Yesterday I was talking to a friend who does a technical job for a large company that has brought him into contact with the senior management. His initial description of their behaviour was ‘fascistic’. I asked him to qualify this and he said they appeared to be driven by a sense of duty so hardline that he could see how they might end up sacking a third of the workforce without losing sleep at night. Their duty is to their job, their role, he suggested.

A gratuitous Mad Men video with the senior managers:

The friend explained that the top three layers or so of management form a tight-knit social group, and they hold each other to high standards, in terms of what they give to the job. There is also considerable interchange between companies in the industry – ‘incestuous’ was the word he used.

I wonder if this could be conceptualised as an organisation within an organisation, with the orgs-within-orgs well-networked with each other. Sometimes the civil service seemed liked this too: the senior management team were a very exclusive club. Anyone (clever and charming enough) could get in as long you were prepared to sacrifice all your principles and any decent family life or time of your own.

I wonder if the orgs-within-orgs idea could explain why organisations often don’t really do what their rank-and-file employees and managers think they do. Those employees are not in the club and they have no idea what the people in the club even think.