If you recently bought a house…or got married…or welcomed home a precious bundle of joy—trust me when I tell you that you would not want to hear these three words at your job.
And what makes these (code) words of DOOM especially perilous is that they each have a common meaning, outside of the corporate context, that lends itself to neutrality and in some cases benignity.
But as grandma often said, “you can’t be old and a fool” so without further ado:
At first glance, the word consolidate comes off rather neutral because in a business setting, consolidate is often associated with process improvement of which, under normal circumstances, is not necessarily an abhorrent concept. Process improvement most certainly resonates with the MBA types that once read a case study that illustrated the importance of exploiting efficiencies to extract maximum value while utilizing the least amount of effort and resources…and blah, blah, yeah, yeah, as the story ends with the company being wildly successful.
But that’s where you would have assumed incorrectly. What the bosses failed to tell you is that the word consolidate in the corporate world mostly refers to two things—getting rid of people or getting rid of things (or both). Clearly the key phrase here is “getting rid of…” which, in most cases, is not a trait of a thriving company (you know, thriving companies tend to expand, not contract). So dust off that resume and dry clean those suits when you start hearing the word consolidate being tossed around the office like a football.
All that you have to do is listen to an earnings call from any of the Fortune 500 companies and you’ll think these corporate execs are going to implode from all of the pressure they claim to be experiencing. “We have some pressure here…and more pressure there.” This pressure that they speak of is a code word used to convey that the organization has had challenges in a certain area or function. And as the pressure builds, per se, the bosses find ways to get rid of it. To put it plainly, big corporations hate pressure—and thus they rid themselves of it. And more often than not, the answer comes in the form of cost cutting that could translate into a round of layoffs.
So if the pressure is at an all-time high at your job—vow to make the “apply” button on a job application your pressure release valve. Now start pushing away.
Jack be Nimble…
“Jack be nimble; Jack be quick…Jack got laid-off because revenue shrunk.” I guess Jack wasn’t quick enough.” Cool remix or nah?
So it seems that the new fad in the corporate world is to be nimble, and lean and all that jazz. Well all of that sounds fine and dandy but what many workers fail to realize is that this recent fixation on “cutting off the fat” often leads to misguided crusades to reduce cost—by almost any means necessary. And leave it to a hungry pack of process-improvement zealots, with wet ink dripping off of their newly minted MBA and Six-sigma certificates in-hand, to lead the race towards the most rudimentary of all available cost reduction options—that is, shrinking the workforce by way of layoffs.
Now to be fair, the business landscape is as dynamic as it has ever been and the realities of yesteryear are no longer holding true. Therefore, many companies are forced to take a hard look at whether their long-term strategy, organizational structure and metrics (or KPIs—yuck, I actually said that) lead to viability in today’s marketplace. And if the answer is “no,” then difficult decisions must be made to keep the doors open.
But that’s not the scenario I’m talking about.
I’m talking about this new, disturbing practice of aggressive cost-cutting that often involves massive layoffs (thus increasing profitability) with the sole intent of artificially meeting or exceeding Wall Street’s short-term projections.
So if you’re headed back to your seat after fixing your morning cup of Joe and all of sudden you hear someone talking about the company wanting to become Nimble–do not suddenly give your fellow neighbors a Blonde Roast mouth spray. Nope, just finish out the day like your normally would. But when you go home, get plugging away on LinkedIn.
But don’t delay because Jack be nimble; Jack be quick…
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