Ramping Up to the Corporate Rat Race: The Corporate World for Dummies
By Ray Hanania
Introduction: The Corporate World (CW) is a foreign country for many, not only for those who are outside of the business world, but also for those who are corporate world hermits. The key word is bureaucracy. But bureaucracy is defined in many ways to also include: rigid guidelines, traditions, a whole set of social conventions that apply to the business environment, and greed. Greed not just for money, but greed for power. The true corporate animal is driven by a greed for power.
That greed for power drives their financial success, because true power brings wealth. Corporate animals are fast paced. Everything is done yesterday. Tomorrow is a symbol for people who procrastinate, a non-corporate world virtue. Speed is reflected in the lexicon, a dictionary of the corporate world lexicon is included with this manuscript. But it is noticeable in the corporate world’s abuse of initials.
There is the New Corporate World (NCW). The corporate world lexicon is broken down into speed in basics. Basics in that every action or thought has a distinct word that is outside the normal vernacular of the non-corporate world.
The NCW is considered a necessary nuisance to the Masters of the Universe in the CW. The NCW consists mainly of uncultured “customers” and customers are both the foundation and the nemesis of the CW animal. They need them to take their money, but they despise the power that customers have but fail to recognize, employing only by accident and resulting in disturbances in the CW’s global environment.
This Corporate World for Dummies (CWFD) is intended as a primer for individuals who wish to Safari into the jungles of the CW. Don’t go into this jungle without being inoculated. You don’t want to come out looking like one of them. The dangers are vast and horrific.
No, we are not talking about building plastic model planes or tanks, although models in the corporate world can be directly related to aggressive, war-like strategies. And, we are not talking about good looking men or women who pose for the fashion industry, although Corporate Models do look good on charts and paper. Corporate Models are schematic
The most important aspect besides making money is “feedback.” The CW wants to know how many, how much, so they can interpret and analyze and then continue, detour or change. Feedback is necessary to evaluation, which is part of the constant process of self-justification. Feedback also allows the up and coming CW creature to determine how well they are doing in their jobs. And, their determining how well they are doing in their jobs will decide their long term success.
So, CW types are constantly demanding ways of obtaining feedback, and then evaluating how that feedback is interpreted to their best self-advantage. Feedback is also desirable for one other major reason. It can easily be graphed. CW creatures love to graph and chart everything. They chart progress, production, output, profit, losses, success and failure. Why charting? Because in the fast paced world of the CW, speed is the underlying asset of success. CW creatures are self-trained at reading, understanding and evaluating charts.
The most important asset of any CW is his or her ability to survive in the CW environment. Their singular purpose is not to advance the corporation, but to protect their existence. You may hear it differently, but every employee from the lowliest mailroom clerk or secretary to the top CEOs and division managers and supervisors, spend more than half their time assessing potential rivals, and determining whether they are losing or gaining ground in the CW environment.
Advancement is important and continued promotion is the priority of every true CW creature. They do not want to be made to look bad before employees, as a group, or supervisors, avoiding punishment that could lead to dismissal or discharge.
This dedication to self-preservation subverts the Corporate goal of global family advancement which is founded on the principle of what’s good for the whole is best for the individual. Individuals, however, do not see this, despite their insistence that it is so. They will tell you of loyalty to the corporation, but their actions will reflect self-preservation.
Consequently, this causes several problems. Supervisors do what they think their bosses want, rather than what their CW requires. Make the boss happy is more important to them than risking rocking the boat to make their CW profitable and more successful and improved. Supervisors also look disdainly upon lower ranking employees whose activities attract the attention of their supervisors. This defacto policy also affects relationships with consultants, who are brought in and coveted by individual supervisors as “their” consultants rather than as assets to support the entire CW.
Consultants quickly recognize this, and play to the needs and desires of the supervisors they are assigned to work with, or who they must report to. They listen and find out what you want to hear, and then re-engineer it and tell you what you want to hear in their own words. Consultants are also dedicated to making money and will work hard at preserving the bureaucracy, feeding into the self-preservation of individual supervisors, in order to sustain their contracts.
Don’t say in a few words what can be said in many. This is the motto of the true CW creature.
The corporation doesn’t like quick and fast. They like everything deliberate and well thought out. Few words mean less thought or slacking off. Few words mean less thought. Few words mean the appearance of slacking off. Few words mean an employee has not justified their salaries, hours at work, or responsibilities. Few words mean that something was simple, so why did we need you? This is the foundation of bureaucratese, a special language spoken by CW creatures. It is a talent. It is a specially nurtured aptitude that takes many years to establish. CW creatures who can take a sentence and turn it into memos, directives and analysis are cherished in the CW environment by supervisors who look down toward satisfaction and up toward satisfying. This also augments the practice of “charting” or diagraming which is common to CW excesses.
The Meeting Animal
Corporate Animals meet often and on all issues. Scheduled Status Meetings are a normal fixture of each week.
The meetings usually take place in a specified conference, and some offices and corporations have dozens of such conference rooms to accomodate the intensity of meetings that take place. Meetings are Agenda-driven, and agendas include not only a listing of subjects to be discussed, but time sequence estimates for how long the discussion on a particular item will take, an identified individual who will lead or provide substantive discussions on the item, and also a listing of “Action Items” and “Decision Items.”
Action Items are a listing of things that are determined should be done. The Action Item is assigned to an individual and includes a “target deadline” for achievement, either total completion or staged achievement by increments defined during the meeting.
Action Items are listed by meeting event, such as the first meeting Action Items will all begin with the Number 1 … and be referenced as 1.1 and 1.2 and 1.3.
Decisions are not conclusions of Action Items but free thought agreement and instruction declared at a meeting. It could address any aspect of an agenda item or issue, and are identified as “Decisions: followed by the decision text.”
Meetings also usually feature refreshments that include: bottle juices, bagles, cream cheese spread, ice in buckets, plates, sandwiches, canned pop and other snacks.
You can usually tell who has just completed a meeting as they usually scoop up the refreshments and are seen walking around with small bottles of “Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail,” if you are a senior member of the team, of “Pepsi” and “Coke” if you are a younger member.
Although the food is present, it is usually considered bad form to eat the food while a discussion is taking place, for obvious reasons. Meetings incorporate breaks, when food may be consumed. But, as a rule, most fo the food is eaten before the meeting takes place or carried away as “spoils of the conference meeting” when the meeting is completed.
The Thinking Process: Analysis Paralysis Corporate animals think in reverse.
It is sometimes critically called “Analysis Paralysis.”
They look at the conclusions or the results that they expect, then work backwards to craft the theory to achieve what they believe will be the results.
What is it that they expect?
What is it that they are expected to produce?
How do they go about achieving the results they have envisioned?
The Corporate Lingo
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: That’s very interesting.
TRANSLATION: I disagree.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: I don’t disagree.
TRANSLATION: I disagree.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: You have to be flexible.
TRANSLATION: You have to do it whether you want to or not.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: We have an opportunity.
TRANSLATION: You have a problem.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: You obviously put a lot of work into this.
TRANSLATION: This is awful.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: Help me to understand.
TRANSLATION: I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I don’t think you do either.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: My mind is made up. But if you do want to discuss it further, my door is always open.
TRANSLATION: &%^$ you!
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: We’re going to follow a strict methodology here. TRANSLATION: We’re going to do it my way.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: Cost of ownership has become a significant issue in desktop computing.
TRANSLATION: We want all the benefits and none of the costs.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: We have to leverage our resources. TRANSLATION: You’ll be working weekends.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: Individual contributor.
TRANSLATION: Employee who does real work.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: You needed to be more proactive.
TRANSLATION: You should have protected me from myself.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: I’d like your buy-in on this.
TRANSLATION: I want someone else to blame when this thing bombs.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: We want you to be the executive champion of this project.
TRANSLATION: I want to blame you for my mistakes.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: It’s a no-brainer.
TRANSLATION: It’s a perfect decision for me to handle.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: I’m glad you asked me that.
TRANSLATION: Human Resources has written a carefully-phrased answer.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: There are larger issues at stake.
TRANSLATION: I’ve made up my mind so don’t bother me with facts.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: Value-added.
MANAGEMENT SPEAK: Center of Excellence
TRANSLATION: A bulk commodity, like lentils or cinder blocks.
The Corporate Lexicon
Aligning – matching the needs of a customer with provider’s services.
Bottom line – the final cost to you; the final service provided.
Burn in – to force a decision on someone or on an organization.
Capture – To include a thought or process, in a controlling manner. To identify and include.
Client architecture – the procedures, hierarchy of a client or customers.
Collaboration – the Holy Grail of corporate lexicon. When two or more people, departments, entities, work together toward one shared goal.
Conceptual models – graphic depictions of chartings or charted goals, rules, activities.
Core Services – the basic services or standard services or product.
Day Extenders (Home Users) – people who have an Amoco office and access Amoco computing resources from their homes via a dial-up connection to finish work that wasn’t completed in the office. They use Amoco-owned or personally-owned PCs and typically dial-in during off hours but sometimes during normal work hours also.
Dilbert — allegedly a comic strip cartoon distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc., that is the Bible and sometimes alter-ego of the corporate world animal.
Driver – the individual who is the “clout” behind a project, decision or effort.
Drill Down – To pursue information deeper. Accessing the World Wide Wide, to explore deeper into the Internet site. To get down to the truth.
Elevator Speech – a preliminary speech to present a positive spin or to provide “uplift” to a project’s momentum.
Flex Services – optional services or products to enhance core support.
Gatekeeper – individual responsible for managing the transition of one phase of a project to another.
Global – across the entire company; to all potential customers, customer base.
International travelers –a distinct subset of travelers because of the differences in telephone systems they encounter in different countries and because Amoco IT organizations only have points of presence in their home countries.
Migrating – slowly adjusting toward a new process; implementing a new procedure or process.
ODI List — Obligations, Decisions and Issues. A structured methodology to maintain and record each occurrence. Often used inc orporate meetings.
Optimize costs – to make every dollar spent more effective.
Own – To “own” something means it’s your responsibility now. “You own it.”
Partnering – working with an individual or department to increase their participation on a project or program.
Placeholder – a scheduled event that is not permanent.
Pushback – Resistance or opposition to an idea, proposal, plan or strategy.
Quick Hit – preliminary exposure of an idea, program or project to an audience.
Radar Screen – To have in your sights or on your agenda, as in, “It should be on our supervisor’s Radar Screen.” A person’s calendar or planned event schedule. “It’s not even on our radar screen yet.”
Ramping – ramping up – to increase the profile of a product, or to get it started, or to make a project development move faster. “We have to ramp up the project.” Go to the next level.
Real Estate — space. Used to refer to room to work or display, or anything. Such as “computer monitor real estate” refers to the amount of space available on a computer monitor, often used in context with web page design.
Reengineer – to take something old and make it usable.
Remediate – to take something old and give it a new meaning, process or procedure.
Replace – to remove and provide an alternative.
Retire – to terminate.
Road Warriors – people who do not have an office at an Amoco facility and who do virtually all of their computing work from off network. They are also called ‘Mobile Users’. These are typically salespeople or other field workers.
Roller Boards – A board that you can write on with erasable magic marker, and then push a button to display the second side, while creating a printed copy of the side you just completed. It produces a fax-type paper print out of your hand written notations on the board. The board can be wiped clean to continue more detailed discussions.
Rolling out – to launch a project.
Rollout hierarchy – process of placing priorities on which new initiatives, products, etc., should be announced first and in what order/sequence and timing.
Skill Set – a group of criteria for a specific talent, job or employment role.
Snaking — to walk something through the senior staff in an informal manner, calling in IOUs, friendships and personal acquaintances, usually before deciding on what to do next.
Strawman – a draft of a proposal or plan, not fleshed out. Skeletal form or outline.
Sunset – retiring point. Line A will be sunset in 1998.
Synergies – commonality, group awareness, group understanding. The concept of bringing “more than one” together in order to achieve.
Telecommuters – people whose primary work location is their home and who are setup for ‘work-from-home’ activities.
Travelers – people who have a corporate office, but travel away from their primary location and need to gain access to Amoco computing resources. These people may travel frequently or infrequently and may travel within their home country, internationally, or both.
Tweaking – To polish or to sharpen up a presentation, thought … pinch something to jump or develop into what you want it to be … like “Tweaking an idea.” Or, “Tweaking this letter” to make it better.
Y2K – The corporate lexicon for the Year 2000/Millenium.Y2K Bug – The Year 2000 bug or actual problem.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. Reach him at www.TheMediaOasis.com or follow him on Twitter at @RayHanania.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
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