Sunday, 19 April 2009

Telco allergy

I just wish that I could deal with my telco allergy the same way as I dealt with my bee sting allergy.

I used to keep bees for a hobby but I developed a bee sting allergy. So I gave up bee keeping. I wasn't dependent on bees . . . . .

I’ve been tracking my symptoms and I think that maybe my allergy’s not to telcos per se, but to large scale bureaucracies (LSBs).

It seems that I only get an allergic reaction when I rub up against these organisations and that happens when I initiate change that doesn’t neatly fit their established patterns and habits. I can avoid intimate contact by complying with their bureaucratic systems; accepting whatever they deliver.

When I don’t, the seeming self-sealing, impervious, impersonality of the LSB response “gets under my skin”. I can feel my allergic reaction building, aggravated, rather than soothed by each interaction.

My allergy flared up recently when I decided to switch telcos on a now-or-never offer of faster internet, lower phone charges and a once only rebate. I was a bit twitchy about the now-or-never pressure but it seemed like a good deal and the agreement allowed a week to cancel.

I won’t give you a blow by blow account; enough to say that within five days my ‘new’ telco – a young-minded progressive firm, if their advertisements are to be believed – screwed up twice, victims of their own departmentalisation. Then expected me to be impressed by how fast they reversed the screw-ups!

Defensively they cast me as unreasonable and urged me to forgive, forget and enjoy their wonderful world of fashionable, functional technology. I figured I’d witnessed their LSB spots and cancelled.

Is there something about the telecoms industry that breeds LSBs? Is it possible to be a telco and not behave like an LSB? I suppose the bureaucratic heritage runs deep in the industry. But there are signs that smaller firms emerging in the deregulated ‘unbundled’ NZ telco environment under inspired new leaders are different. . . . .

I’m re-reading Robert Townsend’s “Up the Organisation”: radical experience-forged advice on how to break the bureaucratic spell. Unfortunately, so little has changed in the nearly 40 years since he wrote it that it’s still radical today.

It’s nearer 50 years since Townsend’s inspiration, Douglas McGregor (1960. "The Human Side of Enterprise"), optimistically predicted the end of conventional Management by 1980. But ‘X’ type Management is still the default mode, even in small organisations. Maybe the current economic upheaval is the first real opportunity for transformation since McGregor?

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