Why Large Organizations Fail: Too Much Insecurity And Politics

I've come to realize adults tend to screw up a good thing. And I also really understand why large organizations fail. Put too many people together and things tend to fall apart when inefficiencies, insecurity, and politics get in the way. Let me explain.

For about six months starting in October 2017, I went to a foster home to spend 1.5-2 hours mentoring a 10 year old boy named J each week. Originally, it was just Dirk, a priest in training, and I mentoring him. Things were going great.

But four months after Dirk and I were mentoring J, the foster organization assigned a third mentor to the team named ST. Then things started to get complicated.

When we tried to see if ST could join us the following week at the foster home, she responded with this e-mail.

Why Large Organizations Fail: Too Much Insecurity And Politics

Reasons Why Large Organizations Fail

WOW! 6 weeks! Surely ST had to be the CEO of a large corporation or at least a high ranking government official right? Nope. ST is an “Author, blogger, part-time digital marketing consultant, and world traveler.” Of course she is. Hasn't everybody started their own website yet?

ST finally made time in her busy schedule to join us in February 2018, which went fine. But the dynamic of the team changed. Dirk, J, and I had gotten into a rhythm and gotten to know each other's personalities after four months. J in private told me that ST was a little weird, and couldn't say the things he usually said or do the things he usually does when ST is around.

With ST's 6 weeks of advanced notice for scheduling, she demanded that each week we input in a shared Google docs what the activity for the visit at the foster home would be. This extra step was despite us always just partaking in whatever activity J wanted to do at the foster home (they have a playground, gym, garden, game center, etc).

After she joined, our handler also started instituting bi-weekly hour long meetings to go through objectives since we were now a bigger team. Suddenly, what turned out to be a fun and smooth mentoring activity started feeling like a bureaucratic job.

This reminded me of the inefficiencies I used to experience in the corporate world when we were forced to have meetings about meetings. Ridiculous!

It's crystal clear to me from this experience that some of the main reasons why large organizations fail is due to

  • Inefficiencies,
  • Gtting too many people involved, and
  • Overcomplicating simple tasks.

Resistance Lead Large Organizations To Fail

I told Dirk and ST that I am gonna be jammed until May 15 due to high school tennis coaching right after our foster care visit. With also a baby to look after, I asked them to help decide the activities for me when it was my week.

I thought they said no problem during our earlier meeting, so I didn't fill anything out on one of my weeks. Instead, during the day of our visit I sent them this group text below (I'm in blue).

It was turning out to be one of the hottest days of the year, and I figured the beach, just a 5 minute drive away, would be perfect. J loves to go and we went last time when it was freezing. Here's what happened when I texted ST and Dirk.

Sarah Thebarge review: a difficult person

Sigh. The second comment was D's. OK, so I screwed up for not filling out the Google Docs. So I responded, “No problem! Happy to do whatever you guys want.”

Instead of the beach, we just went to the park next door, no biggie. But after our session with J was over, I was given a stern lecture by ST and D, who are around 30, on how I wasn't doing what's best for J because I'm not as organized as I should be. Really?

Inflexibility, Insecurity, And Playing Politics

ST was angry that we didn't go to the beach because she wore heels. Seems like a poor choice on her part since we've always done some sort of physical activity like tag, soccer, biking, or basketball when we meet with J.

It was also odd because last time we went to the beach in freezing windy weather, she just took off her shoes and was fine going barefoot in the sand.

Then Dirk mentioned how he was unhappy with this “power dynamic” (his words) about me spending more time with J when D and ST were sick or traveling several times in the past. What?!

Instead of thanking me for covering for them while they were away, Dirk was having issues with jealousy. He should have been happy that J always had me as a mentor to meet with each week. But Dirk felt insecure that I was getting too much attention and power with J. Huh? This had never crossed my mind! It's almost like he had this fear that I was somehow building a wall around J.

I'm just volunteering my time because I want to help. I genuinely want to be there and spend time with J. However, Dirk is mentoring at the foster home as a requirement to get his theology degree. And ST is mentoring because she wants to write a book about mentoring. The two of them are using foster care volunteering to serve their own self interests. Yet they try and make me feel bad.

The only logical sense I could make out of this is that people who are inflexible, insecure and play politics are why large organizations fail. Work and life doesn't have to be so hard. Yet so many people can't understand this.

Great People Make A Company Succeed

At any rate, there is now disfunction in our group. And unfortunately this can now negatively affect J. Kids can sense disharmony, and we need to figure out how to all get along. But first, we must have another “mandatory meeting” according to our organization.

This disfunction reminds me why I wanted to leave work. Too many quirky prima donnas, too many meetings, too many frail egos, too much insecurity, and not enough flexibility. All of these things are reasons why large organizations fail and why the best people leave to go elsewhere.

When you start talking power dynamics and wearing fancy clothes to spend time with a rowdy 10-year-old boy who likes to rough and tumble, you're not thinking about the boy. You're thinking about yourself.

If you work in a bureaucratic, highly rigid work environment full of insecure people, find a way to join a better team or a different company.

And if you are lucky enough to work in a great team environment, don't take it for granted. Try not to be lured away for more money, unless the new team is also awesome.

Never underestimate the value of having great co-workers. And do not overestimate the happiness money will bring.

Further Reading

How To Deal With A Micromanager Before Killing Yourself First

A List Of Career Limiting Moves To Blow Up Your Future

Joining A Startup? Sleep With One Eye Open

About the Author: Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at two of the leading financial service firms in the world. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate. He also became Series 7 and Series 63 registered. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $200,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.

FinancialSamurai.com was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites today with over 1.5 million organic pageviews a month. Financial Samurai has been featured in top publications such as the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.