In chapter 26, of The Dilbert Principle Scott Adams proposes guidelines for good management which should promote a healthy workplace. On pages 317 & 318 he writes

Rule for "one off" activities: consistency. Resist the urge to tinker. It's always tempting to "improve" the prganizational structure, or to rewrite the company policy to address a new situation, or to create committee to improve employee morale. Individually, all those things seem to make sense. But experience shows that you generally end up with something that is no more effective than what you started with.
The best example of a fruitless, "one off" activity that seems like a good idea is the reorganization. Have you ever seen an internal company reorganization that dramatically improved either the effectiveness of the employees or quality of the product?

I found this excerpt particularly relevant because at my day job [at Microsoft] reorganizations are a way of life. Based on conversations with coworkers and my experiences being in Redmond just over 2 years, the average product team goes through one reorganization a year. The average B0rg drone has the line between them and the CEO in the org chart altered at least once a year. At least one news publication has described it as Microsoft's Annual Spring Reorg. When I first got to Microsoft I'd heard people joke about this but having gone through 2 changes in management and 2 team reorgs in as many years the jokes don't seem as far fetched any more. 

About a year ago [or longer] there was a 'meet-the-CEO' style meeting where Steve Ballmer gave a talk followed by a Q & A session with employees in one of teh conference rooms. I didn't attend because I knew the room would be filled to capacity but did watch the live Webcast. One of the things he talked about was the negative effect of frequent reorgs. Paraphrasing, I believe he said with reorgs we take teams of people who've learned how to work together and function as a team and disrupt them by asking them to start the team building process all over again with new counterparts. Recently I noticed another detriment to regular reorganizations which involve changes of management.

Our team recently had a project post mortem where we discussed what things had gone right or wrong on the journey towards getting to beta 1 of v2.0 of the .NET Framework. One of the things that came up were issues with some management decisions that were made at the start of the project which were reinforced during the middle of the project by new management. What I found interesting was that the main management folks who had made these decisions weren't part of the post mortem because they'd been reorged away. Our team has had 3 general managers in the 2.5 years I've been working here and we've been working on Whidbey for almost the entire time. What struck me is that it means that these folks who are now off in other parts of the B0rg cube haven't had to see the pros and cons of the various decisions they made unfold over time or what the ramifications of various trade offs and risky bets they made have been. The entire point of gaining experience is to learn from it. Frequent reorganizations prevent this learning process from occuring. 

Thanks, Dilbert.  


Thursday, 08 July 2004 15:10:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
OTOH, don't frequent reorgs have a disseminating effect across the organization? I would guess that the perceivable direct loss of quality in a product is offset to some degree by a general rise in quality across the board. Products are more interoperable because mgt and team members have in-depth knowledge of different product groups. Standards that work will propogate because of this lateral communication method, habits that don't work will fall off as proponents of bad habits are "reorged down" in status. Remember that stochastic information structures tend to collapse into higher orders of efficiency and communication over time--a kind of reverse entropy...
John Morales
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