I recently encountered the MacLeod’s Model of Organisational Sociology from Michael O Church’s excellent article. For someone who devoured plenty of literature of organisational behaviour during his MBA days, this was a new model that intrigued me, and made me think of how our organisation works.
MacLeod’s model classifies all people in big organisations into three types.
Losers, who recognize that low-level employment is a losing deal, and therefore commit the minimum effort not to get fired.
Clueless, who work as hard as they can but fail to understand the organization’s true nature and needs, and are destined for middle management.
Sociopaths, who capture the surplus value generated by the Losers and Clueless. Destined for upper management.
It is a pity that the terms used are so negative, perhaps because MacLeod believes that big organisations are themselves dysfunctional in certain ways.
Each of these three are who they are because of another trilema at work – how the Team, Dedication and Strategy interacts in such a way that only two can be found in a person, because the third is by nature impossible once the other two is in place.
- Team refers to the importance the individual places on belonging to the group.
- Dedication refers to the importance the individual places on his work.
- Strategy refers to the importance the individual places on doing something “worthy” for himself.
The Loser values the Team and Strategy. He wants to be part of the group but at the same time wants to do something “worthy” for himself (and the company does not provide that). Hence they are normally the “foot-soldiers” of the company, creating enough value not to get fired, but yet resisting giving more of himself to the company so that he can enjoy what he values more (his family, his hobbies, etc). His values preclude his ability to dedicate to the company.
The Clueless values the Team and Dedication. He wants to be part of the group and he finds value in his work for the company. Unfortunately, because of his inability to see for himself, such a person quickly rises to middle management and ends up pawns of upper management who easily sacrifices him.
The Sociopath values Dedication and Strategy. To him, belonging to the group and being seen as accepted by the group is nonsense. Such a person, because of his ability to manipulate and use both the Clueless and the Loser to attain his personal goals, quickly rises up to Senior Management.
The MacLeod model explains very quickly how certain types tend towards middle management and get stuck, how others are perfectly content just being receptionists or a junior staff, and how those who “work the least” but are extremely good at playing the corporate game get promoted to senior management.
Hopefully, it can also serve as a model to frustrated managers wondering why they are not getting the break they want despite their hard work and dedication to the organisation. It is a game they cannot win, unless they start up their own small organisation.