Corporate Kintsugi

We fill the cracks in our work processes with golden fixes. We then fall in love with their beauty.

Their hands touched mastery; now they demand an answer.

Mariel Ruckseyer, from The Book of the Dead

I’ve written before about kintsugi. Humans aren’t perfect. There will be breaks and repairs and workarounds. Making them aesthetically pleasing and convenient is sensible.

However, in organisations, corporate kintsugi becomes its own art form. Processes are broken and we develop elaborate manual interventions. We need to fit agile into the waterfall processes of the organisation and we fall in love with our reporting, stage gates and delivery trains. An MVP was proof of our speed to market, but when we still love the pilot jerry-rigging a decade later we need to move on. Often, the gold lacquer with which we make our repairs is greater than the porcelain. Whole departments and silos exist to beautify the cracks.

Just as relying on resilience isn’t resilient. developing a competitive advantage at corporate kintsugi is undermining your performance. Stop falling in love with the fill-ins at work. Repairs are fine but the thousand little compromises that undermine and reshape the work need to go.

It will be sad to discard the clever little interventions that covered the gaps. You may need to make work less complex and less exciting as your take out these golden bridges.

Better work is the prize. Let the corporate kintsugi and its practitioners go.

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

WS Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

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