Simon Terry

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The Life-crushing Magic of Hierarchy

Humans are inherently messy creatures. We accumulate history and the entanglements of human relationships and emotions. As a manager this human mess can interfere with the joy of the unrelenting execution of your will. A cluttered organisation shows no respect to a manager’s inherent expertise and power. 

My life as a manager was transformed when I discovered the life-crushing magic of hierarchy. Your life and organisation can be neat and orderly, if you follow these simple organisational principles. 

Touch Everything

Firstly you must understand the principle behind all hierarchical organisation. A manager must constantly touch everything. Dump all your expectations about independent action by your team on the floor. Subject everything to your hands-on micromanagement power. 

You must feel free to touch any activity in the organisation at any time, throw it into a disordered pile and then use your superior management skills to put things back into the places that best suit you. Do this until your organisation shines with respect for your management skill. 

Kill Joy

Look at any activity if it sparks joy in your employees, discard it from your organisation. You have the power to exclude these activities that divert from the joy of experiencing unfettered authority. Crush the activities and discard any employees associated with them. The more meaningless the work the better it will demonstrate your management expertise. If too much meaning arises in work, intervene and make changes or better yet reorganise again.

Process not People

When organising your business it is traditional to be concerned with individual business units, alignment to customer or business outcomes and the people involved. Put aside this nostalgia. 

Focus instead on process. Ask yourself only whether the process brings you joy and crushes the freedom of your people. Make sure your processes are inflexible, opaque, compliance-oriented, end-to-end and untouched by nostalgic human considerations. The more abstract the outcomes that your processes create the better. 

Organise your business one process at a time and follow each process to the end before proceeding on to the next until you have completed your arrangements process by process. This may increase the mess and confusion in the meantime but you will find an organisation that is far easier to control and manage in the end.

If at any time you are not getting joy from this process, reorganise your people to make their arrangement more appealing. Over time your people will begin to appreciate the recognition that they get from being dumped into reorganisation. They will shine around you for the fear that next time you may get them. 

Everything in its place

Everything must be in its place before you go to work. Only you will be best able to determine the sweet spot for an employee. Don’t let them create mess by making career choices. Fold them carefully into their small box alongside their peers in the process. Never let your employees feel that they have a place to which they can go home. 

Arrange your remaining employees in tightly segmented silos and narrow process defined roles. It is essential they are visible and accessible to you at all times. You will need the ability to grab them from their important work at a whim and put them back easily at your pleasure. Measure them continuously to keep them aware of their need to maintain your respect and bring you joy.  

When interacting with your employees discard any that show too much spark. Remember to share your unfettered opinion and discard theirs at every opportunity. Finish every interaction with one of your employees by remarking gently ‘Thanks, I’ll take it from here.’

No Stacking

Stacking can crush employees at the bottom and damage their self-respect. This is an activity which should be reserved to bring joy to you. This is why it is so essential that employees are carefully folded into a place in process. Therefore do away with any unnecessary intermediate managers who may have the time to create fiefdoms to challenge your own. Keep the other managers moving quickly to satisfy your directives so that they have no time for their own thoughts, action or joy. Make everyone subject to your direct instruction and make all the decisions with your unique, shifting and often emotional rationales. 

A category of employee that requires particular attention in removing any other forms of leadership are your change agents. They are an unnecessary source of independence and activity. You will find no spark of joy in your dealings with them. Instead they may even challenge your authority or make unnecessary suggestions. Implement an enterprise social network in your organisation. This will enable you to identify those employees who still hold opinions and may act on their own outside of your chosen process. Gather your change agents. Hug them and thank them for their service. Then bundle them out the door

Follow these principles closely and your hierarchy will be neat, tidy and much smaller. Be sure that it will bring you, and you alone, great joy. Other managers will look on your shiny, svelte & compliant organisation with new respect.

Apologies to Marie Kondo. Thank you to those who gave me encouragement, ideas and suggestions for this post. May it spark some much needed joy in your work. If anyone reading is still in any doubt, don’t do this.


1 Comment

  1. […] My personal bonus: The most fun post to write this year was The Life Crushing Magic of Hierarchy. […]

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