How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion
It’s depressing to watch a mean, lean, fighting machine of a company deteriorate into mediocracy. In Silicon Valley we call this process the “bozo explosion.” This downward slide seems inevitable after a company achieves success – often during the years immediately following an IPO. The purpose of this article is to prevent, or at least postpone, this process in your company.
The first step is to determine whether a bozo explosion is happening. Here are the top ten signs of bozosity to help you decide.
1. The two most popular words in your company are “partner” and “strategic.” In addition, “partner” has become a verb, and “strategic” is used to describe decisions and activities that don’t make sense.
2. Management has two-day offsites at places like the Ritz Carlton to foster communication and to craft a company mission statement.
3. The aforementioned company mission statement contains more than twenty words – two of which are “partner” and “strategic.”
4. Your CEO’s admin has an admin.
5. Your parking lot’s “biorhythm” looks like this:
8:00 am – 10:00 am – Japanese cars exceed German cars
10:00 am – 5:00 pm – German cars exceed Japanese cars
5:00 pm – 10:00 pm – Japanese cars exceed German cars
6. Your HR department requires an MBA degree for any position; it also requires five to ten years work experience in an industry that is only four years old.
7. Time is now considered more important than money so you have a company cafeteria, health club, and pet grooming service. Moreover, the first thing that employees show visitors is the company cafeteria, health club, and pet grooming service.
8. Someone whose music sells in the iTunes music store performs at the company Christmas party.
An employee is paid to do nothing but write a blog.
10. The success of a competitor upsets you more than the loss of a customer.
(If you’ve seen other signs of the slide to bozosity, leave them as a comment, and I’ll append to this list.)
Addendumbs (sic) to the list from readers:
11. You have a layer of middle management who worked at big-name companies (usually consumer goods) who like to call meetings and designate “project leads.” (I experienced this first hand.) Zoli Erdo
12. Your hire a big name consulting firm who brings in MBAs with one year of experience to re-think your corporate strategies.
13. The front-desk staff gets better looking and less competent. Jeff Barson
14. Your CEO or CFO spends more time on CNBC than in the office. Laurie Sefton
Did you gulp? Don’t sweat it: you’re not alone. In fact, you’d be alone if you weren’t going through the slide. Here’s what you can do about the situation:
Insist that managers hire better than themselves. For example, an engineering manager should hire a programmer who is a better programmer than she is, not worse. By the way, this principle starts at the level of the board of directors when hiring the CEO.
Eradicate arrogance. Arrogance manifests itself in two principal areas: first, when your employees describe the competition using terms like “clueless,” “bozo” (ironically), or just plain “stupid.