The Triple C



When my father got out of high school it was the middle of the Great Depression in Missoula, Montana. He joined the American CCC – the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was a program by the Roosevelt administration to give jobs to the unemployed and to do large public works. He learned to dig ditches, oil a dragline, and operate a Caterpillar tractor – it lead to a lifetime of success for him in heavy construction, railroads, and mining. Good deal.

Here in Australia we have the CCC as well – the Crime and Corruption Commission. I hasten to add that this is intended to combat it – not foster it. It discovers strange crimes in familiar places and familiar crimes in strange places. In the case of new South Wales and Queensland it is familiar crimes in familiar places …with familiar faces. It is a pretty diligent commission and sometimes succeeds in putting the criminals either behind bars or out of office. Good deal.

For my part I have been observing a third CCC phenomenon – the workplace that has Command, Control, and Complaint. I have come to the conclusion that you never have more than two of these entities in operation at any one time – and that most of the combinations are toxic, rather than nourishing:


Model 1. There is a clear chain of command that is adhered to. Orders are sensible, and adequate time is given for them to be implemented. The venture succeeds.

Model 2. There is parallel line of command with multiple commanders all ignorant of other’s orders. There is control from 5 0r 6 sources…Nothing works well. No one obeys an order implicitly – they all wait to see what the next countermand will be.

Model 3. Commanders receive complaints and in their turn pass those complaints to their underlings, adding a touch of menace. The atmosphere is poison.

Model 4. Complainants control the Commanders. Whether the noise comes from the client or the staff, it drowns out the sound of profitable business. Most decisions based on complaints are reactions and look lame – pro-active plans may look like pie in the sky, but can save a bundle in the end.

The concept of a command structure is good – if the structure is mutually supportive. No throwing the underlings to the wolves – no opening the gates to the invaders. It needs to be a structure that has a minimum of parallel commands and of overriding orders. Commanders should be available to command during attacks – whether they are pursuing them or defending against them. Tasks assigned should be do-able and sensible. It is no good trying to ask the impossible and then pouting – it is no good threatening economic sanctions to people who actually control your economy.


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