Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Vox Popoli: The five stages of corporate convergence

An excerpt from my most recent little project. Hey, sometimes you have to go where the inspiration takes you.

Convergence describes the degree to which an organization prioritizes social justice. There are five stages of corporate convergence:
1.   Infiltrated. The corporation has been entered by people devoted to social justice, but they do not have any significant influence or authority within the company. Employees are hired, fired, and promoted on the basis of either merit or connections. The marketing tends to reflect the company's products and services.
2.   Lightly Converged. The social justice infiltrators have begun to move into their preferred areas, such as Human Resources and Marketing, but they don't have any real influence over the corporation's policies or corporate strategies. The company starts to make occasional noises about "outreach" and "diversity", but doesn't actually change its employment practices. The marketing is still mostly about the company's products, but now features improbably diverse scenarios.
3.   Moderately Converged. Social justice advocates now control Human Resources, which is used as a corporate high ground to exert influence over other departments as well as the executive team. The corporate marketing begins to devote more attention to signaling corporate virtue than selling its products. Managers are encouraged to hire diverse candidates and to stop holding low-performance employees accountable. HR begins holding mandatory awareness sessions and hiring diversity consultants. The corporation's customer service begins to go downhill.
4.   Heavily Converged. Social justice advocates now control the corporate high ground and the strategic centers. Significant elements of the executive team and the board are devoted to social justice, often in a very public manner. Implicit hiring quotas are imposed and it becomes almost impossible to fire anyone for anything short of murder in the workplace. HR openly dictates corporate policy to employees, often without consulting the executives. The marketing materials not only signal corporate virtue, but openly advocate various social justice issues. The corporation shows indifference to its core customer base and begins to obsess over new markets that mostly exist in its imagination.
5.   Fully Converged. The corporation devotes significant resources to social causes that have absolutely nothing to do with its core business activities. Human Resources is transformed into a full Inquisition, imposing its policies without restraint and striking fear into everyone from the Chairman of the Board on down. The CEO regularly mouths social justice platitudes in the place of corporate strategies and the marketing materials are so full of virtue-signaling and social justice advocacy that it becomes difficult to tell from them what the company actually does or sells. The corporation now shows open contempt for its customers.
I could use some help in identifying various corporations at each of these stages. For example, I would consider the NFL and ESPN to be at Stage Four, whereas Marvel Comics is at Stage Five. Apple is in transition from Stage Three to Stage Four; they've historically done a good job of talking the social justice game without actually believing their own BS, but Tim Cook appears to have changed that.
UPDATE: Bruce Charlton adds a few thoughts:
"Managers are encouraged to ... stop holding low-performance employees accountable."

This is correct in terms of accountability for employee performance in what is advertised as the institution's core business activities (products, services or whatever).

But does not seem to capture the whole picture, in the sense that my impression is that increasingly even the slightest degree of complaint, dissent or disobedience often seems to be enough to provoke sanctions from HR (legal sanctions, entrapment/ dirty tricks, and full-on psychological threats and harassment) - even when that employee contributes greatly to the core business.

So, as with most tyrannies, in the modern institution obedience to (the real) authority is the primary virtue, and disobedience the only sanctioned sin.