vaporising middle management….with web 2.0?

I have been interested in history since I before could read. The Weimar republic introduced me to the issue of hyperinflation. The image of wheelbarrow of money to buy a loaf of bread is a haunting one.

We have a hyperinflation problem today in the workplace.

When my father was working for a listed company in the early 1980’s, he was the finance manager, that meant he ran the finance department and was on the board of the company. He reported to the general manager. Today things are rather different.  Everyday I meet more and more vice presidents, senior vice presidents, executive vice presidents, directors, CFO, COOs and so on. I think there are more directors and VPs now than not. Titles have lost their meaning.   Recently, when a friend of mine said proudly, “I’ve been made a director”, my father dryly asked, “under the terms of 1985 Companies Act?”

America has one Vice President. So why does a company need thousands of them? I think it is time for a job title revaluation. Which of you Chief senior executive commander vice presidents evangelist strategists is going to be first…?

What does this have to do with web 2.0?  If it lives up to its hype it at the least should improve information flows in organisations.  Nicholas Carr has an interesting post on this. He quotes McAffee:

It has historically been the case that as organizations grow it becomes more and more difficult for people within them to find a particular information resource – a person, a fact, a piece of knowledge or expertise. Enterprise 2.0 technologies, however, can be a force in the opposite direction. They can make large organizations in some ways more searchable, analyzable and navigable than smaller ones, and make it easier for people to find precisely what they’re looking for. The new technologies certainly don’t overcome all the dysfunctions of corporate scale, but they might be able to address some of them.

I will be reading more of this McAffee fellow, sound stuff. He compares Nupedia with Wikipedia. And comments..

technologists have done a brilliant job at three tasks: building platforms to let lots of users express themselves, letting the structure of these platforms emerge over time instead of imposing it up front, and helping users deal with the resulting flood of content.

If web 2.0 does exactly what it says on the tin, it means that layers of excel and powerpoint assembling politcially-aware sycophantic middle-managers (VPs etc) can be vaporised. Knowledge workers (I hate that term) can make stuff, and those that need it can find it. We could have more developers, more support people and more sales people instead. 

I should stop this and go with my wheelbarrow to a meeting.


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