A couple of years ago, our CTO started grinding down the management team at my shop. The smart folks all got out — the smarter they were, the sooner they left. Finally about a year and a half ago, he re-orged, layed-off a couple of the best remaining managers, and put an Senior VP in place who had some good ideas, but on the whole just created a lot of confusion.

That SVP has left, too, and his replacement is someone I really like. But he’s got a big challenge in front of him cleaning up the chaos.

At the time of the re-org, based on my experience at a variety of failed startups, I predicted that a year from then, the shop would be 50% of it’s size then. That would be due to due to increasing layoffs and attrition. And a year or two after that, it would be at 10% to 33% (1/10th or 1/3) of the current size.

I’m realizing now that I miscalculated. I work for a large, multinational corporation, and the top guy isn’t just going to give up headcount like that. That would only make his empire smaller.

Instead, they created new positions, and hired additional staff. Corporate money is great!

The problem is, the top guy can only effectively manage 25% of the staff, which means there is a “golden” portion of the staff who feel empowered and well-utilized, and the rest of the staff is sitting around on their hands, trying to look busy.

My preference is always to be busy rather than look busy. The problem is, there are far greater penalties for taking initiative — which means challenging the angry bureaucracy that’s in place — than in just going with the flow.

The good news is that “not busy” doesn’t mean idle, so it’s a good chance to play with and learn new technologies. I just wish I were doing that for a real project.

Ultimately, money will be the deciding factor. If I can get a better offer from “The Market” than I’m getting in annual pay raises, then it will be time to jump. That point may have already come. But if the bureaucracy gets too nasty or uncomfortable, then I’ll jump then, too.

It’s really too bad. A couple of years ago, I *loved* the job, and was working long hours and doing all kinds of sophisticated work. I used to tell my manager regularly that I was deliriously happy, and I meant it. But, especially in this industry, things change.


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