The Status Quo Heaven

Status Quo is a wonderful thing. For those pundits who need a definition for everything, let me define status quo as the result of an act (more like an art) of preventing anything from making forward progress of any kind – if, inadvertently, things move backward, it could be treated as an added bonus.

The degree of difficulty in maintaining status quo is inversely proportional to the size of the organization. Further, in large organizations it is next to impossible to ascertain with any level of confidence that anything has changed or not – whether it is the number of meetings that you have to attend (endure), the number of such meetings that result in any tangible outcome or the number of times you have to clarify (or categorize) an item on your expense report.

For the average mid level manager (and at other levels too), status quo is the gold standard, the pursuit of which tends to be relentless. Take a look at the deft maneuvering by the seasoned professional in the following conversation:

Karen (Chief Operating Officer): Thank you all for coming to this meeting at such a short notice. We have selected a new expense management system that will enable tracking of various expenses by categories, by departments and more. This will help us…….. yes, Tim, you have a question?

Tim (Manager, Administration): Is this SATGH 1010, KUSNK 201 certified?

Karen: I am not sure what those acronyms are but this product is being used by the majority of Fortune 500 companies. So, Mary, I would like you to come up with a plan for speedy implementation.

Mary (Head of Information Systems): Yes, Karen. Sounds interesting. We should be able to…….

Tim: But the risks and costs of introducing high tech systems in our organization may be formidable. You will all remember the disaster when we tried to quickly automate the process for cafeteria menu management 10 years ago – people had to go without chicken sandwiches for 2 full days.

Karen (getting irritated): Tim, what are you implying here – that we should not change from a 20-year old, paper based system that is obsolete?

Tim: No, Karen. I only want to recommend that we should be very careful in selecting and implementing any new system. We should initiate a full training program for all our employees to be trained in the use of a computer mouse as well as the correct use of their fingers on touch screens. This obviously could take a few years to accomplish. And then we should have parallel runs for the new system for a period of …….

Karen (barely able to control herself): OK, Mary could you get with Tim and come up with a plan that is workable. Let us meet again in 3 months.

Tim is back in his cabin, satisfied at having succeeded in preventing another risky move to make things better in the organization.

The Magical Quadrants

There is a panacea for all evils – or is it the other way (evil in every panacea) – in corporate management. Its name is ‘the magical quadrants’.

A corporate quadrant diagram has four boxes (surprise!). Every issue, situation, behavior, result, forecast, procedure and (name anything you wish) is nonchalantly fitted into one of these boxes and, before you can say, ‘hey, presto’, the problem is ‘solved’!

As an example, let us analyze a situation where your company’s sales figures are declining while other comparable companies are doing very well. Bring on the quadrant wand and slot away as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 7.24.40 PM

Armed with the above tantalizing display, the Head of Sales can easily make the following presentation to the company’s senior management:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am aware that you are all worried about the company’s performance (or lack thereof) over the past few quarters. But I have been tracking the progress of our company through the company performance-employee morale correlation represented in the picture shown above. This has been taken directly from published results from extensive research on leading global companies by the industry watchdog, XYZ Unlimited. Last year, we were in quadrant I. Thanks to tremendous efforts by our management to expand and grow our lawn, with active support from the CEO, I am proud to say that we are now in quadrant II. We do not ever want to be in quadrant III which is where all our competitors are – with low employee morale that is easily correctable. We have put aggressive plans in place to move directly to quadrant IV. With our highly motivated workforce and our continuing investments in maintaining and growing greenery around us, it is just a matter of time before we find ourselves at the top of quadrant IV that remains a mere dream for all our competitors. Thank you all!

After that fiery speech, everyone goes back to work with renewed resolve to seek out more correlations and generate new quadrant diagrams!