The Chain Of Command

Most armed services have a chain of command.

In the better countries it is connected at the top end to the executive branch of the government but stands free of the electors at the bottom. In less controlled regions it can be intermeshed with the legislative body and exercise considerable influence on them and the people. In the very worst areas it dominates all government and is a ruthless whip for the dictatorship. But we are not in the worst areas – we are in one of the best – so our chain of command is a good, strong, safe one.

The same cannot be said for many civilian organisations – while you might think they would not need to be as rigid as the military, no-one has told their management. They do not wear uniforms with medals, aiguillettes, and gold leaf, but they can sometimes direct their organisations as if they did. And they frequently have no idea of how to structure their command to get the best out of it.

I’m lucky – my working days are now turned into artistic days and I can respond to suggestions rather than orders. But I can still see the corrosive effect of too much or not enough control when it comes to business. It is a good thing to observe from a distance and if I take the advice of Confucius, I can benefit by searching myself to see where I might reform.

A hint: when there are two or more managers to satisfy before you satisfy two directors, it is likely that the only thing that the chain of command is going to do is rattle.


Good Morning, Sir. How May I Hell You?

Everyone should work retail at some point in their lives.

Indeed, I’ll go further than that – they should also, at some point:

a. Work personal service – wait tables, attend a public desk, man the complaints counter.

b. Work publicity. Write copy, draw illustration, serve at a promo show. Think up the bullshit and then have to spread it…

c. Work in dirt. Even if it is just a personal garden, everyone should work in dirt until they get a good result.

d. Work in a position that is monitored by a jealous and vindictive overseer. This may be a person or a professional board.

e. Work in a workshop. Whatever they produce makes no difference – it will cement their character if they can eventually do it well.

f. Work to a deadline. And fail once, and then succeed once, to know the difference in the way it feels.

g. Work to a financial bottom line. Unless they have had to watch the pennies, they’ll never know how to accumulate the pounds.

h. Work in a job where they were in command. Command of the job and command of other people.

If they have done all or most of these things, they are well-rounded individuals. But they mustn’t get cocky – so is the Michelin Man. And he gets tyred sometimes…

No… back to the topic. People who vault to command without ever experiencing the reality of work live in an unreal world and make false decisions. People who never rise also never see what command should be – there is always a battle between them and others that is detrimental to business. There needs to be a shared experience to share in effective management and effective employment.



The Performance Review


A chat with a friend recently took in the subject of annual performance reviews in the workplace. From what I could gather they can sometimes reveal a great deal more about the employer than the employee…

In my last job this sort of review was informal and scattered – I cannot remember more than two of them and they were certainly not on consecutive years. I think they were only held when the mood struck the management or when it was forced upon them by external pressures.

In any case I did not find the procedure nor the findings all that onerous. I don’t put this down to any merit on my part – I think the directors of the company were just embarrassed to be doing it at all and were afraid I would burst into tears if they said anything wrong.

I was frightened that I would burst into laughter…or worse…song. I had written a parody of Ron Moody’s song from “Oliver!” about ” You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” and once started, I could not have stopped myself short of being tossed into the street. Fortunately I did not let it out, but it was a close-run thing there a couple of times.

The review possibly did some good – pointed out where efficiencies could be sought and economies effected. That they never eventuated is not the fault of the review process – life and business intervened. They were still a valuable bit of imagination.

At least I was not sent away, as my friend was, with the feeling that criticism had been leveled at me for doing too much for the customer and causing them to come back to the shop.┬áHeads are still being scratched over that one…