How Doomed are Large Organizations?

We now take the model from the previous post, and ask the questions over the next several posts. This first answer post asks these questions:

  1. Are these dynamics the inevitable results of large organizations?
  2. How can we forestall these dynamics within an organization?
  3. To what extent should we avoid creating large organizations?
  4. Has this dynamic ever been different in the past in other times and places?

These are the best answers I was able to come up with. Some of this is reiteration of previous observations and prescriptions. Some of it is new.

There are some bold claims in these answer posts, which I lack the space and time to defend in detail or provide citations for properly, with which I am confident many readers will disagree. I am fine with that. I do not intend to defend them further unless I see an opportunity in doing so.

I would love to be missing much better strategies for making organizations less doomed – if you have ideas please please please share them in the comments and/or elsewhere.

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The Road to Mazedom

Previous post: How Escape From Immoral Mazes

Sequence begins here: Moloch Hasn’t Won

The previous posts mostly took mazes as given. 

As an individual, one’s ability to fight any large system is limited. 

That does not mean our individual decisions do not matter. They do matter. They add up. 

Mostly our choice is a basic one. Lend our strength to that which we wish to be free from. Or not do so. 

Even that is difficult. The methods of doing so are unclear. Mazes are ubiquitous. Not lending our strength to mazes, together with the goal of keeping one’s metaphorical soul intact and still putting food on the table, is already an ambitious set of goals for an individual in a world of mazes.

We now shift perspective from the individual to the system as a whole. We stop taking mazes as given.

It is time to ask why and how all of this happens, and what if anything we can do, individually or collectively, about it. 

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How Escape From Immoral Mazes

Previously in sequence and most on point: What is Success in an Immoral Maze?How to Identify an Immoral Maze

This post deals with the goal of avoiding or escaping being trapped in an immoral maze, accepting that for now we are trapped in a society that contains powerful mazes. 

We will not discuss methods of improving conditions (or preventing the worsening of conditions) within a maze, beyond a brief note on what a CEO might do. For a middle manager anything beyond not making the problem worse is exceedingly difficult. Even for the CEO this is an extraordinarily difficult task.   

To rescue society as a whole requires collectively fighting back. We will consider such options in  later posts.

For now, the problem statement is hard enough.

To reiterate the main personal-level takeaway

Being in a maze is not worth it. They couldn’t pay you enough. Even if they could, they definitely don’t. If you end up CEO, you still lose. These lives are not worth it. Do not be a middle manager at a major corporation or other organization that works like this. Do not sell your soul.

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How to Identify an Immoral Maze

Previously in sequence: Moloch Hasn’t WonPerfect CompetitionImperfect CompetitionDoes Big Business Hate Your Family?What is Life in an Immoral Maze?Stripping Away the ProtectionsWhat is Success in an Immoral Maze?

Immoral mazes (hereafter mazes), as laid out in the book Moral Mazesare toxic organizations. Working for them puts tremendous pressure on you to prioritize getting ahead in the organization over everything else. They are pushed to sacrifice not only all of their time, but also things such as their morality, family and ability to think clearly. Only those who go all-in doing this get ahead, and even most of them fail.

Even successfully getting ahead is little consolation.

Mazes exert similar pressures on those who do business with them or work in non-managerial roles, to a lesser but substantial degree.

The best defense is to identify mazes before you agree to work for or do business with them, and choose to work or do business elsewhere. At a minimum, one’s eyes should be open, and the costs involved must be fully factored in before making such decisions.

This makes it important to figure out what parts of what organizations are mazes, and to what extent. This is hard to get exactly right.

What is easier is using simple heuristics to get a good approximation, then keeping an eye out for and updating on new evidence.

I offer seven heuristics, the first two of which will do the bulk of the work on their own. You benefit from the ‘right’ answer to all of them even absent concerns about mazes, so they are good questions to get into the habit of asking.

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What is Success in an Immoral Maze?

Previously in Sequence: Moloch Hasn’t WonPerfect CompetitionImperfect CompetitionDoes Big Business Hate Your Family?What is Life in an Immoral Maze?Stripping Away the Protections

Immoral Mazes are terrible places to be. Much worse than they naively appear. They promise the rewards and trappings of success. Do not be fooled. 

If there is one takeaway I want everyone to get from the whole discussion of Moral Mazes, it is this:

Being in an immoral maze is not worth it. They couldn’t pay you enough. Even if they could, they definitely don’t. If you end up CEO, you still lose. These lives are not worth it. Do not be a middle manager at a major corporation or other organization that works like this. Do not sell your soul.

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Stripping Away the Protections

Previously in sequence: Moloch Hasn’t WonPerfect CompetitionImperfect CompetitionDoes Big Business Hate Your Family?What is Life in an Immoral Maze?

The previous post painted a bleak picture of life as a middle manager in an Immoral Maze. Not every middle manager faces the high maze levels described in Moral Mazes, but I am confident that many do.

How did things get so bad?

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What is Life in an Immoral Maze?

Previously in sequence: Moloch Hasn’t WonPerfect CompetitionImperfect CompetitionDoes Big Business Hate Your Family?

This post attempts to give a gears-level explanation of maze life as experienced by a middle manager in systems with many levels of management, as depicted in Moral Mazes. 

The ‘maze level’ of corporations differs wildly. These dynamics do not reliably fully take over until you have many levels of management – in Moral Mazes there are at least 25 grades of management and certainly 5+ levels of hierarchy. Questions of what (in addition to extra levels of management) causes high maze levels will be dealt with in future sections.

Again, if you have not yet done so, you are highly encouraged to read or review Quotes from Moral Mazes. I will not have the space here to even gloss over many important aspects.

An Immoral Maze can be modeled as a super-perfectly competitive job market for management material. All the principles of super-perfect competition are in play. The normal barriers to such competition have been stripped away. Too many ‘qualified’ managers compete for too few positions.

If an aspirant who does not devote everything they have, and visibly sacrifice all slack, towards success, they automatically fail. Those who do make such sacrifices mostly fail anyway, but some of them “succeed”. We’ll see later what success has in store for them.

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