September 24, 2006

Who do You Listen To?

Recently I unintentionally crashed an exclusive event. By exclusive I mean that the event was to be only attended by a certain type of business person. What type of business person? Why the Chief Executive of a tech business of course. I sincerely thought that being the owner and founder of a technology company that I qualified. Especially since I was invited and given who the other individuals in attendance were.

I guess not, since in the opinion of an event organizer I didn't and neither did my friend who also runs a similar business. It would seem that a caste system is alive and well in the tech industry. It was a flashback to moments at the front of the line at a nightclub (many years ago) trying to get past a doorman. But that's not why I'm writing this.

One of the reasons I left a well known technology company years ago was that the organization had shifted from being a focused group of smart people, without barriers, working across all levels through the hierarchy accomplishing amazing things, into a status-driven/political and slow moving culture. In the first, decisions on great ideas used to be made in days or sometimes hours. You could email an executive a zillion levels above you and quckly get a reply.

The tech business is fast moving and one that rewards rapid response to opportunities and the ability to minimize mistakes earlier. Employees and clients are the leading source in this regard.

In my opinion a singular shift in attudue caused this transformation in my old company. Employees became the enemy. Senior staff stopped listening the rank and file. Instead they listened to peers. The bottom to top flow of great new ideas and warnings slowed to a trickle and the biggest, strongest asset - the employees was squandered.

In contrast Google in a Fortune Magazine Artlce called - Chaos by Design is described as a culture where new ideas are persued and the employees are given equal standing to the company's products and technologies. Refreshing!

I can't help but think that those CEO's that attend "CEO only events" could be better off spending that time (and money) getting closer to their employees to gain strategic advantage for their businesses. I know that I will.

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