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Corporate Charades

Charades are often defined as “an empty or deceptive act or pretense”. In the corporate world, this leads to empty promises, failed projects, and angry clients. All of this can typically be avoided with honesty, facts, genuine concern, and attention to detail.

I remember it like it was yesterday… I was working at an IT Provider over a decade ago as an Engineer keeping things up and running for our clients. I stepped into the hallway to find a congo line of the Sales and Executive teams celebrating a recent win. The contract? It was to take on the management of what would become our largest client at the time, over 150 people, dozens of servers, and a line of business we’d never tried to support before. It was an exciting time for paper-pushers and those who promised the world for that rush of dopamine while pursuing this lofty goal for our company. I wasn’t that excited… Mostly, I was asking myself, “Who the hell is going to make this happen? Who is going to do the work? That’s something nobody in the group could answer at the time, and I would come to find out I’d become more of a part of it than I had ever imagined.

So what was the main problem? Well, like many companies I’ve worked for, and with over the years, there was a competency issue on the delivery side. We were a ‘sales-driven’ company at-heart, meaning all of the focus, funding, and attention went largely into growing the company. It’s a familiar tune for many, where your company sort of functions like this:

  1. Most often, people were on the ‘fake it till you make it’ with clients. They were all the things you’d want them to be on calls and in meetings: Confident, Quick to Answer, and they spoke highly of their own organization, though not based on its results but purely the impressions they had about how “we” functioned. By that, I mean the group of people who didn’t actually do anything but close the deals. This is something I call “mouth work” because it never translates into any real action on the promises. DocuSign, and move on to the next victim.
  2. We promised things that we did not and could not actually do, like ‘BIOS Monitoring’ something taken from a marketing piece by some of our insiders. My boss insisted we do it, to which I’d constantly be asking him, what’s the point? He had no idea it just sounded good at the time.
  3. Employees would join calls about client satisfaction issues harping on things that were actually the cause of the problem. i.e., Our product was the BEST in the world and ran with minimal system resources while on a call for performance issues with the product.
  4. Sales/SEs and other non-technical employees would reinforce our lack of preparedness by joining the calls in ‘hero’ mode, ready to rescue clients with nothing but words. The problem? They couldn’t do anything but talk a good game. One SE joined my call only to announce, “Tomorrow is my last day,” and “I don’t know what happened after we signed your contract a year ago.” He’s so used to the dopamine rush of being an “expert” he forgot to add value or even think about eliminating his involvement in the discussion, for obvious reasons.

To be continued…. Written off the top pending editorial, etc. It’s saturday, and I need to clean my office. :/

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