9 lessons from Moral Mazes

Moral Mazes was written about how large corporate entities really worked in the 1980s, but the more things change, the more they stay the same. Max Mann summarizes the book in nine aphorisms.

  1. Personal recommendation decides, and objective merit follows along

2. Invoking “teamwork” suppresses disagreement

3. Smart people are not wanted. When they have an idea, you can’t dismiss it, as you would like to, on technical grounds or write off their impertinence as stupidity.

4. Decisions are only made when they are inevitable.

5. Fast-track managers have a clean record because their problems “never catch up to them.” Their replacement, who is present when the problem finally comes to light, takes the blame. Sometimes because the fast-track manager has become the boss and decides who takes blame.

6. “Bureaucracy is a system of organized irresponsibility and recklessness”

7. Managers use euphemism, in part because innuendo is more powerful anyway. E.g. “Bob wants to be right.” Say sugar coating.

8. They use provisional language, vague so that it can be redefined later.

9. Management consultants help managers get control of the workplace, when they have lost credibility.

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