At the risk of uttering a generalisation, which has been said to be the true enemy of mankind, I daresay that if it were to be ever attempted to understand what prohibits intrinsic potential of human capital from converting to delivered reality, it’s the spirit of incompetence, FOMO and mediocrity mindset of the men/women set over them.
Incompetence begets Incompetence. Incompetence promotes Incompetence. Incompetence recognises Incompetence. Incompetence favours Incompetence. For its the most viciously lethal & a treacherously silent killer of excellence that organisations acquire in the form of extraordinary talent but nurture and acclimatising it towards averaged mediocrity. Incompetence is the harbinger of the corporate food chain which cannibalises competence in favour of its own ilk, albeit proportional to its owner’s absolute vested powers.
Incompetence in itself isn’t treacherous. It’s advocacy and subscription as well as its tacit promotion is treason. It’s the here and now crisis that comes forcefully between actualisation of an organisation’s intrinsic inherent potential and the actual abysmally accepted achievement of incompetent targets. No Organisation worth it’s salt ever hires an underperformer, knowingly. Only the good and the excellent make the cut in lateral hirings. What then goes wrong when over time these resources who were hired for their ability to deliver and perhaps a proven track record of achievements, go on to become average and underperforming castoffs. Who went wrong. What went wrong. Who is to be held accountable. Why does the perpetrator go scot free and the unassuming victim penalised in various forms.
In 1999 two Cornell psychologists – David Dunning and Justin Kruger, in their eponymous Dunning-Kruger Effect propagated a cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. And not only do they fail to recognize their incompetence, they’re also likely to feel confident that they actually are competent. Mark Murphy speaks about this in a Forbes article where he analysed that it’s this very cognitive bias why some people think they’re great… even when their performance is terrible to say the least …
Once I stumbled upon this theory, a lot became crystal clear to me and many a vainglorious cavalier behavioural pattern of some people in positions of influence crystallised into a symptomatic trend of what is eating away the very pillars of values that any organisational entity propagates to stand on. However, We in the fraternity are yet to find a L,T & D or OD cure or worse .. even a behavioural vaccination that can insulate organisations from this treacherous epidemic. This… due to continual lethargy and inability and lack of intentions.. so to say.. of the decision empowered honchos over the decades… which has now acquired terminal stage of ailment in the corridors of corporate leadership…
Over a period of time… number crunchers with scant regard to ethics or processes or abilities, sycophants who crooned hosannas in glory of their masters, epitomes of mediocrity who with unenviable ‘abilities’ to please their masters, masters who themselves climbed the ladder on similar exalted grounds of incompetence and saw mirror images of their “competence” in these puppy eyed glorified fawners, have given rise to a decadent breed of swathes of averagers. In the swamp of this rot.. the superlative sparks of excellence have been savagely extinguished … sacrificed on the altars of mutual respect/empathetic comatose conscience of the leadership of the averagers ilk.
How long will the Ekalavyas have to chop off their thumbs to favour the rise of the Master’s Favourites. How long will the Karnas continue to be beheaded deceitfully in the garb of righteousness that is decided by the few. How long will the Ashok Khemkas of life keep getting booted out every six months to a new city to accommodate the vile… How long will the meritorious sacrifice his/her rightful due since he/she did not lower his/her standards of competence to kowtow with the incompetence of the majority… How long will the average merit the exceeded personal expectations ranking of the mighty against those who actually exceeded the expectations which were not aligned to the actual considered factors of the masters mediocre expectations.
Leadership which keeps consistently turning a blind eye is equally complicit in the crime. This is organisational treason. This is corporate treason. Any wilful covert acts of treachery … which can be detrimental and devastating to the state.. country or an organisation is treason. Retribution for treason across ages and across geographies have been uniform, owing to the heinous and loathsome nature of the crime. History also has been testimony that those who turned a blind eye to injustice weren’t really spared the larger net of harm over time. Across the ruthlessness of timelines, infallible giants like PanAm, Kodak, Nokia, HMT, Enron, Kingfisher, Yes Bank, Polaroid, Yahoo, Motorola… and so many of them bit the dust as they were victims of consistent incompetence of some leader or the other there.. somebody who tolerated mediocrity of intellect… someone up in the hierarchy who was willing to accept low standards of delivery … and who slowly, gradually and consistently compromised on performance, excellence and foresight…. these are treasonous actions that merit the highest form of punitive accountability … for with their action millions of shareholders, employees and gigantic valuations had to succumb to obscurity and bear the savage barbarous brunt as a resultant of the actions of few incompetents.
However no amount of punitive action can ever suitably account for the murder of competent dreams, strangling of well deserved aspirations, culling away of slabs of time spent in the hope of justice someday… worse … the bestial destruction of innocence that all management theories or education ever propagated… that excellence is rewarded and competence will empower you to succeed in your chosen career…
Who will be held accountable for the defiling of the aspirations built on the foundations of delivered excellence or the promise of extraordinary latent talent waiting to be guided to deliver by the incompetent mentors who are entrusted with such competent team members. Surely not the conspirators who across ranks are in cahoots to acclimatise the eager ones who want to challenge the status quo.. live the organisational values and pursue the vision and mission with religious fervour…. for these innocent imbeciles are yet to learn to read between the incoherent lines of mediocrity that are chanted and disseminated by the entire heinous hierarchy.
As long as incompetence will continue to be deceptively rewarded in the cloaks of transparency that doesn’t exist except for in the devious opaqueness of the perpetrator’s minds… this treason against the organisation will continue to haunt the potential of the organisation… and the threat of gradual obliteration will continue to hang. Values of any organisation are to be treated as verbs by the top nouns of the management. Else … all indications in any case are predicting doomsday…
The only leverage that any brand has its ability to visibly translate its claims of integrity into action. And it’s the only legacy that any leader worth his salt can ever leave for posterity. And an organisation that doesn’t endeavour to keep its handful of employees happy in lines with its visibly practiced values … can never expect to gain the trust and respect of the proportional numbers of customers and stakeholders it wishes these employees to delight ..
Very well written Sanjeev. People will always rise to the level of their incompetence and then the travesty of justice is that this rise has to be revered by the others – read competent. Exactly for the reasons you mention.
But then quality has a way, like pure, rumbling, running water to find its path and reach its destination. So all is not lost.
Like they say, truth walks and lies run but Karma catches up and the competent will win – eventually.
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You have hitted nail on it head that is what I will say
Keep sharing your thoughts enjoyed reading it