In one of his latest books, Re-imagine! Tom Peters talks about a depressing moment when he was called to a participate in a three-hour meeting of one of the top 50 American companies. To quote:
Presentation after presentation spewed forth. The meeting, typical of giant corporations, was really a meeting... to prepare for a meeting... to prepare for a Big Meeting. That is, a meeting of the top 20 of this huge unit, to prepare for a round table of the top five people... who in turn would report their result to the Really Big Guy.No comment. This is so familiar to me, including the book part.
Many of the presentations were apparently scintillating. Rather radical change was proposed. And "proposed" was the operative word.
When the time came to prepare the Semi-Big Guys for the Meeting about the Meeting with the really Big Guy, all radicalism evaporated.
The issue, said one executive, was "cultural". That is, a shift towards a "demand side", customer-driven, brand-centric enterprise. As opposed to a down-the-line "supply side", engineering-driven approach/"culture." But one of the Semi-Big Guys patiently explained , the Really Big Guy "won't tolerate the word 'culture'. He thinks it's bullshit."
The Really Big Guy is apparently happiest with charts and graphs and sterile analysis. God help the presenter who strays into the "softer side of things".
And on it went. Every radical proposal had to be translated into the ABL... Acceptable Bland Language favored at the Tippy Tippy Top of giant Corp.
When I left that meeting with my pal, I was utterly depressed. Indeed, I saw no reason whatsoever to continue writing this book. What's the point? When every Seriously Cool Idea evaporates in meetings to prepare for meetings? When "powerful" people turn into "gutless" people? When nothing happens other than... tiny incremental adjustments at the margin?