Power corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely – The Story of a Mighty Fall

After a long break from blogging, I thought it may be a good idea to be back to blogging with a story of honest efforts that failed because of a maxim that the people overlooked. My dad used to say, ‘power corrupts, absolutely power corrupts absolutely’. It took me a good number of years to understand practical implications of the maxim. Time for the story……….. NOTE: this bears no resemblance to real life and is intended only for highlighting a few good-to-know-points of management. Any resemblance is merely co-incidental.
At the same time when the twin towers collapsed in New York, and with it that collapsed fate of millions, a few determined people started a venture that rocked the world right from the beginning. Over a very brief period of time, these people reached the pinnacle of success and became the obvious reason of sleepless nights for the CEOs of a number of big firms. They became known all around for the ‘effectiveness’ of their work- for they did good work. As they grew, it was time to scale up, and the flood gates opened to increase head count. First point of failure started with that. Soaring revenue, year on year growth, brought about the hubris born out of success, and the good men started enjoying the ‘power’ that slowly grew just as the team grew into a mighty organization. They say, with great powers come greater responsibilities. But some otherwise ‘wise’ brains had already been clouded by the stories of success, the glitz and the glamour. The net effect was an inherent disrespect of ‘prophecies’ of High Priests of business world (and their teachings in books like Crossing the Chasm, How the Mighty Fall et al) of everything that can go wrong. Effectively it turned out the prophecies had been made after years of research and analysis and were bound to be true, and they were more than prophecies- the were ‘ideals’ of what all not to do during the growth years of the organization. But the veil of success becomes the curse for destruction. Over a short period of less than a year, power struggles erupted with organized coups. If only the wise-ones understood that they were just fighting against themselves and not the outsiders who the wise-ones thought were their out right enemies. The outsiders hadn’t build the organization so they left just as they had come. During the power struggle though, something even worse was created- monsters of Frankenstein. Some of these were mere mortals who were glamorized  in spite of dire in competencies and out right professional nakedness. Under the garb of loyalty and goodies-for-good-work, lay the ‘personal preferences’ of the ‘corporate order’. The other monsters were process related where the wise-ones seemed to have lost focus on what all drives ‘business’- viz., Sales does, cash does. Even when the grounds had started shaking uncontrollably, the last resort was ‘methods to fool others’ instead of solving the emergency. As again the maxim goes: ‘you can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the time’, the walls collapsed ultimately leading to a sore that the founders would have never thought of.
Enough of the story, now for the perspectives of what needed to have been done:
1. Hubris born out of success: This is a human tendency and hence it is all the more important to do self-evaluations. Win-Loss profiles, and self evaluation of both reasons of success and failure with a commitment of not to repeat whatever went wrong and yet institutionalize the ‘novel’ practices that worked wonders- these were the things to do. But with success comes the greed of power and retaining power.
2. Power dissipation: It is important to note that with growth one has to rise above ranks leaving the control to the lower levels. It is one thing to give attention to detail- which is quintessential; but it is completely different from power transfer to enable lower levels become self-sufficient. Both are essentially required. But the question is to whom You would transfer the power. The people!
3. The People- A-Class Teams work with A-Class people: When You choose to compromise on the quality of people You hire, You have opened flood gates for the not-so-required talents to flow in without filter. With B-Class people around, A-team members would only deliver B-Class results, and in turn the quality degrades over time, and it essentially did, else one would not have had to resort to ‘fooling people’. One never needs to do that, if You know what drives the business.
4. Revenue is Vanity, Profit is Sanity, Cash is reality: This was told to me by my mentor (someone who is a Father figure to me- I lost my dad to cancer, but the Lord thought otherwise to bless me with his company). One should have looked into the cash book more often. the other most important factor is how much sales You have been making year on year? Take a ‘wise’ and un-biased look. Don’t fool Yourselves- at least on this front.
5. Personal goals and preferences above the organization: There are companies that put organization first (ITC) and there are others that put Employees first (HCL), but not a single successful company has ever put personal growth of the senior executives as top priority coupled with ‘their personal preference’ of employees over employees’ capabilities. It raises doubts of reasons of preference.

While I was reading ‘How The Mighty Fall’, I never thought the dramatization of a ‘fall’ could actually take place in reality in such a vivid way with the steps as:
1. Hubris born of success 
2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
3. Denial of risk and peril
4. Grasping for salvation
5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death 
 At least in the last stage where the organization represents a hell-of-doom; there is still time for a retrospective look at what all had gone wrong so that in future that is not repeated. Essentially when leaders fail, the actually ‘innocent’ workers suffer much more than mere financial losses.

Your thoughts please.!
This entry was posted in Business, Crossing The Chasm- Geoffrey Moore, Employees First Customers Second, HCL, How The Mighty Fall- Jim Collins, ITC. Bookmark the permalink.

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