Saturday, May 29, 2004

Company adventure wildlife shooting-something boo-yah adrenaline extreme! trips

Every year, companies send their executives to do things like slither bumpily down rapids in a rubber tube or throw themselves off cliffs aided only with colourful ropes and last night's buzz.

I really do wonder about the value of this kind of activity. Bottom-line, measurable value.

To this end, here are some associated thoughts:

Things I *don't* see happening:

-two execs hanging on to a cliff for dear life-

>John: 'You know, Corey, hanging off this here cliff, I had a blindingly brilliant flash of inspiration that will forever change the company's strategy in this fast paced industry.'

>Corey: 'Wow, you know, me too! This experience has fundamentally shifted the way in which I plan to account for wastage in the rubber chicken factory.'

Things I *do* see happening:

-two execs hanging on to a cliff for dear life-

>John: 'You know, Corey, hanging off this here cliff, I realised how short life can be. I think I'll ask my PA out on a date, screw the intra-company relationships policy.'

>Corey: 'I hear you.'


Sometimes, they just release you into the wilds with paintball guns. This frightens me for the following reasons:

Guns and marketing department people.

Marketing department people and guns.

Marketing department people and sharpened pencils.

Oh hell, marketing department people and anything more deadly than a pointy cushion.

My logic here is: Do we *really* want the spiky-haired, tight-suited, loose-lipped, dubious-vocabularied morons who can write off coloured crayons as a ‘tool of the trade’ knowing that there’s an end to a gun other than the “loud, deadly, goes-bang-end”?

I think not.


So why do companies spend thousands sending people off on these ridiculous boozy jaunts through the countryside?

I really think the answer is in the great Western tradition of the quick fix: If you don't know any better, it seems so much easier to throw money at a problem a couple of times a year rather than work on it every day.

If you don't believe that people can be this foolish, recount how many friends you have with a gym membership they never use but renew every spring when they try on their bikini for summer. Rationally, everyone knows that to get the summer bikini bod, autumn, winter and spring should have been used in constant training. This doesn't stop people from trying to cram 9 month's worth of body reshaping into a few weeks.

In the same way, most managers know that building a strong and effective culture is the constant work of years. Constant in that it is a part of every decision made - hiring, firing, restructuring, rewards, appropriate language & behavior, office norms. It means having integrity the year round. It means championing an ideal and occasionally being unpopular.

Given the choice between constant performance and occasional token efforts, the Dilbertian manager will always choose the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, that path is usually muddy and leads to a cliff edge. Bon voyage.

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