THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCERS
This letter is written to someone who could never follow it. me
I have worked in corporate organizations all of my life. I have watched people act and react and seldom have I understood what was really going on. Now only years have later I started to understand some characteristics that in hindsight would have made things clear many years ago. I have been a member of and observed church organizations, private organizations, governmental organizations and foreign organizations. The rules for all of these organizations, meaning the people associated with them, are all the same.
The producers are the ones who really do the work. They have the interests of the organization, the nation and the society at heart. They are normally subordinate to the players. The producers dislike and have no respect for the players because the players are game players pure and simple and have no regard for the producers. Sacrificing producers, whenever convenient for the players, for the “needs of the business”, as I used to hear at IBM, never has been and never will be a problem for the players at least.
The players view themselves as being superior to the producers. After all, they have bigger offices and salaries, more travel and other perks. They still pitch the company line however about everyone being equal and as Orwell said, some are more equal than others. The game players have no morality and to ensure that they are always on the “right” side, meaning on the side of power, they will change their position as often as necessary. The players are always afraid of being exposed or being blamed for anything. “Not on my watch” is their favorite refrain. In spite of their position, they are inevitably insecure because they know that others are trying to take their position. The producer has no such fears.
The player’s worst fear is the “whistleblower.” The whistleblower, whether identified or not, can wreak havoc with any career. He can communicate unpleasant facts or opinions to higher ups or to others including competitors, police, elected officials etc. using the mail, e-mail, radio, TV or a newspaper.
IBM had an “Open Door” policy meaning that one could always speak or write to a superior manager about any problem. The scuttlebutt was "open-door, closed door". Meaning go “open door” and your career is finished. Unfortunately true. IBM suffered as an organization in part due to fear of the producers using such a valuable tool to illuminate any area. Revenge was the usual reaction. The bottom line is that the person who used the “open door “process would never be trusted and consequently was feared and never appreciated by his next manager.
Many people believe that success requires being in the right place at the right time or just having “luck”. Those who believe this are simply in denial. All important things are planned. Nothing happens by accident. Luck has nothing to do with success, nor does hard work, in the way that it is typically understood. Unless you are a get along player you will never be in the right place at the right time.
Success requires a kind of hard work. The skills of the successful are difficult to attain, and once gotten require diligent attention and intelligent application.
First, it is required to have a keen sense of what other people are about, sensitivity to their needs, desires and personalities.
Second and perhaps most importantly, is an understanding of one’s own image, how one is perceived by others and what one must do to generate the desired perception, regardless of the facts. One of my bosses once told me, “A man is what others think of him”.
Success should be understood in terms of organizational success -- perks, money, titles, public glory etc. It is not achievement alone. Virtue as its own reward has no place here. Success is bestowed by others and others must view and appreciate it.
Notice that awards, plaques, testimonials such as employee-of-the-month, and other one-shot amulets or recognition do not carry an elevation of status and are not measures of success. They are given in lieu of success, sort of placebos for that class of person, whose contributions are needed but who are not granted success.
Success is measured by one’s ability to gather unto himself those true marks of status, including money, which differentiate one as a superior person, the material marks of success, commonly called “status symbols” are not, in and of themselves, so important, except in the way they are acquired and displayed, which we will consider further.
Success requires a kind of hard work.
As a corollary to this, one must appreciate the effect of ordinary social intercourse, especially in the workplace, on one’s image. One must always have his “face on” regardless of how informal the forum.
Thirdis to choose the game carefully. Always win in an easy game, never lose in a tough game and if possible play where winning is not objectively calculable.
Fourth is an acute sense of what is fashionable among the power elite of one’s associates. Not only dress, but cultural and leisure preferences must be honed to confirm and displayed publicly. One should be up-to-date or ahead of the pack. It is important that one must be on the leading edge and visibly so. One must never threaten with ideas or ability any superior in any mannerhowever.
Fifth one must have an acute sense of how to act in meetings and other discussions including both casual contacts and formal meetings. One must develop the ability to appear knowledgeable without committing to facts, appear cordial without becoming friendly.
Sixth one must have no permanent alliances or loyalties but many superficial ones. This not only applies to people but to ideas, concepts principles or the lack of them and to the organization as well. When one “moves on” one must discard the personal baggage that has outlived its usefulness lest the past association with those not in the fast lane damages one’s image.
Seventh is an acute discernment for which person or persons in the power structure are ascending and those who are on the wane plus a corresponding ability for changing horses without appearing to do so.
Never be associated with any organization, group or idea that is considered “extreme” or “radical.” While religion is normally ones private business it is always better to be an Episcopalian or Presbyterian then a Jehovah’s Witness or a holy roller. You can be a Republican or a Democrat but being a Republican is better. You can support the Boy Scouts but be careful if you support the Sierra Club. After all, you do not want to be viewed as extreme, untrustworthy or brainwashed.
Eighth is the necessity to trust no one. There will never be a private conversation that will ever be made known to others. Your private ideas or concerns will never be ridiculed nor used against you.
Finally appearance counts. We can’t all be tall or have pretty faces, but these things alone usually aren’t so important, since one can compensate. One can choose to be thin, well groomed, athletic and stylish. These are important indeed since in the game of success first impression is an important head start which the clever player always exploits.
These positive guidelines for success also require awareness of some negatives which must be avoided, because once a player stumbles, he will never be forgiven. There is no such thing as forgiveness in the organizational world. People never forget.
Never everoppose authority since it is authority which grants success. It is a sort of natural law. While gravity pulls down indiscriminately authority elevates those few it favors. Violate this law at the peril of falling back among the rest. Get along, go along and play along is the religion of success. If something is wrong, especially if it is someone else's responsibilities, say nothing. Never stick out.
Never ever assume that one’s virtues will be recognized for their merits or that work alone will be regarded. The world is full of bitter people who will never understand why their good work went unrecognized or unrewarded with success.
Never rely on logic alone or an appeal to the “organization’s best interest” in taking or justifying a position. Wait for the superior to take a position, and then offer something in support. One may win the battles of logic and even do great things but success will be thwarted by those above who appear to have been wrong or who have lost.
Never be in a position where one must explain oneself. The prestigious degree Brooks Brothers suit, BMW or Volvo and house in the correct neighborhood require no explanation. The audience will nod approvingly. Explanations of non-fashionable choices based say on a value or personal preference are admissions of an unwillingness or inability to play the game.
Never ever admit that you are a player for then you are doomed. Taking the concept of performance is as important as avoiding it for oneself.
So obviously luck plays no part in success. Quite the opposite. Success is hard to come by and the most successful people are probably the cleverest and most diligent people around although not necessarily the best contributors to their organizations or societies. That is not to say that the two are the antithesis of each other. It is just that the two are not related except that people who expend the time and effort required for achievement divert their energies from the success game and often suffer the consequences. Performers end up having records on which they can be judged. Mistakes will always be made for those who try to do anything and decisions or actions which probably have gone against them. We all know the old adage about “that-a-boy.”
At some point, most players will be forced to go through a situation where performance can be measured quantitatively, rather than by the opinions of others. This is a critical and dangerous time. Copeing is the test which separates the real stars from mere players.
One means of reducing the risk is a judicious choice of field. Analysts, planners and related staffers who process information provided by others and give recommendations to those who actually make decisions might will forestall ever facing an objective evaluation until passing on to greater glory where subordinates are the ones who must perform.
Salesmen, estimators, line supervisors and project managers face an endless stream of hurdles. Their jobs require accuracy with performance and all of the attendant hazards.
The best means of avoiding the risk, however, comes via the mentor. Discussed in business journals and apparently taught in some business schools, the art of “mentoring” is lauded as a means for identifying and enhancing the abilities of the best performers. The catch, of course, is finding a mentor. It has been called “ass-kissing” by non-players but finding a mentor is a crucial test for players because the mentor can minimize his favorite’s exposure in performance related jobs.
The story is all too familiar. The designated rising star is the person who never spends enough time in any job to have to account for the consequences of his actions. The problems are left for others to solve. The war in Iraq will be history’s best example.
Obviously, every organization has both players and performers and they are different as night and day. Performers see themselves as part of an organization. Their efforts are directed toward the greater good and they take pride in their desire to do the right thing. They see a corporate policy which rewards all with stock purchase plans, health insurance etc. which depend on the corporation being profitable as a whole. They expect success as a reward for performance.
Players are not just smarter they are more realistic. They recognize the corporation as a means to their own ends. Their every action is carefully calculated for self-advancement. Clearly, the corporation needs the performers and not the players. Yet the players are rewarded with success, the performers are not. Why is it so?
The players recognize certain facts:
Success is a limited item. The pyramid gets small at the top and quickly.
There are more good performers than there are good players because most people are honest and try to do the honest thing.
Performance is simply easier than playing intelligently. Identifying the proper image, playing that role effectively and currying favor are much more difficult than simply doing a good job.
Playing well is a way of differentiating one’s product in a crowded market.
Performers especially young ones are optimists who can be motivated by the lure of success while being put off with the usual litany of reasons why it is denied.
1 - You are too young. 2 - Opportunities for promotion are limited. 3 - Pay your dues. 4 - There are more good people than good jobs. 5 -You are too valuable here. 6 - Your performance is good but you need a change of style. 7 - You should be satisfied with the pride in a job well done. 8 - Be patient your chance will come.
Unfortunately for the performers these excuses usually work until they are far enough along in life that their options are limited. They have got to continue performing or they will starve. They are now cynical and the world made them that way. In short, by then they have lost the game and only then realized that they were the baseball and not the umpire.
The corporate world loves this result where the performers keep achieving. A natural selection process has drawn the cleverest players to the top and these clever folk generally continue taking credit for the performance of the underclass.
This is the hard reality of life. The clever recognize the rules and mores are applied to the masses and necessarily apply to themselves. Do as I say and not as I do is their iron-clad rule.
Society in fact trains, grooms and reinforces the traits of the player from an early age. Note the number of athletic awards given in high school. High school “letters” are the ultimate in praise. How many chemistry, physics, history or composition awards are ever given out? How many athletic scholarships are awarded in comparison to chemistry or physics scholarships? The players learn at an early age what pays. Ever wonder why youth are not going into science and why China is going to whip our society into the ground? Ever wonder why the average person can't write a composition or have and any idea about history?
If you want success you must play the game, you have no other choice. There are costs since playing means being selfish, cynical, a user, a deceiver and liar and above all being a hypocrite and manipulator of people.
My daughter will face this decision some day. I hope that she chooses to play. She should have an MBA from the right school, become a corporate analyst, and be in play for the top jobs. She will be pretty, clever, intelligent and creative. These are all of the tools required to play.
If she wins she will have the rewards of a bolstered ego, glittering surroundings, famous friends, fast promotions, travel, possessions, recognition and always have better prospects than any performer. Unfortunately, it will only cost her, her soul.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Mat 16:26
The performer will have the feeling of satisfaction and remember the old adage of “pride in a job well done” while others reap the glory of one’s Herculean efforts and dedicated performance. This is capitalism, pure and simple. Those who have the gold make the rules.
To put it another way, if “pretty” is understood in terms of one’s total image, then “pretty“ pays and “smart” sucks.
When I was about 11 years old, 52 years ago, my father told me, “Russell if you ever want to get anywhere in life you will have to join the Masons.” At 14 I believed that Masons built brick walls. At 21 I believed that they were involved in a secret organization. At 63 I finally realized that they were nothing but players posing as benefactors for society. What a great con, becoming polished tumblers while you help your fellow man while being measured with the compass and the square. If I have ever learned anything about Masons it is that they have no moral compass and could utterly care less about being square.
The greatest players on the face of the earth are the MBA’s however. A teacher, engineer, scientist, nurse, doctor inevitably improves the world. Even a lawyer can say that he is needed to protect the innocent. The MBA has one goal – himself. There is no illusion of benefiting society or the nation. A person becomes an MBA neither to help society nor to help the nation but solely for personal and selfish gain. It is said that the turtle only makes progress when he has his head out. These people never put their heads out and see. They are solely self-directed.
They know how “affirmative action” works and that there is no such thing as “equal opportunity”.
The MBA’s with their attacks on capital spending, fair trade, and inventory have made this the greatest debtor nation on the face of the world. Our manufacturing has gone overseas along with any future for the upcoming generation. Our debt is unprecedented. The ignorant MBA’s, however, believe the spreadsheets while this country burns out. These clowns have never figured out that it is capital spending and the ability to find and use energy that has given this society the highest standard of living in the world.
MBA's have redefined efficiency. It used to be widgets per hour or day now it is dollars per widget. The only thing that is measured or valued is money.
With George Bush we have the best of both worlds, a Skull and Bones Mason and a Harvard MBA. It does not get better than that.
I guess that the reason that I never got anywhere is because I never joined the tubal-cain, Shibboleth, Mah-ha-bone Free Masons.
3 March 2007
Commentary in 2017
IBM is a name that few remember let alone value. It was in the late 80's the number one corporation in the world, both in sales and profits. Now it is just a has-been never to ever come close to its past importance as the world's largest computer manufacturer. Politicians and selfish decisions by the higher ups have killed it and it is not coming back. It took me a long time to realize that IBM was run for the benefit of the top executives so that they could get millions of dollars in rewards. The top executives do not need lifelong employment, they just need a few years of million dollar remuneration and if the corporation collapses or goes into a steep decline, well that is someone else's problem. I've got mine.
In 1987 when I was in Mechanicsburg, PA, the worldwide parts facility, IBM's profits were under siege. Many customers complained that they could not get certain parts or publications. The managers of that division were simply selling off the inventory to maintain a profitable position for their division and themselves. Managers of the facilities who had computers that were down for service and could not be started due to lack of parts, were having an attitude adjustment towards IBM. I heard at least two customer managers tell me that they were never going to buy another IBM computer. Until this time the mantra was, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM".
What was going on was a sub-optimization. The selling of inventory was profitable for the National Service Division and for the bonuses of top division management but corrosive for the corporation as a whole. The main thesis is that top IBM management did not figure it out then or if ever.
At about the same time I was pushing for a backup electrical generator for IBM's computers at Mechanicsburg. I was rebuffed as that would cost money and potentially reduce the bonuses of top management. A funny thing happened. A truck accidentally hit a power pole and the electrical supply for the plant was down for over a day. The worldwide sourcing of parts and publications was interrupted. Ultimately what could not be afforded under a managed situation was now critical under a chaotic situation.
Equal Opportunity at IBM
Founder Thomas J. Watson was a dumb Yankee from New York. He had been brainwashed to believe that everyone was "equal" etc. IBM employed an aggressive equal opportunity program that favored non-whites and non-males. It was appearance over ability and an absolute attack on meritocracy. In the 1980's in an essentially competition-free environment, IBM was making so much money that nothing about the corporation or its practices could be criticized.
My first manager, Maria Palicio (now deceased), was a Cuban exile who could not write an English paragraph nor do engineering calculations. She was an architect who did not have the slightest idea about either fluid or electrical flow. She was about 10 years younger than me and the engineering manager for about 8 engineers, most if not all older than she. Everyone knew why she was the manager and why none of them would ever become one, regardless of their abilities or accomplishments. The male engineers were not the right sex nor race and that was an incurable defect.
When I was in Mechanicsburg, I saw men who had been with IBM for say 25 years or so, come to work clean shaved with a white shirt etc. but essentially avoided doing any productive or imaginative work. No matter what they would have done would ever be rewarded. This was equal opportunity and affirmative action in operation. The destruction of the nation's corporations and ultimately society itself. The worst employee is one who does not care and refuses to speak up about problems or mistakes saying it is someone else's responsibility.
One day we had a big meeting where IBM announced a new Freedom of Speech policy. Meaning in Orwellian double speak that there was none. Use of certain words was now forbidden. The meeting was chaired by Del Lasher, a 59 level person who had never gone to college let alone be an engineer but who had played the get-along go-along play-along rule for over 40 years. Lasher could not even diagram a sentence and he was reading from a page and speaking about Double and Tripple Entendres. At that moment I knew that IBM was irreversibly on the downhill slope. IBM had not figured out that its worldwide competitors did not care about Martin (Marxist) Lucifer Koon or Rosa Parks, just ability and innovation.
We were led to believe that IBM was the best-managed corporation in the world. History has proved that not only were we deceived but that IBM management had deceived themselves in the process. By 1990 or so IBM was starting to go into a deep spiral and nearly went out of business in 1994. Regardless IBM has never recovered. Today IBM is essentially an insignificant player in the computer business and no longer the worshiped God of American industry. Books have been written about the Decline and Fall of IBM.