From Davis Balestracci – Isn't it time to stop competing with the Clown Car of Bureaucracy?

Published: Mon, 09/25/17

From Davis Balestracci – Isn't it time to stop competing with the Clown Car of Bureaucracy?
If there are twelve clowns in a ring, you can jump in the middle and start reciting Shakespeare, but to the audience, you'll just be the thirteenth clown."          --Adam Walinsky 
The Corporate Curmudgeon:  I decided the Walinsky quote was my all-time favorite. Clowns AND Shakespeare; that's my kind of writing. 

(Thanks to him, it's one of my favorites, too!)

Hi, Folks,
I introduced you to Dale Dauten last time. He stopped writing his weekly column in 2011, and I find the thoughts in his next-to-last column a sage 20-year summary. Even six years later, they are still an all too relevant spot on diagnosis for many of organizations. Some things just never change.

"My (Next-to-Last) Corporate Curmudgeon:  What I've Learned"

by Dale Dauten

I've written over a thousand of these columns and I'm sorry to tell you that this is the next-to-last one. It's been over twenty years; it's time. This column, "The Corporate Curmudgeon," once appeared in several dozen papers with a combined circulation of tens of millions; now, it's just you and me and my mother... and I've caught Mom skipping. So, time for something new. 

Next week I'll say farewell, but for now, as we approach the end of the year, it's a good time to sum up some of what I've learned...

  • Most jobs are boring because they are designed that way. If you're building an organization, you want to create jobs that qualified people can do readily. Then, when you go to hire people, you look for employees who have successfully done that exact job. In other words, you minimize uncertainty, which is same thing as structural boredom. 

  • In EVERY company people are going to make fun of the boss; it's just that in the good companies, it happens when the boss is around.
  • The worse the job, the harder it is to leave. A bad job is like a leech on the brain, numbing the soul and sapping self-esteem. A bad job makes you less qualified for a good job and less able to find one. 

  • What another way of saying "workaholic"? Employee of the Year. 
  • The more time and people devoted to a decision, the more likely it is to be wrong. The more people involved in a decision, the more likely it is to be prudent. Prudence kills.
  • Bad jobs carry the seeds of good jobs. It may seem wise to send lousy jobs overseas, but along with those jobs go the knowledge, experience and money which will soon enable foreign companies to offer their own brands. And when they do, the good jobs will grow there. 
  • On the high road, too, there are potholes. 

  • We don't want to admit to its grim efficiency, but there's a reason why hierarchical, bureaucratic management systems are the basis of virtually all armies, governments, corporations, churches and schools: BUREAUCRACY WORKS! In fact, one reason it works so well is that an elaborate bureaucracy eliminates the need for charisma, reduces the demands upon competence, and replaces individual integrity with systematic regulation. Said another way, bureaucracy is leadership that doesn't rely upon an actual leader; the system is the Churchill.

  •  Watching television these days feels like going to a low-rent carnival. Everyone is shouting to you, grabbing at you, grease-smiling and cheese-baiting... and that's just the talk shows. Is there any guest on any late night show who isn't selling something? Anyone who isn't telling stories written by an image team? Now, the people who brought you TV are taking over the Internet. No wonder newspapers, both online and in print, are about to make a comeback. 

  • It's easy to believe that we live in a visual world and that words, especially written ones, don't matter. Don't be taken it by that false logic. The truth is that words are picture-making devices, the visual before the visual, and words remain THE important business tool, and THE important career skill. 

  • And I have to end with one last insight from Gerald "Genghis" Cone, CEO of Mundane Industries: "The fact is that employees work harder the closer they get to their annual reviews. Why do you think I postpone them at the last minute every year?" 

[Thanks again, Dale]

Nodding in agreement?

Don't Walinsky's quote and Dauten's insights shed light on why it's so difficult to get work cultures to take improvement as seriously as we do? If you have pretty much been forced to retro-fit quality improvement into such a culture, what else could you expect?

Take a close, hard look at your improvement structure: is it by design or default? 

Might         default = bureaucracy ?

Remember, as Dauten said:

"BUREAUCRACY WORKS!...[A]n elaborate bureaucracy eliminates the need for charisma, reduces the demands upon competence, and replaces individual integrity with systematic regulation. Said another way, bureaucracy is leadership that doesn't rely upon an actual leader."

Ask yourself once again:  "What am  going to do about it?"

And if your answer contains even a whiff of doing something logical, such as "explaining it one more time," here is one of my all-time favorite quotes from Dauten (slightly edited):

"[Clowns] are like vampires. You hold up a mirror and they see nothing."

Until next time...


Speaking of vampires:  like Dracula and a crucifix, hold this (and its charts and results) up to the Clown Car instead and watch it veer off and crash! 
Data Sanity: A Quantum Leap to Unprecedented Results is a unique synthesis (written in a mildly curmudgeonly challenging style) of the sane use of data, culture change, and leadership principles to create a road map for excellence.

One of its major goals is to create a common organizational language for healthier dialogue while maintaining a healthy sense of humor!

  • ​​​​​​​U.S. Amazon has it discounted 23% and offers free U.S. shipping
  • Also available in e-book format for all e-readers, including iBook, Nook and Kindle (includes downloadable .PDF)

  • For UK readers who want a hard copy, it is now available on Amazon UK for  £69 with free shipping.

  • My publisher has informed me:  "I now have the book available in Australia and New Zealand. And several other countries as well."  He has also lowered the price a bit in these countries.
    [Any problems or questions, please e-mail Craig Wiberg at:]

    Click  here for a copy of its Preface and chapter summaries.

    Transforming organizations by creating transformed colleagues

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