The Organizational Imperative

2002-07-19

Dave Winer picks up the transparency thread. He writes:

From this point we'll get much better information about how companies are doing. Stock options as we knew them, are over. Salaries and benefits matter. Transparent management. Time to ride the Cluetrain, for real. Companies must make identifiable products for real people that they communicate with honestly, directly and openly.

Along the same lines, today Jer posted a copy of Nolan Bushnell's manifesto from the early days of Atari.

I think corporations simply have a hard time with transparency. They're all about being closed. Those within it see the corporation as a living organism (defend the cell walls!). I call this the organizational imperative: the organization takes on a life of its own and those involved begin to feed the organization at the expense of their own professed principles. There is always the temptation to think that the special organization one is involved in can overcome these problems, or that by working from the inside one can change one's favorite organization. Yet such notions ignore reality. An organization is what it is for various reasons of intention, history, personnel, and simple survival. Organizations take on a life of their own, and individuals who support them or work within them inevitably begin to value that which helps the organization more highly than that which helps the ideas or goals or persons who are the intended recipients of the organization's influence. One begins to believe that higher profits, more customers, membership growth, larger budgets, wider influence, more media mentions, and the like have value in themselves because they contribute to the life of the organization. And thus the organizational imperative takes over.

It's a sad story, but I've seen it repeated enough times to know that the imperative is extraordinarily difficult to resist, and that it's not the fault or intention of those involved. At this point I consider it a fact of reality, and simply work in and around it.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal