This years restructure

“We trained hard . . . but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized.

I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization”

Charlton Ogburn, 1957

I wish I were joking but this years restructure happened twice. They’re such fun we just can’t get enough of ’em.

Like shaky coalition Greek governments, they don’t stick for long. Which of course they never can do if the automatic response to any need for change is “move staff around a bit”. In the last two years I will have had three different job titles in three differently named teams with four different managers. But the work has changed so little (I.e. not at all) that I will be applying for my new job using the same personal profile I filled in for this job two restructures ago.

And they say the public sector is full of waste.

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4 Responses to This years restructure

  1. I always said there seems to be three main tactics for creating the illusion of progress:

    1. Move the location of a department.
    2. Rename it.
    3. Combine 1 and 2.



  2. Rudkin John says:

    I saw this attributed as follows:
    Petronious Arbiter, 210 B.C.
    but this appears to have been a misattribution.
    It is also attributed as from “Merrill’s Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure” in the January 1957 issue of Harper’s Magazine, also incorrect.

    While I worked in the Public Sector I experienced much the same response to change on at least 3 occasions. Unfortunately, I also worked under an attempt at a Systems Thinking Culture being brought into play by a difficult to work with Asst Director. He used language purposely to differentiate himself from the “sealions”, indeed coining the phrase “Feeding the sealions” as a way to describe doing what was necessary to keep people happy. He also regularly answered an question he felt the need to, by saying “Do not bother to tell me anymore, I am right because I know all about (this).” A Systems Thinking Leader in the making, or a disaster waiting to happen? For me, the latter.


  3. John Liddle says:

    If the problems aren’t structural a restructure won’t fix them. I don’t know how many restructures I’ve experienced. Some were driven by the need to save money but others were attempts at improving a service by managers who didn’t actually know how to improve it. The results were always the same: new structure, new faces in new positions but no change in the work or the way it was done so the problems continued.


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