During one of my previous employments, a rumor came through the grapevine (you know how it is) that 300 people are going to be laid off next week. Putting aside what it did to the overall mood in the workplace, something bothered me about the number itself.
A moment later, I recalled when I heard this exact number recently, and it brought to my mind the movie “300” and the real story behind it. Because knowing the real story, I couldn’t brush off the parallels with what just happened.
In the movie we learn about the heroic stand of 300 Spartans versus the mighty Persian army in the Thermopylae Pass. After all of them die defending the Pass, we’re let to believe that their heroic death was not in vain, because it was the first step to the future victory of the Greeks at Plataea.
But in reality, this was not the case. The stand of 300 in the Thermopylae Pass didn’t achieve any practical purpose. It didn’t delay the Persians long enough to save Greece (which was burnt to the ground) and it didn’t inflict any casualties serious enough to cause the Persians to postpone their invasion (which proceeded as planned). In fact, the later victory at Plataea was not against the invading army, but against the much smaller occupying force left behind after successful invasion.
Nevertheless, the fact that the legend of 300 survives to our day, shows that appreciation of effort more than appreciation of results is deeply engrained in our culture.
Back to our own times and problems, the day has come and 300 people were let go. In some cases it erased whole departments from head to bottom. I’m absolutely sure that those people have worked diligently and tirelessly on their projects, projects that were scraped together with all the resources that went into them. Projects that were initiated by the company after supposedly complicated process of weighing all their possible risks and benefits. Even though I completely understand the mechanisms that pushed the company to such drastic measures, it is still amazing how much effort we can put into something that does not bring any benefits.
The question here is: is this case an exception in the generally successful decision-making process or did it somehow became OK not to deliver anything in the end? Was this a local problem of a specific company, or maybe this is the general situation on the market?
With today’s crisis upon us, we can hardly afford investing in unsuccessful projects. The only way to get our act together is getting back to result-oriented thinking. And in order to do that we must free our decision-making process of logical fallacies and cultural bias. It is wrong to assume that one can get away with not producing real results by stating that the established process was followed to the end. In the end, by ignoring the future we’re reduced to desperate measures like cutting the flesh of the company, in a semi-religious hope that a sacrifice will help.
We’re not here to sacrifice anything, but to help our companies make money.
THIS IS NOT SPARTA!!!