Remember Bartleby

bartleby and coffee

A desk clerk spends his days in careful diligence of his work until one day he states to his boss “I’d rather not”.

This is the summary of the book in tweet format, and the culprit for this post is Pedro Rebelo.

The interesting bit about this short story of Bartleby is that his boss gets tangled into procedures and the old usual way of doing things. But as we all know too well, new problems require new solutions.

The same thing happens with companies and brands whose procedures are so set in stone that they fail to cope with digital challenges.

Think about it in this way, back in Bartleby’s time a corporate procedure was meant as a form of control. Today corporations are surrounded by such a large number of stakeholders and external factors that control-procedures fail, they do not scale.

Managers try to fix the procedure and restore “the old ways”, at most they are able to build an illusion of control.

The opposite strategy is to build flexible work methods that account for up to date information and allow managers to adjust their course of action in near real time. It is of course easier said than done.

This strategy will require that everyone in the company shares information and both their successes and failures. At the same time, work methods will need to be more transparent. But no one likes to have others looking over our shoulders or admit or short comings, or at least, they would rather not.

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