COB-57: holding an organization together

The entrepreneurial fashion for a flat organization potentially threatens bureaucracy’s future.  Fortunately, venture capitalists are beginning t0 recognize the value of bureaucracy.  Here’s leading venture capitalist Ben Horowitz’s Law of Crappy People:

For any title level in a large organization, the talent on that level will eventually converge to the crappiest person with the title.

Horowitz’s Law of Crappy People provides a concrete theoretical foundation for constructing a bureaucratic hierarchy.  Horowitz’s Law implies that flat organizations create massive dumbing-down.  With a flat organization, every person in the organization will converge to the capabilities of the least talented person in the organization.

Multi-multi-multi-level management avoids the the problem of widespread dumbing-down.  To make it work, organizational leaders must stem bureaucracies’ natural tendency toward an inverted-pyramid structure.  Large, well-established technology organizations often have an engineer working for three Branch Managers, who in turn report to Six Division Managers, who are accountable to twelve Vice Presidents.  A better bureaucratic hierarchy is more linear, with the Engineer reporting to just one Branch Manager, who reports to just one Product Marketing Designer, who reports to just one Lead Brand Architect Coordinator, and so on. The ultimate organizational goal is to have a clear, linear chain of command stretching from the Engineer all the way up to the CEO. This organizational structure completely mitigates effects of Horowitz’s Law of Crappy People.

Generating all the necessary job titles for well-structured multi-multi-multi-level management requires good tools.  Fortunately, an excellent coder working in the large-animal sanitation industry has developed an open-source, peer-to-peer, automated job-title generator.  This automated job-title generator is an important contribution to the bureaucratic business ecology.  It can help to create the jobs that knit together a bureaucratic organization.

deadwood holds the structure together

Other bureaucratic issues this month: Mark Potts at Recovering Journalist savages the Gannett Company for investing in a new corporate logo and slogan amidst the newspaper industry meltdown. If the Newseum can try Elvis, why can’t Gannett try a new logo and slogan?  Bureaucracies are criticized if they innovate, and criticized if they don’t innovate.

John D. Cook at The Endeavour reports an insightful historical anecdote about meetings from Karl Fogel’s book, Producing Open Source Software. According to the anecdote, Thomas Jefferson, a revered U.S. founder, attached great importance to meetings and prepared extensively for them.  Here at the Carnival of Bureaucrats, we have long advocated for meetings.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here.  Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

YouTube is like Kodak a century ago

All-outdoor invites your Kodak.

Advertisements for Eastman Kodak about a century ago illustrate Kodak developing the photography business.  Kodak sold photographic equipment and supplies.  To support that business, it encouraged photographic content creation: “Kodak as you go,” “Keep a Kodak story of the children, “Holidays are Kodak days,” “Scout with a Kodak“… . At the same time, Kodak also supported professional photography.

YouTube describes itself as a technology platform:

At YouTube, we’re focused on building a great technology platform for creators, and so we leave the actual creation of great videos to the people who do it best: our partners.

YouTube recently has been increasing its support for non-professional video creators.  YouTube also has attempted to license, in various ways and with mixed success, professional content.  Encouraging non-professionally produced content isn’t necessarily a strategic alternative to licensing professionally produced content.

Historically, photography developed broader economic success than writing.  YouTube is creating a business like Kodak’s a century ago.  The future of news and creative writing probably depends more on companies like WordPress than on companies like USA Today.

a creative revolution in advertising

massive array of speakers

William Bernbach, an influential U.S. advertising creative director, analyzed U.S. media in 1949:

At that time there was not a great deal of competition for an advertising message. Television was just beginning, people had time to read. But it was clear to us that there would soon be tremendous competition for the attention of the consumer. And that unless the advertising message was put down in a fresh way that made people select it out of a bombardment of messages, that made people care and respond to it, it was not even going to be perceived.[*]

Before 1949, typically advertising copy writers would write ad copy and then take the text to their art department to lay out the ad.  Bernbach’s advertising firm, Doyle Dane Bernbach, combined copywriters and graphic designers into one collaborative creative team that sought to produce ads that were original, fresh, and imaginative. Doyle Dane Bernbach’s ads were prominent drivers of a creative revolution in U.S. advertising.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has recently called for a creative revolution … in ad formats. It then adopted six new ad formats.  The most notable characteristic of these new ad formats is that they are relatively large.

Competition for attention today has reached a level that Bill Bernbach probably never imagined.  A creative revolution in advertising today requires deep changes in business organization and integrating sense in communication across words, images, and personal actions.

–  –  –  –  –

[*]  Quoted from interview with William Bernbach, printed in DDB [Doyle Dane Bernbach] News, June 1974.