• Larry W Dyer

Organizational Obfuscation

Updated: Jan 23

ob·fus·ca·tion

/ˌäbfəˈskāSH(ə)n/

noun

1. the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible


I worked in defense contracting in the 1980s. There was a story that circulated about a company president who took a new position. When he entered his office and looked in a desk drawer, he found three letters. Each envelope had a heading; “Open Immediately”, “Open after 6 to 12 Months”, “Open after two years”.


The President opened the first letter and in capital letters it said, “BLAME ME FOR EVERYTHING”. The new president took this to heart and dutifully blamed the previous office holder. After about eight months this started to wear thin with the Board of Directors so the President opened the second letter which said, “Reorganize the Company”.

The President talked with his senior executives and laid the groundwork to reorganize the company. As people waited for the reorganization to settle down, people stopped their progress on critical projects to see what would happen. Revenue numbers soon tanked and the President was getting increasingly bad signals from the Board. He decided to open the third letter which stated, “UPDATE YOUR RESUME AND WRITE THREE LETTERS”.


This story is not far from the truth. Companies continue to reorganize under the guise of helping the company. Let’s reorganize by technology so we can reduce duplication in our products. Let’s reorganize by customer so we can be closer to them and their decision making. Let’s reorganize by function so we can reduce overhead and process inefficiencies.

Any of these could be the right answer but, rarely does the company study the effects of reorganization enough before implementing one. The problem with reorganization is that the people in the company collectively hold their breath during and after the reorganization until they can see the new lay of the land and where they fit into it.


During that time, key projects are delayed and key decisions are not made.

I see that in the most recent company I worked with. When the reorganization was announced, one Director said, “We are going to put this project on hold so we can get an opinion from the new VP on what we should do.” Excuse me, didn’t you already justify the project endlessly to the previous management? If you think this is a good idea, then why wait? You can have a conversation with the new management at the proper time and explain to him/her the reasons you are doing it.”


Oh well, humans, even VP(s) think they should have the important ideas. They also think that people have hidden agendas. That is why they would trust the comments of a consultant as opposed to the Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt in their own organization.


The lesson is, don’t be too quick to reorganize. Study the organization before you let anyone know what you are thinking, then get input from your direct reports on the issues that frustrate them. Your reorganization should solve for these issues.

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