The problem with the traditional brick-and-mortar model is that it considers all activities to be process based and liner in nature. That is good for manufacturing products – like shoes or condoms. However, issues come up when such liner mindset is force-fitted into the intellectual business or knowledge work. Any intellectual property creation activity is non-liner in nature. You have a peak and then you have trough (sometimes
you have more troughs than peaks) and at times you are just meandering through a maze of abstract thoughts.
When organizations in the knowledge business, retro-fit themselves with the liner work model – the situation is aggravated. The brick-and-mortar model creates a environment which necessitates the justification of “down time” common in the knowledge work activity. And how do you justify it – you create activities that can show that you have been busy and deserved to be paid what you are paid.
These activities designed to enable employees to pretend that they are working, are called “meetings”.
Presently most organizations are plagued with the concept of meetings. Some of the consequences of this are creation of levels upon levels of people who are the meeting gurus. They have actually developed the meeting process into an art form. These are the people whose Outlook calendars are so busy, that they would probably make the President of the United States look idle. The day would be actually running out of hours for them, with back-to-back meetings and at times meetings fighting over the same time period.
And how do they do that? Well, they have “gamed” the meeting process and all its intricate nuances like meeting agenda, meeting presentations (that consists of inane stupidities), meeting minutes, meeting afterthoughts, meeting follow-ups, to-do lists, etc.
The meeting process also loves the hierarchy system in organizations. These meeting gurus also love hierarchy. They are the eyes-and-ears of their masters above. They attend meetings, and report the proceedings to superiors. And sometimes they even fight among themselves as to who has the exclusive rights to this august task (good idea to set-up another meeting to discuss this).
These are also the class of human beings who are perhaps the biggest bottlenecks in the knowledge work process as they question each activity. Each time they open their mouth something absolutely dumb and ridiculously irrelevant comes out. And what’s amazing is their ability to mask that utter lack of substance with an arrogant and condescending tone. By doing so, they justify their existence in the organization. Sometimes they do this to justify their existence to themselves as well.
I look at them in amazement, and wonder – “Such joys of the corporate environment”.