Thursday, November 22, 2012

Brilliant Dilbert cartoon!

Dilbert cartoon out today, about communication "up the chain of command"

Check it out here

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why asking, "Why do jerks succeed?" is the wrong question

I'm sure you've come across articles similar to this one, "Why Jerks Get Ahead."

Jerks may get ahead, and that leads to much hand wringing on why this happens and how everyone else should unleash his or her inner jerk to move up the ladder.

But "Why do jerks get ahead?" is the wrong question to ask. The question to ask is, "Will an organisation full of jerks getting ahead, get ahead?"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why do women outlive men?

Yesterday, a friend asked me a brilliant question. Here's the issue he presented to me. He said that in marriages (certainly in earlier decades) men had control, and women held a subordinate position relative to their husbands. Further this subordination is mandated by several religions, and many women made "obedience" promises as part of their wedding vows..

In my book, I've quoted the Whitehall studies that  show mortality and health depend on your grade in the organization hierarchy. The higher up you are in the org chart, the better your health is. Higher grades mean higher levels of control, resulting in better health levels.

My friend's question was, how can we reconcile the Whitehall studies with the fact that women have a higher life expectancy than their husbands, given that women ostensibly have lower control than their husbands within marriage?

I'm guessing that there are two main reasons for this phenomenon:

1. Women traditionally "married up". They wanted a man who was more powerful than they were, in terms of wealth, income, status, education, ambition and so on. Further, they wanted men physically dominant, ie taller and stronger than themselves. Also, this imbalance of power was actually a source of comfort for the woman, as it provided a sense of security (I'm obviously making some broad and sweeping generalizations here).

2. The man was in the position of protector, in that he was primarily responsible for his wife and family's safety and security, including providing for them. It was in his self-interest to protect his family. That said, many men did abuse their wives, as the system was still that of a dictatorship. Nonetheless, this "dictatorship system" does not seem to have an overall negative effect on life expectancy of women (I am of course not talking of extreme cases of abuse that  resulted in women dying of grievous injuries).

In contrast, bosses are in no way responsible for your "safety" (in this case, job security). Your boss's main job is definitely not to care for you, or provide for you, or protect you. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The future of healthcare: not your doctor, but the system

Dr Atul Gawande is one of my favourite writers. In his latest article, titled "Big Med", Dr Gawande draws parallels between the efficiency of restaurant chains such as the Cheesecake Factory , and the (in)efficiency of the US healthcare system.

Dr Gawande compares the two systems and says (page 10, para 7), "Patients won’t just look for the best specialist anymore; they’ll look for the best system."

While I don't mean to compare two different contexts, I've said something similar in my book about leadership: that leadership is a system, and we have to compare leadership systems, rather than the leaders themselves. Leaders are important, in the same way that individual doctors are important. There are bad leaders and good leaders, and good doctors and bad doctors. Nonetheless, these individual differences can pale in comparison to systemic differences. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sally Ride, astronaut who supported Boisjoly, passes away

Just yesterday, I posted about the passing of Roger Boisjoly. And today, I read that Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, passed away yesterday. (NY Times obituary here)

At a time when Mr Boisjoly was being shunned by practically everyone because he revealed the truth about Challenger, Ms Ride backed him. According to Boisjoly's obituary in the NY Times, "He [Boisjoly] later said he was sustained by a single gesture of support. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, hugged him after his appearance before the commission.“She was the only one,” he said in a whisper to a Newsday reporter in 1988. “The only one.”

Rest in Peace, Sally Ride. We should all derive inspiration and strength from her example.

(Comments? Email me at cvdhruve (at) 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rest in Peace, Roger Boisjoly, engineer who battled hard to stop Challenger launch

I've just found out (I know it's rather late) that Roger Boisjoly passed away on the 6th of January this year, aged 73. As someone who's written about the Challenger space shuttle disaster and examined the events closely, I came to respect Mr Boisjoly as a true hero. I'm deeply saddened that he has passed away and it feels like a trusted and dear colleague (though I've never met him) is no more. I've watched several videos in which he's featured, and the strength and courage of his convictions in the face of terrible (both literally and metaphorically) opposition stand out. 

Mr Boisjoly stood up to his managers at Morton Thiokol and NASA the night before the fateful launch. He had also repeatedly warned his bosses that there were problems with the rocket booster O ring seals at cold temperatures.  For stating all this,  he was targeted. According to an obituary in the New York Times, "[H]e paid the stiff price often exacted of whistle-blowers. Thiokol cut him off from space work, and he was shunned by colleagues and managers. A former friend warned him, “If you wreck this company, I’m going to put my kids on your doorstep,” Mr. Boisjoly told The Los Angeles Times in 1987."

"He [Boisjoly] had headaches, double-vision and depression. He yelled at his dog and his daughters and skipped church to avoid people. He filed two suits against Thiokol; both were dismissed."

Imagine the kind of mental trauma - mental torture really - he underwent, all for doing the right thing

Rest in Peace Mr Boisjoly. We will continue your fight. 

Comments? Email me cvdhruve (at)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The "Survival of the Fittest" fallacy in organizations

Here's a quote from an article in Vanity Fair (July 3, 2012) titled, "Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant":

“Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. ”[Kurt] Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.” [emphasis mine]

In my book, published in 2007, I wrote, "It [survival of the fittest] works fine if you are trying to fight, survive, and win as an individual. But in the organizational context, if everyone is busy fighting, surviving, and trying to win as individuals, will the organization survive and win?" (pages 147-148).

Comments? Email me cvdhruve (at)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Another "routine" firing: bank employee dismissed for whistleblowing

"When Linda Almonte alerted her boss at JPMorgan Chase about potential fraud in a major deal she was helping to close, she expected him to applaud her great catch. Instead, he fired her." (source: JPMorgan Chase Whistleblower: 'Essentially Suicide' To Stand Up To Bank) 

I would encourage you to read the full story, to see the extent of the personal devastation that the firing caused. 

Also quoted in the article is Dana Gold, a senior fellow at the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for whistleblowers: "Employees get fired all the time for blowing the whistle. We see it so much, it's a predictable phenomenon."

Why is it such a predictable phenomenon?  Because the system's the same, ie a dictatorship system.

Moreover, if you're a whistleblower, the agony doesn't just end with being fired. You can't get another job in the same line of business, the one you're qualified for.Linda is quoted saying, "You google me and my name is everywhere. Any company that would hire me will see that. I can never live that down."

Also quoted is Sherron Watkins, the Enron whistleblower: "You won't find someone that is labeled a 'whistleblower' who has been able to return to their original career."

Why can't you get another job after being fired for whistleblowing? The problem is that all companies are dictatorships, and no dictatorship likes to hire dissidents from another dictatorship.

It's gut-wrenching to read stories like these again and again, and again, but until the system changes, we'll unfortunately have more of the same.

(Comments? Email me - cvdhruve (at)