Monday, April 25, 2016

Gas-baggers in the corporate world, a lot of hot air with no substance

Part 1 of this post appeared last week, click here to view

The world has many of them, few go by the title of “Consultant” and get around dropping big words in their trail that sound impressive; full of themselves and jargon, they love to hear their own voice at the smallest of opportunity. They also exude confidence that is unnerving and at times creates self-doubts in their audience. But consultants are not the focus of this narrative, it is the tribe that exists within an enterprise and has risen to the level of CXO or function head by virtue of their loud voices or that no one called their bluff.

He came with much fanfare talking about his illustrious past of having achieved greatness across companies globally in his field of operations as well as technology; the CFO’s arrival was the subject of much curiosity. Starting off with boastful achievements – none of which were verifiable – he attempted to dominate the IT team with smattering of gobbledygook that left the techies smarting in their effort to suppress their laughter. To the CIO and the team it was clear that they were going to have a tough time with their new Manager.

His knowledge knew no bounds; he had an opinion on everything from specialized solutions to highly specialized skills in manufacturing or for that matter on sales effectiveness. His position guaranteed that people listen to him especially if they were lower ranked; he showed off his superficiality using verbiage to subjugate those in front of him. Soon it was evident to everyone (management saw it as proactive behavior!) in the organization that he will poke his nose into every affair wanting to add value with anecdotes unbelievable most of the time.

I had filed a patent for a new way of marketing when working with this global FMCG company; did you know that we turned around the server farm in 24 hours; I had to sit with the technical staff and tell them how to write code; I crafted the new sales effectiveness process which turned the company around; why have you not considered a NAS solution, why are you wasting money on SAN; I could write this code in 3 days that you say will take 3 weeks; why does assembly line changeover take 14 hours, it should happen in 4 !

Surprisingly he never spoke about his own field of deemed expertise and left the Finance team busy asking for inane reports and correlations that had them wondering on the rationale behind the requests. Hiring incompetence around him, he ensured that the sycophants spread the word of his greatness around and showed open adulation in cross-functional meetings. Inaction by the IT team chastised for most of their actions by the Boss, started hurting key projects that defined the future state for the enterprise.

Eventually the (gas) bag had to burst and it did with indecisions and snafus pointing in his general direction; there was enough incriminating evidence that pinned him down to expose the lack of depth and expertise. While he was not unceremoniously booted out, until his last few weeks he continued to live up to his notorious ways spreading hot air, unable to reform or change. The exit created a positive vacuum that sent sighs of relief within the enterprise while the group of scared hypocrites worried about survival.

Collateral damage is a natural fallout of such incidents in an enterprise; the business had suffered production losses, broken supply chain, sales force missed the planned innovation and deployment of industry specific tools, the IT team saw attrition and delayed implementation of transformational projects, the CIO exited in disgust leaving behind a frustrated team, the Financial Controller parted ways and overall the growth slowed down with the string of bad decisions that the gas bagger had enforced with his coterie.

Enterprises have a lot of tolerance and resilience, they bounce back; the resultant dip however leaves them at a disadvantage with respect to what they could have otherwise achieved. Senior management when disconnected with ground realities or not accepting a bad hire, end up having to clean up the mess. Open communication, obligation to dissent, appears in almost every enterprise core values, rarely practiced in the true spirit, resulting in adverse impact, hurting people and performance in the long run.

Politicos next time !

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