How flat is your organization?

This interview with Cristobal Conde, the president and CEO of SunGard, is a good example of why I’ll be willing to pay for the New York Times, when that day comes (couple of weeks?). The Q & A covers several very basic and interesting areas and I encourage you to read the entire piece. Here are a few bits to whet your appetite:

“You have to work on the structure of collaboration. How do people get recognized? How do you establish a meritocracy in a highly dispersed environment?

The answer is to allow employees to develop a name for themselves that is irrespective of their organizational ranking or where they sit in the org chart. And it actually is not a question about monetary incentives. They do it because recognition from their peers is, I think, an extremely strong motivating factor, and something that is broadly unused in modern management.

On leadership:

“I think too many bosses think that their job is to be the leader, and I don’t. By creating an atmosphere of collaboration, the people who are consistently right get a huge following, and their work product is talked about by people they’ve never met. It’s fascinating.

On micromanagement:

“If you start micromanaging people, then the very best ones leave. If the very best people leave, then the people you’ve got left actually require more micromanagement. Eventually, they get chased away, and then you’ve got to invest in a whole apparatus of micromanagement. Pretty soon, you’re running a police state. So micromanagement doesn’t scale because it spirals down, and you end up with below-average employees in terms of motivation and ability.

Instead, the trick is to get truly world-class people working directly for you so you don’t have to spend a lot of time managing them. I think there’s very little value I can add to my direct reports. So I try to spend time with people two and three levels below because I think I can add value to them.


“I actively despise how people use PowerPoint as a crutch. I think PowerPoint can be a way to cover up sloppy thinking, which makes it hard to differentiate between good ideas and bad ideas. I would much rather have somebody write something longhand, send it in ahead of the meeting and then assume everybody’s read it, and then you start talking, and let them defend it.

Advice to young people:

“My advice to young people is always, along the way, have a sales job. You could be selling sweaters. You could be selling ice cream on the street. It doesn’t matter. Selling something to somebody who doesn’t want to buy it is a lifelong skill. I can tell when somebody comes in for an interview and they’ve never had any responsibility for sales.”

Print this interview and slide it under the bosses door. Wear gloves and don’t get caught.

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