Status plays toxic to innovation

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

This article from Forbes got mentioned a lot on twitter: Why Innovation Dies. Steve Blank cites a letter circulated within a university detailing the creation of a strategy committee. Here’s a snippet to convey the tone bur read the whole thing if you can bear it.

To this end, we are convening a Strategy Committee that is charged with overseeing our efforts and accelerating implementation. The responsibilities of the group will be to provide overall direction to campus, make decisions concerning strategic priorities and allocate additional resources to help realize these priorities. Because we anticipate that most of the innovation in this area will occur at the school/unit level we underscore that the purpose of the Strategy Committee is to provide campus-level guidance and coordination, and to enable innovation. The Strategy Committee will also be responsible for reaching out to and receiving input from the Presidents Staff and the Faculty Senate.

It’s a classic example of verbose management speak. As Blank says, on the surface it sounds so adult and reasonable. At first, one feels a little embarrassed that it’s a struggle to understand. But the embarrassment is soon replaced by irritation at the constant status plays: the convoluted language, the name checking of important people who are going to be in charge of things, and some brown nosing of the biggest of these mozarellas.

I think senior managers get sucked into these unwitting status plays all the time. They are highly toxic to healthy change and innovation. Do they seriously expect their people to be glad that the big cheeses are going of on a half-day retreat from which everyone else is, by definition, excluded? Would you feel like sharing your more edgy ideas, the ones you feel anxious about, with that kind of crowd?

Hat tip: Anne McCrossan

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