customers, the company is poorly designed, is flawed. Same with teachers who are busy pleasing administrators.
It seems a simple and obvious thing, but once organizations get to a certain size, it is an easy thing for the people within them to become fixated on pleasing others within the organization rather than the people outside the organization who ultimately make it successful or let it fail. Co-workers and managers asking for progress reports are often so much easier to see then the customers who buy the final product.