August 2, 2021
Blog / parable / politics
Modern Day Parables, #1, Under New Management
A good man named John started United Company in the 1950s. He hired the best and the brightest. He worked hard to create an open environment where employees could be heard and nurtured and developed. As a team, they created and brought to market products and services the public loved and enjoyed again and again. The company grew quickly and by 1970, it was thriving as one of the most successful and profitable companies in the country.
Competition was fierce, however, and soon the CEO of a wicked competitor, the Diabolical Company, called a meeting of his senior executives. In this meeting, the Diabolical CEO announced that they could no longer effectively compete with United Company and so they needed to become more “strategic.” They hatched a plan to infiltrate United Company with Diabolical Company employees and within a decade, they would take over the United Company and destroy it.
John, the man at the helm of the United Company was honest and God-fearing. He trusted his employees and believed in distributed leadership. His son, James, was second in command, and John trusted his son would keep the ship steady in rough waters. In the months ahead though, John lost control, puzzled by the dramatic and fast-paced change in personnel in all departments. When John questioned James about these changes, his son repeated the hype and propaganda he was hearing from John’s other senior execs (the infiltrators), who assured him that the changes were necessary to maintain market dominance. No one knows for sure the tactics that the Diabolical Company used to steal the loyalties of United Company management, perhaps it was twisted logic or flawed market data, maybe even bribery, or perhaps promises of fame and fortune in the “revised” company structure. They certainly played on any minor discontent expressed by the senior executives about the CEO of United Company. Let’s face it, no matter how good a leader is, there is always an individual or group who will challenge him, sometimes out of envy and personal ambition.
John’s son James was unaware of the plot to steal the company right under their noses, but he certainly suspected something was going on behind their backs, but he had no proof.
Within ten years, the new employees gradually moved into senior positions by attrition or merit, and they began to implement radical changes. First, the changes were minor – a cost-saving measure that negatively affected the quality of a lead product, and the elimination of services that consumers once enjoyed. Then the new senior management began to propose major changes in the way the company was managed, promoting a more top-down, authoritarian structure. The current CEO, John, was against these changes, but because he trusted his son and his senior execs to do the right thing, he suspended judgment and allowed the changes. He had an open mind and wanted to see what his executives could do. Perhaps times were changing, John thought, and his old-fashioned ideas were no longer relevant. John was humbled because he was unaware of some of the new technologies proposed by his younger, smarter execs.
But it didn’t take long for the new management ideas and the lesser quality products to affect the bottom line in a negative way. The new managers prioritized profits over customer satisfaction, seeking short-term wealth, and sacrificing long-term viability. United Company stock began to plummet. Was it too late to save United Company? It was unclear.
John became powerless to turn the ship around and James sat at his desk in the office next to his father, discouraged and depressed, blaming his father for inaction. United Company had abandoned its charter and the employees were unhappy and they were losing their best and brightest to competitors. James argued with his father about the state of the company but got nowhere. John was unaccustomed to the diabolical, and he trusted that things would right themselves in time. But when things got worse and worse instead, John’s board of directors decided to make him a figurehead, acting primarily as a consultant, while they placed one of the Diabolical infiltrators as “Acting COO.” Now in the 1980s, Diabolical Company execs could finish the job they started in 1970, the destruction of their number one competitor.
What was James to do? What choices did he have? What would you have done if you were James?
Read the conclusion of this parable in a future Blog Post. Please post your comments here. Thank you.