How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion

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It’s depressing to watch a mean, lean, fighting machine of a company deteriorate into mediocracy. In Silicon Valley we call this process the “bozo explosion.” This downward slide seems inevitable after a company achieves success–often during the years immediately following an IPO. The purpose of this article is to prevent, or at least postpone, this process in your company.

The first step is to determine whether a bozo explosion is happening. Here are the top ten signs of bozosity to help you decide.

1. The two most popular words in your company are “partner” and “strategic.” In addition, “partner” has become a verb, and “strategic” is used to describe decisions and activities that don’t make sense.

2. Management has two-day offsites at places like the Ritz Carlton to foster communication and to craft a company mission statement.

3. The aforementioned company mission statement contains more than twenty words–two of which are “partner” and “strategic.”

4. Your CEO’s admin has an admin.

5. Your parking lot’s “biorhythm” looks like this:

  • 8:00 am – 10:00 am–Japanese cars exceed German cars
  • 10:00 am – 5:00 pm–German cars exceed Japanese cars
  • 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm–Japanese cars exceed German cars

6. Your HR department requires an MBA degree for any position; it also requires five to ten years work experience in an industry that is only four years old.

7. Time is now considered more important than money so you have a company cafeteria, health club, and pet grooming service. Moreover, the first thing that employees show visitors is the company cafeteria, health club, and pet grooming service.

8. Someone whose music sells in the iTunes music store performs at the company Christmas party.

9. An employee is paid to do nothing but write a blog.

10. The success of a competitor upsets you more than the loss of a customer.

(If you’ve seen other signs of the slide to bozosity, leave them as a comment, and I’ll append to this list.)

Addendumbs (sic) to the list from readers:

11. You have a layer of middle management who worked at big-name companies (usually consumer goods) who like to call meetings and designate “project leads.” (I experienced this first hand.) Zoli Erdo

12. Your hire a big name consulting firm who brings in MBAs with one year of experience to re-think your corporate strategies.

13. The front-desk staff gets better looking and less competent. Jeff Barson

14. Your CEO or CFO spends more time on CNBC than in the office. Laurie Sefton

——————————————————————————-

Did you gulp? Don’t sweat it: you’re not alone. In fact, you’d be alone if you weren’t going through the slide. Here’s what you can do about the situation:

  • Insist that managers hire better than themselves. For example, an engineering manager should hire a programmer who is a better programmer than she is, not worse. By the way, this principle starts at the level of the board of directors when hiring the CEO.
  • Eradicate arrogance. Arrogance manifests itself in two principal areas: first, when your employees describe the competition using terms like “clueless,” “bozo” (ironically), or just plain “stupid.” Second, when your employees start believing in “manifest destiny”–that is, that your company deserves, and will achieve, total market domination. Your competition probably isn’t stupid, and trees don’t grow to the sky.
  • Understaff. Hire fewer people than you’re “sure” you need to accommodate that hockey-stick growth you’re “sure” you’re going to achieve. When you’re in a rush to fill openings to respond to growth, you make mistakes. Unfortunately, many companies adopt the attitude of “Hire any intelligent body, or we’ll lose business–we’ll sort everything out later.”
  • Undergrow. This is the flip side of under-staffing. I am suggesting intentionally forgoing sales. Staying small and fine is a perfectly acceptable management policy. At the very least, calculate the entire impact on head count of getting that additional sale, new line of business, or acquisition.
  • Look beyond the resume. The goal of hiring is building a team of great employees. One proxy for a great employee is a relevant educational or work background. However, the perceived “right” educational background and work experience are not sufficient conditions for excellence. Hiring a bozo with the “right” resume can drag down other employees and increase the probability of hiring more bozos. Not hiring a great person because she lacks the “right” resume is not as harmful but is a mistake too.
  • Diversify. Some companies look like the corporate version of the Stepford Wives: people are too similar. For example, everyone has a PhD. Everyone grew up in a white, upper-middleclass family. Everyone went to an Ivy League school. It’s a bunch of Me and Mini-Mes. When this happens, it means that form is overruling function, and the way people succeed is by representing the right form, not excelling at the right function. That’s back asswards.
  • Merge and purge. You owe it to your employees to take corrective action, and, if necessary, terminate people as soon as issues come to light. You may be thinking, “Let’s wait and see; maybe he’ll improve; our numbers are still great, etc.,” but this is unfair to everyone involved. If there’s a problem, fix it. If you can’t fix it, then make it an “exployee”–thereby, establishing performance excellence as a corporate standard.

Written at: America West, flight #567, seat 4B, Phoenix to Orlando

By | 2016-10-24T14:28:29+00:00 February 26th, 2006|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |115 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

115 Comments

  1. Alex Krupp February 26, 2006 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Excellent post! I found this to be really useful, thanks for taking the time to write it up.

  2. Zoli Erdos February 26, 2006 at 11:07 am - Reply

    Another sign of alert is when all of a sudden you have a layer of management, all ex-corporate-types, who will typically “address” issues by calling for a series of meetings, and hiring a new “project lead” every time something new comes on.
    On a less serious note, I take issue with your parking lot test. I suppose it means the workabees are there long hours, management conveniently showing up for the middle of the day… but having tried both, I am a big fan of Japanese cars now – you can spend big $ and combine luxury with quality far superior to most Europeans 🙂

  3. Jeff Barson, Nimble February 26, 2006 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Additonal signs of ‘Bozodom’.
    All managers are provided the newest blackberrys but no one knows how to set up the email function.
    The front desk staff becomes progressively younger, cuter, and female.
    Everyone has an Aeron.
    Hand towels appear in the bathrooms along with a new linen service.
    The CEO has a podcast… with one 3 minute entry, and a personal shopper.
    Management doesn’t know what ‘The Office’ is or why the staff is laughing.
    … just mho as I sit here on my folding chair, in my windowless office, while I contemplate buying paper towels for the bathroom so we have something.

  4. The Newest Industry February 26, 2006 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Dear Guy: Stop spying on my company!

  5. Aymeric February 26, 2006 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Oh my God! It looks like Google! No?

  6. David Boxenhorn February 26, 2006 at 11:46 am - Reply

    The entrepreneur is kicked out because he’s a pain in the asterisk.

  7. David Boxenhorn February 26, 2006 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there’s no choice but to kick out the entrepreneur. But I haven’t seen many companies avoid a long-term slide into bozodom as a consequence (usually after a short-term uptick).

  8. francine hardaway February 26, 2006 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I remember all of this from Broadvision, where my daughter worked during the glory days. The admins had better cars than I could, and I’m no car slouch. But now look what has happened to Broadvision. I believe your “understaff” command is the best one.

  9. Michael Willingham February 26, 2006 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I particualarly like the “merge and purge” section of your post. If you think about it, to leave an individual in a position where their best is not good enough constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

  10. Brian Bush February 26, 2006 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    New VPs are hired every 6 months or so; sometimes for the same department. Invariably, the first directive of the new VP is to “remodel their office,” and unfortunately it means that the entire cube layout for the floor must be changed because of the extra/different space they will require.
    You well liked, feature rich, speedy diagnostic software is replaced by a recently acquired java app that does not support any of the functionality you require. Immediately the legacy developers are let go, before the new java app is released, and in the process of implementation you find the java app is not capable without years of development to fill the need.

  11. Harry Chong February 26, 2006 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    “8. Someone whose music sells in the iTunes music store performs at the company Christmas party.”
    This one is too funny.

  12. Bizmonk MJ February 26, 2006 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Yea Guy,
    I agree with one of the commentors up there, are you talking about companies like GOOGLE?
    This really does give me the idea that GOOGLE is possibly sliding down to BOZODOM.
    Please tell me, do you think GOOGLE is really part of this BOZOSITY?

  13. Patrick Williams February 26, 2006 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    During a declared “budget crunch”, the sales manager purchases an entire new suite of coordinated office furniture, then hires non-selling staffers to support the sales team.

  14. Laurie Sefton February 26, 2006 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    And some more….
    1. A different brand of coffee, paper towels, and/or toilet paper shows up in the executive wing.
    2. Comm meetings spend a lot of time talking about smashing the competition, and not how to make your own company better.
    3. Charge-backs for things like floorspace in a building get drilled down to the department level.
    4. Interviewees are told how “this dept rocks” and “that other dept sucks”.
    5. Your CFO now spends more time on CNBC than in the office. Your CEO spends more time out of the timezone than in the office.
    I have to take issue with the German vs Japanese car–my BMW’s seat construction is the only thing that keeps my lumbar vertebrae from ripping out of my back and flinging themselves against the ceiling. And I put 500-1K miles on the car in any given week.

  15. jake February 26, 2006 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    to expand on the blog meme:
    Departments and managers are encouraged to blog using the new corporate blogging facility and all the blogs end up looking like plain old web pages of useless and duplicated departmental info, rarely updated and never commented.

  16. Enthousiasmeren February 26, 2006 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Herkennen van middelmatigheid

    Opnieuw een artikel van Guy welke mij zeer aanspreekt, met name omdat het zo herkenbaar is. Een bedrijfje dat begon klein, als een aggresieve, vechtmachine, met een aanvallersmentaliteit. Dat bedrijfje wat langzaam vervalt tot middelmatigheid. …

  17. Scott Case February 26, 2006 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Title Inflation: Every couple quarters, Directors become VPs, VPs become Senior VPs, Senior VPs become Executive VPs. Eventually, 20% of the company is a VP.
    Forms: Lot’s of forms need to get filled out – especially about what you are working on. Really bad when they must be printed delivered & not emailed
    Driver: New CEO must have a driver and a new, expensive GERMAN car
    Stock Price: People say they don’t care about the stock price – first sign that they care A LOT about the stock price. Also a leading indicator that the stock price is falling

  18. Jonathan February 26, 2006 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    12. Customer service entails waiting on hold for at least 45 minutes during “peak” hours (when seem to be anytime between a 24 h period).
    Jon Cantin
    Founder of myfoodcount.com
    Free, Anonymous and Easy to use health monitoring

  19. Enthousiasmeren February 26, 2006 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Voorkomen van middelmatigheid

    Zoals gezegd in hoe herken je middelmatigheid opnieuw een artikel van Guy dat mij zeer aanspreekt. Een bedrijfje dat begon klein, als een aggresieve, vechtmachine, met een aanvallersmentaliteit. Dat bedrijfje wat langzaam vervalt …

  20. Jeremy Zawodny's blog February 26, 2006 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Yahoo’s Bozo Score: 4

    After reading Guy Kawasaki’s How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion, I decided to compute Yahoo’s Bozo Score. For every question I answer “yes” to, we get a point. Every “no” is worth a zero. 1. The two most popular words in your company are “partner” and “st…

  21. Harry Chong February 26, 2006 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Hey Jonathan I like your www.myfoodcount.com website.

  22. Lisa Nirell February 26, 2006 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    You know you’re approaching Bozo Explosion when the majority of the leadership team all used to work for the same Fortune500 company and keep saying “when I worked at XYZ, this is what WE did…”
    PullllEASE!

  23. Simon Brocklehurst February 26, 2006 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    Another key indicator:
    Your HR “department” has more than one person in it.

  24. Hadley Stern February 26, 2006 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    The company spits out more stuff than you can imagine, pens, bags, notepads, messenger bags, etc.

  25. John C. Welch February 26, 2006 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    1) The company spends a quarter of a million dollars on a consulting firm to create “passionate” employees, instead of talking to the employees
    2) Bizarre rituals like an Xmas Bonus March. (no, really. Line up like you were paying homage to de massa)
    3) A suggestion program that never even acknowledges your suggestion, but is astounded that you can fill out PDF forms online, then uses the form you created to streamline the process and cut waste without thanking you.
    4) You can get a new server easier than you can get business cards, because only AVPs or higher can have business cards
    5) The head of IS tries to ban wireless networks because he couldn’t make a wireless keyboard work corrrectly
    6) The head of the company only talks to employees for party decorating help…for the party at his house that none of the employees will ever see.
    7) It takes them two tries to divest of a poorly performing division, because they weren’t able to complete the sale in time.
    8) They have a benefits package that is only a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than self-insuring, with worse coverage, while talking to the employees about how “we’re a family”.
    9) Benefits are so tightly regulated so as to be unusable, i.e. no online classes are covered, not even if they’re from Harvard or MIT. This way they get to say they have a benefit without anyone actually being able to use it. Oh, yes, and classify job related training, like an MCSE or an ACSA as a departmental expense, and only allow tuition reimbursement to apply to formal college classes.
    10) Make sure that the senior management is the only contact the CEO has with the company, unless it’s the accounting department.

  26. Anonymous February 26, 2006 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I didn’t understand #5, ‘Your parking lot’s “biorhythm” looks like this’, maybe because I’m from the UK… someone care to enlighten me?

  27. the loose cannon February 26, 2006 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    I have a few from Bozo Hell 🙂
    1. VPs become somehow incapable of walking through a doorway not framed with mahogany.
    2. To reward a division, management actually throws a cake and ice cream party for employees. Cracks abound referencing a certain relevant Marie Antoinette quote.
    3. Org charts undergo redefinition quarterly — nobody’s job function actually changes.
    4. Ability to “coordinate projects” and meeting attendence is valued higher than engineering discipline and measureable results. Whole teams begin to form of these coordinators, pushing out all the engineering talent…

  28. met February 26, 2006 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    I presume German cars are costlier than Japanese cars

  29. Ping Planning February 26, 2006 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Guy on hiring

    This is very sage advice from Guy Kawasaki on how to avoid the Bozo Syndrome.
    * Insist that managers hire …

  30. mary beth February 26, 2006 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    ack! I’m having severe flashbacks to my days in the dot.com era. All of those things happened at multiple times real-time. Positions (including mine) changed from the time of hire to the time new hires actually arrived for their first day of work.
    One sure sign of bozo-invasion: a lot more emphasis on making a profit (even a penny’s worth) or finding a buyer than worrying about the product.

  31. Glen Raphael February 26, 2006 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    “8. Someone whose music sells in the iTunes music store performs at the company Christmas party.”
    I think you mean that they hire a big-name performer but “sells in the iTunes Music store” doesn’t say that. Pretty much any internet-savvy shmuck can get his music in the iTunes music store – I’ve been thinking of putting an album up there myself. iTunes is a “long tail” thing. “sells at Tower Records” might get the point across better.

  32. Coleman Yee February 26, 2006 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    1) The mission statement sounds vaguely like every other company’s mission statement.
    2) And nobody knows what it means.
    3) A $100k budget is allocated to market the new company blog because nobody reads it.
    4) Your manager is jealous of you because you’re smarter.
    5) (How could you miss this out?) The IT department is forcing everyone to switch from Mac to Windows!

  33. yeksoon February 26, 2006 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    The company starts having more than one retreat a year.
    In every retreat, the long term strategy keeps shifting.

  34. BD Handspicker February 26, 2006 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Guy, could you clarify the final sentence of the post? viz.
    “If you can’t fix it, then make it an “exployee”–thereby, establishing performance excellence as a corporate standard.”
    Another addition to list of “how to avoid…”:
    Under-equip. Certain to raise a hew and cry from my fellow engineers, however, if every engineer has the newest, fastest and bestest equipment, that’s the environment for which they will develop. If our equipment is a generation or so behind, we are more likely to be developing (software in my case) for the level of equipment our customers own. The result is fewer perceived performance and compatibility problems, and happier customers.
    (Let the roasting begin! ;^)

  35. Diego February 26, 2006 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Nontechnical employees start attending CAD classes in order to eat a free lunch.

  36. Josh Treadwell February 26, 2006 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    Excellent post! Also, excellent keynote at PMA this weekend! You’re truely one of the big brains out there. Give me a month or two and I’ll have a proposal of my own for you… 😉

  37. Bill Meade February 26, 2006 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    – Bar Raising consists of workgroup outsiders who are given the power to veto a new hire without understanding the job, the person vetoed, the hiring manager’s requirements, or the job description.
    – New functions like “marketing” and “quality” are hired into the organization and then all their efforts are vetoed by “bar raising.”
    – After the new function (“marketing” or “quality”) managers leave in abject frustation the bozos rationalize against any new attempts to bring in new functions with “We tried that once. It did not work.”

  38. John Nguyen February 26, 2006 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    Advertising on Google adwords $1.00 per click when your website is ranked one.

  39. Brad Hutchings February 26, 2006 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    What’s the statute of limitations on covering up bozosity? I hope 5 years is enough…
    (1) Turning your worst customers into employees.
    (2) Any Friday morning company ritual involving liquor.
    (3) “Experimental” employees.
    (4) Making employees stay in for lunch.
    (5) No American cars in the parking lot.
    (6) CEO recruiting for his “Business Professionals Course” or other pyramid scheme.
    (7) “Business is like the game of Go”
    (8) To the outsider, managing partners resemble Politburo. To insiders, managing partners resemble a keg party.
    (9) Tech people who want windowless offices and no contact with non-techies.
    (9b) Tech people who resent other tech people who want windows on their offices and want to chat up hotties at the water cooler.
    (9c) Tech people who go on and frigging on about how they survived the Communist system and are greatful to have a comfortable chair in the closet they have chosen for an office.
    (10) All employees known by cartoon names. [This one is fun, if you work with a bunch of bozos, you must try this with a co-worker. Goal is to name all toons in the office, make a website for them, and not be discovered or fired.]

  40. Gautam February 26, 2006 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    One from my side:
    “When you spend too much time doing “organizational processes” rather than selling and servicing customers.
    “When you spend more than 10 days in training in class in a year”
    “When instead of one guy selling and servicing a customer, 16 people do bits of everything and mess it all up”
    “When you have a Cheif Strategy Officer, a Cheif Operating Officer, a Cheif Sales Officer, a Cheif Marketing Officer in addition to a Cheif Executive Officer!”

  41. The.RSS.Reporter February 27, 2006 at 1:15 am - Reply

    =?utf-8?B?ZGVsLmljaW8udXMvcG9wdWxhcg==?=

    Thinking in Web 2.0: Sixteen Ways (web2.wsj2.com)

    Shrinivasan February 27, 2006 at 2:53 am - Reply

    Thanks Guy. I learnt a new term.
    Few more I could relate to:
    1. A new manager or top management person restructures and reorganizes team when there is need for new people, downsizes them.
    2. You often get to hear that new skillsets are required from other companies and current employee skillsets are redundant.
    3. Employees are asked to become entrepreneurs and are asked to search websites and do cold calls.
    4. Company adds one more term to strategy and partners – “Long term” while there are no new projects coming along and exisiting customers are moving away to competitors.
    5. The COO, VPs and CEO sit in their cabins and question the implementation details of every project.
    6. When every new project outside the company’s core area is marketed as expertise in vertical and becomes a line of business overnight.
    7. When CEO issues a press statement for a very small business win and claims his long term vision are delivering results.

  42. David Utter February 27, 2006 at 2:57 am - Reply

    @Anonymous from the U.K.
    In the U.S., the Japanese/German car analogy means the rank-and-file staff making a minimal salary drive inexpensive, Japanese vehicles, though maybe we should add Korean to that list with Hyundai and Kia growing in popularity.
    The highly-paid execs show up in their pricier BMWs and Mercedes and generally depart work right at 5 p.m.
    I’ve worked at a couple of places where this took place each day.

  43. Michiel February 27, 2006 at 3:15 am - Reply

    “9. An employee is paid to do nothing but write a blog.”
    Oooh, snarky 😉

  44. Javier Martí February 27, 2006 at 3:47 am - Reply

    1)Your CEO starts to spend more time on the golf club than at the office
    2)Your CEO has a blog that only links to A listers
    3)One of your employees is Scoble (I just learn he has more publi power than anyone at Microsoft, is that true?!) and your last product launch has been a still clueless version of Mozila Firefox
    4)Your company´s motto becomes “the plan is that there is no plan” (last place where I work. Now they are much smaller than before)
    (feel free to edit them, My english is not the best!)
    I guess you won`t publish number 3. Your blog is too politically correct 😉
    Regards
    http://niquel757.blogspot.com

  45. Todd February 27, 2006 at 4:22 am - Reply

    Kiss of death – more time and energy is spent defining and adding specialized features, as defined by the marketing department, than is spent fixing bugs.

  46. Gaurav February 27, 2006 at 4:40 am - Reply

    >>>when your employees describe the competition using terms like “clueless,” “bozo” (ironically), or just plain “stupid.”
    A a more severe case of “bozo”ism is when employees start descirbing the customer using these same terms.

  47. Douglas H February 27, 2006 at 5:08 am - Reply

    How’s something like this:
    “There is someone on your management team (or board) just because he went to [school] or has a degree from [school]” (i. e. Westpoint)
    or
    “There is someone on your management team (or board) just because he did, organized, lead, etc. [completely unrelated activity] at [Fortune 500 company or major competition].”
    Good post. 🙂

  48. drk February 27, 2006 at 5:12 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article – Having worked in IT for a number of years its still surprising how much crap is still spoken about IT.
    It’s all about the tech right?
    No it’s all about people, and organisation and a lot of other things.
    A lot of startups fail because they outgrow their capacity to provide, and others because they solely focus on techie elements.
    Quite simply – there is not enough organisation to support the IT operations that are required on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
    Companies that succeed are as focused on operations as they are on innovation.
    After all if your start-up grows to the point that it becomes a major operation – who does the donkey-work?
    Not your programmers – that’s for sure – you pay them too much to have them messing around with tape backups on a daily schedule.
    So organisations that succeed understand that the business of the daily running of IT is different from running the technical and marketing aspects of “IT”.
    You might make your business out of IT – but unless you run your company properly it won’t be around for long.
    But a lot of startups are started by young techies – they understand the technology – but not business (with a small “b”).
    Hence the “bozo explosion” – it’s much easier to recruit “people like you” than “people who understand business” but who you don’t understand.
    So even if they share your interests and even if they *can* whip up a quick and dirty version of your latest web2.0 ruby-on-rails site that is an instant hit – without infrastructure it will fail.
    Build for the future – it’s as heterogenous with people as it it with computers.
    yeah and here’s one to add to the list:
    BOZO SIGN:
    The minute that the IT people start to talk about any department in the company as “stupid” like accounts, hr, pr, warehouse, etc etc.
    Just because the other staff might not understand computers as well as you does *not* make them stupid.
    Not only that – but without their contribution – you would be out of a job.
    Think about it – the next time that you fix the CEO’s secretary’s monitor because she forgot to plug it in.

  49. Big Nemo February 27, 2006 at 5:54 am - Reply

    How does “suddenly having pins with corporate logo distributed to all employees” sound? Not that I *mind* getting one…

  50. Dan Bailey February 27, 2006 at 6:58 am - Reply

    More signs:
    – your company has more middle management than “troops in the trenches”
    – your company insists on hiring directors and VPs to head up divisions that won’t exist for another 9-12 months

  51. Kiran Bellubbi February 27, 2006 at 7:42 am - Reply

    You know you have a bozo explosion when the company cafeteria starts sounding like a “buzzard” expo…
    An individual can be indexed as a buzzard if he exhibits the following charecteristics:
    1 Excessively uses buzz-words in any conversation
    2 Claims to have implemented large scale deployments of technologies released just a few weeks/months ago – you might have come across many AJAX buzzards already and also some RoR buzzards
    3 There is a high likelyhood that these people are architects – read Joel Spolsky’s take on Architect Astronauts in the technical domain but in the non-technical domain they are almost always management related folk.

  52. oops February 27, 2006 at 8:40 am - Reply

    It’s not “back asswards” it’s “ass backwards”.

  53. The King February 27, 2006 at 10:00 am - Reply

    …your Chairman of the Board owns the second-rate hotels near corporate HQ and requires employees to stay there during corporate visits.

  54. JoeC February 27, 2006 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Your CEO’s chair is more expensive than his/her first car.

  55. George Rodriguez February 27, 2006 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Sure sign of Bozo Hell:
    -The CEO can’t demo the product, or worse, doesn’t even know how to log in.

  56. DiarioIP February 27, 2006 at 11:37 am - Reply

    La rebelión de los patanes

    Guy Kawasaki habla de las empresas audaces que acaban en la más absoluta mediocridad (no sé por qué, pero ahora mismo sólo me viene a la cabeza SCO), y una lista de síntomas para identificar dichas empresas y consejos para…

  57. mj February 27, 2006 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Do you work for bozos? Is it your fault?

    Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble have some fun reading about whether or not your company is about to descend into mediocrity (about to suffer a bozo explosion) or even if you can plainly see that it has already gone.
    My last big employer, a telecoms d…

  58. Sanjay February 27, 2006 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    May I recommend “bozofication” as an evolution of the term Bozo Explosion?

  59. Stan Sorensen February 27, 2006 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    When your company begins to rely on consultants to “define a strategy” or “develop a new business model” you’ve reached Bozoville. A couple groups at MSFT when I was there had as many McKinsey consultants as regular employees.

  60. Boots on the Ground February 27, 2006 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Guy Kawasaki and Preventing a Bozo Explosion

    Entrepreneurial guru Guy Kawasaki wrote a great post on his blog recently, where he discusses how to prevent a “Bozo Explosion” at a company. He uses this term to describe the process through which a once promising company can deteriorate towards med…

  61. Laurie February 27, 2006 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    The “friends and family” plan replaces the brains of the operation, in order to bring “new vision” to take the operation to the next level; failure!
    It wasn’t the “vision” that made the company successful in the first place, it was the execution, and most everyone that made it happen goes out execution style.

  62. dejah February 27, 2006 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Re the car comment:
    Cheap (Japanese) cars that arrive early and leave late and expensive (German) cars that don’t come in til 10 and leave on the dot at 5 mean that the brass ain’t working as hard as the rank and file.
    When the brass stops working, the rank and file eventually stops too.

  63. Startup Fever February 27, 2006 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion

    Guy Kawasaki on how to prevent a bozo explosion:
    Its depressing to watch a mean, lean, fighting machine of a company deteriorate into mediocracy. In Silicon Valley we call this process the “bozo explosion.” This downward slide seems inevit…

  64. pUnk February 27, 2006 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    1. You outsourced your mission statement.
    2. A large color printout of the mission statement is posted on *every* door.

  65. Russ February 27, 2006 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    The Xmas party on a yacht with all employees onboard.

  66. olivier blanchard February 27, 2006 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    10:00am to 5:00pm? Dude! It’s more like 10:00am to noon, then 2:00pm to 3:00pm. Tops.

  67. olivier blanchard February 27, 2006 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    The CEO has never actually seen the cafeteria… or the health center… or the floor of one of his factories.

  68. Anthony Yap February 27, 2006 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    More ideas…
    * There are so many VPs in the company that a lot of time is wasted pushing paperwork back and forth.
    * Top management adopts an “I know” mentality where fresh approaches to old ideas are quickly dismissed and debates are avoided. Big egos get in the way of further headway.
    * Millions are allocated each year to send employees for team building and other skills training that change little in overall employee’s attitudes and skills. Management regards training as a part of their to-do checklist instead of focusing on desired outcomes and following up on lessons learned.
    * Management focuses on making a better mousetrap instead of seeking to develop solutions the market really wants.

  69. Claus Broch February 28, 2006 at 12:04 am - Reply

    Another sign of alert is if more than 10% of all employees has positions with “Vice President” or VP in the title.

  70. Bill Liao February 28, 2006 at 6:06 am - Reply

    Fantastic post.
    A very clear description of the forces that drive sanity out of the workplace “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time” resultign in the death of execution and common sense.
    Another suggestion;
    As the company grows each new VP decides to “proove” themselves by campaigning to “improve” the product before they even understand what the product actually does or how to use it…

  71. Tom February 28, 2006 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Some more bozosity:
    – Your org unit has two or more weekly meetings that are scheduled for one hour or more, but usually, when time’s up, there’s still some fruitless discussion going on. These meetings also spend lots of time reading the minutes but not deciding any actions whatsoever.
    – There’s a lot of talk about “the customer”, but when asked, nobody really knows who he/she is.
    – Your having regular “team events” to “build moral”, but in day to day business much energy is wasted in search of scapegoats.
    – “Management by Objective” in your organization is only used as a reason why you’re not getting a bonus.
    – There’s a lot of talk about “processes” and that they need to be followed and optimized. It’s used casually to have a reason not to get any real work done.
    – Management says stuff like “We need to spend less time doing things right and more time doing the right thing.” (Don’t laugh, I’ve heard this and is was not meant to be a joke or quote from Dilbert. The guy genuinely thought he was on to something… Sometimes Scott Adams as scary.)

  72. Lori February 28, 2006 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Weird, we were just talking about the car thing the other day. All the people that work late regularly can look out the window on an evening and see everyone elses crappy car in the car park below beside their own. We think that it could be that if you have a company car, you must feel the need to get out there and drive it – doesn’t really matter where to as long as it’s not the office!

  73. the wet beaver smiles when tickled February 28, 2006 at 6:36 am - Reply

    Working for bozos

    There is a great article over at Guy Kawasaki\’s blog about how to realise when a company is going to the dogs.

  74. Rick Krutina February 28, 2006 at 6:48 am - Reply

    More;
    • “Managing your career path” becomes more important than “doing your job”
    • Wage rates are defined by title and accreditation, rather than skills, experience, and value.
    • Real humans no longer pick up incoming calls.
    • “Leveraging core competencies” and “maximizing shareholder value” show up in official documentation, in the same paragraph.

  75. George February 28, 2006 at 7:19 am - Reply

    A couple more:
    The VP spends all day designing a “Company Values” poster (in Power Point) that includes a reference to employee morale, while his only contributions to morale have been ridiculous micromanagement, refusal to buy badly needed (inexpensive) supplies, and a three-year wage freeze.
    You spend thousands of dollars on new CAD software that sits on the shelf for over a year because manglement refuses to buy computers capable of running it.
    MisManagement’s idea of a thin-client environment is that 20 users can share one software license.

  76. Webwotch February 28, 2006 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Why not to work at large corporations

    A pretty Dilbert-esque list of signs of bozosity is developing at Guy Kawasakis blog. The list of comments with insights into corporations around the world is getting longer – bozos everywhere!

  77. rightnumberone February 28, 2006 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Hmmm,
    15) Your list of Top 10 Signs Your In a Bozo Explosion goes to 14 items (uh, 15).

  78. Tempus Fugate February 28, 2006 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Reading my Diary again!

    This morning, I caught up on Guy Kawasaki whose writing I’ve always enjoyed. His recent post about the Bozo Explosion mirrored my own thoughts on the demise I’ve experienced as an ex-Microsoft employee.

  79. Margherite February 28, 2006 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    I have a hard time NOT working for companies in bozodom. Every time there’s a job that makes use of my intelligence/best skills/interests, some bigger fish comes along and buys out the company. Shortly thereafter, the company starts another round of financing, and expense accounts for everyone in the engineering departments disappear.
    How to tell when the company is on the downward slope:
    ..There’s a full-time attorney for every 25 employees (specializing in customer lawsuits and employee layoffs).
    ..All the patent holders resign (or change careers).
    ..The CxOs start collaring the stock.
    ..Customer service calls are triaged or sent to voice mail.
    ..Three levels of management are “barred” from customer sites.
    ..Consultants are hired from the Bohemian Grove waiting list.

  80. K February 28, 2006 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    You have to set up a phoney company just to pitch a new idea to your employer.
    You go a month without talking to a customer.

  81. Todd February 28, 2006 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    You’ve really hit a nerve here Guy…I smell a new book:
    The Art of de-Bozoing a company in ten days or less

  82. Brian February 28, 2006 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Bozodom can be defined as buying state-of-the-art computer equipment for executives who don’t have a need for it (or a clue how to use it), and making the ground troops (who are doing the real work) make do with hand-me-downs. This isn’t as bad as it used to be, though, since the companies I know of that practiced that aren’t around anymore. Hmmm, wonder why…

  83. big dogs February 28, 2006 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    Lol.. brilliant! Oh have I got more. My IT dept is incredibly dumbed up by the IT director and we’ve seen some 1+ million dollar mistakes that are still being “implemented” 3 years later.

  84. Mini-Microsoft February 28, 2006 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    Of Cogs, Bozos, and Backbones

    …And some people were so desperate to fill positions they’d hire just about any bozo, or bozos to fill up the 3.0 quota to reward their current team. What do we do with the bozo’s that have us going around making us flip the bozo-bit all the time?

  85. ntschutta.com February 28, 2006 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    The Bozo Explosion

    Guy Kawasaki has a great post: How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion. How many is your company guilty of? What about Scobles additions? More importantly – what are you doing about it?
    I hate to admit how many of these Ive see…

  86. Steve Yi February 28, 2006 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Right on, Guy. Ugh, you see it in I.T. all the time:
    http://blogs.msdn.com/steveyi/archive/2006/02/12/530395.aspx

  87. James March 1, 2006 at 3:23 am - Reply

    Any thoughts on http://duckdown.blogspot.com/2006/03/venture-capital-and-enterprise.html

  88. Andrew Hayden March 1, 2006 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Brilliant, almost scary reminder of days gone past. Here are a couple of more:
    – The head of engineering insists everything be designed to military spec regardless of the intended audience and added costs
    – The company throws very expensive launch parties for customers and fails to mention the product, or the name of the company for that matter.
    – The executives spend more time talking to a single consultant than they do to customers.
    – The engineering department spends more time playing foosball in the rec room than they do actually working
    – The CEO has absolute distain for his target audience
    – Everything is “a big secret”

  89. Not What I Expected March 1, 2006 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Corporate Bozosity–in your IT organization?

    I don’t know why, but when I read Guy Kawasaki’s latest, “How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion” I keep flashing on “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” from Anna Karenina. Is that my right brain having a chat with …

  90. Steve Swart March 1, 2006 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    How about your company hires an ex-NFL player who’s allowed to name his own title, and its grammatically incorrect or semantically nonsensical – like the “Vice President of Partnershipping And Strategy”. This happened at the pennsylvania internet once high-flying b2b I used to work for.

  91. Very Interesting March 1, 2006 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Looking over comments… seems that a sign of bozo-fication might be: Defensive manager imagines that the fact that IT workers think people who can’t operate computers are bozos actually MATTERS and is the real reason his company is failing. BOZO.
    Almost ALL techies are like that. Of course, they’re not steering the ship, you bozo.. THAT’S AN ICEBERG, ROIGHT AHEAD, BOZO!

  92. Kris March 1, 2006 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    From my dot com days:
    Your company gives out all sorts of free pens, mugs, slinkies and balls at trade shows, but none of it has the company name or URL on it, just the number 4.

  93. Aditi Mainkar March 1, 2006 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    This is seriously funny stuff!
    One more sign of bozosity :
    1. Having hostshots from all world sites fly in with complex org charts,trying to tell you where you fit in(as a small speck in grander scheme of things) and how exciting that is!

  94. Zoli Erdos March 3, 2006 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    When you’re still a startup, but have farmed out hiring to “recruiters” who clearly don’t understand your business… you are in trouble.

  95. Hira March 4, 2006 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    Walk around and count how many times you hear buzz words like “actionable” and “drive” (as in, “…drive revenues…”) in a five-minute period between 10 AM and 11 AM. If you counted more than 10…
    -h

  96. What About Clients? March 8, 2006 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Fighting Bozo-osity At Your Shop.

    From ex-Apple evangelist and guru’s guru Guy Kawasaki, who gets more visits to his blog in a day than most people see in a month, these fun but serious two posts on preventing a Bozo expolsion and the Bozoification aptitude…

  97. Toby March 9, 2006 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    mediocracy -> mediocrity

  98. Guy Kawasaki March 9, 2006 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Toby:
    This is on purpose: mediocrity combined with bureaucracy = mediocracy.
    Thanks,
    Guy

  99. Joe March 10, 2006 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Guy,
    This is hilarious. I live in Seattle and we been noticing this trend with Amazon.com They want an MBA for everything. They want MBAs who can code. Yeah, I went to school for 18 months and spent $50,000 on an MBA so that I can keep my coding job.
    — Joe

  100. quicklinks March 12, 2006 at 7:47 am - Reply

    How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion

    How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion…

  101. Open Sources by Dave Rosenberg and Matt Asay March 12, 2006 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Surrounding yourself with people smarter than you

    Early in my career, or as someone called it recently, “my tour”, I had a boss who told me that I should always look to work with people who were smarter than I was. Jokes about my stupidity aside, it’s…

  102. The Monster Blog March 14, 2006 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Recognize the Warning Signs of Bozos

    Sometimes the best thing to do is just get out of the way. Whether its a runaway bus, a Google-esque stock slump or a blogger on a mission, there are times when we should all just stand back, watch and

  103. Torben Frandsen March 20, 2006 at 1:50 am - Reply

    More signs:
    When you cut through the pages of BS which is your marketing plan, it boils down to:
    1) Search Engine Optimize
    2) Get Scobleized
    3) If the above doesn’t work, get interviewed on CNN.
    Yes, I’ve seen this. Except they omitted #2.
    Your prioritized objectives are:
    1) Generate more traffic
    2) Attract more investors
    3) Change the product so it’ll accellerate us towards objectives #1 and 2.
    Yep, I’ve seen this one too. Developers proposed a best practice solution, and the CEO told them that investors never look that deep into things, so just make it look sexy, m’kay?

  104. Jaxom April 5, 2006 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Some that top my list.
    1) When your project plan looks like:
    purchase vendor application
    implement (and customize) vendor application
    get training on vendor application
    2) When every RFP you write focusses on what functionality the vendor can deliver but doesn’t bother to ask what requirements the vendor has for input data… “What do you mean we have to track [key data element]? We’ve never done that!”

  105. MP3 Download June 9, 2006 at 3:34 am - Reply

    Startseite – Musicload

    Die Musikdownloadplattform von T-Online mit Songs aus allen Genres. Titel sind im geschtzten Windows…

  106. Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog December 7, 2006 at 6:28 am - Reply

    How to Prevent a Bozo Explosion

    by: Guy Kawasaki It’s depressing to watch a mean, lean, fighting machine of a company deteriorate into mediocracy. In Silicon Valley we call this process the bozo explosion. This downward slide seems inevitable after a company achieves s…

  107. Anonymous September 5, 2015 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    These are all the reasons for struggling juggernaut – Procter and Gamble. So well summarized, 75%+ of this is true in my company.

  108. Johan Lange October 10, 2015 at 1:34 am - Reply

    15. The Creativity in Nominations of Vice Precidents exceed all limits, and stops only when you reach VP Restrooms

  109. Michael Lietz November 2, 2015 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    You left out …finding and firing sadists that destroy hope and creativity.

  110. Scott Jordan (@scottcjordan) March 5, 2016 at 8:06 am - Reply

    The incidence of acronyms within an organization is key to bozometry. As acronyms sprout and spread, bozosity exponentiates.

  111. PaulG March 5, 2016 at 8:19 am - Reply

    The new motto becomes “We are a people business”.

  112. Madhusmita Sharrma June 26, 2016 at 1:48 am - Reply

    -HR people with no technical background do the first level shortlisting of technical guys. I dont find them to be equipped enough to interview a technical question which hardly make any sense to them and worst part when one answers they end up realising that the technical question which you were answering was thrown to you by a nontechnical guy who hardly understands it.
    -HR people ask all POSSIBLE stupid questions and then at the end they say YOU LACK PASSION…!!Over the phone they decide one lacks passion..Wow
    -HR team should ask questions relevant to their department coz when they try to be the ‘Jack of all trades’ they land up becoming ‘Master of NONE’, also demotivating the right candidate.

  113. Wizard of Oz November 6, 2016 at 10:09 am - Reply

    When HR simply e-mails you a link to a third-party employee management platform for your exit package and associated end-of-employment actions. Thus, “Human” Resources can avoid any human interaction whatsoever with employees who are leaving the company and thereby avoid performing a proper exit interview. In this way, senior management doesn’t actually ever have to hear about nor address the bad managers and problems in the company which are causing A players to leave. Plausible Deniability.

  114. Wizard of Oz November 6, 2016 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Seeing a mass exodus beginning, executive management initiates an anonymous survey with required participation by all. While summarizing the results of that survey on a company-wide call, the CEO says with genuine emotion that executive management was shocked, shocked, SHOCKED that the question “Would you recommend to an industry friend that they work at this company?” was answered “No” by 20% of all employees.

    This was immediately followed by the CEO passionately saying: “That’s 1 out of every 5 employees! Why don’t these disgruntled people just get the hell out?” – instead of some flavor of “What are the problems and how can we fix them? We’re going to start now.” You could feel the instant deflation of call participants as the loss of any hope for improvement set in with the CEO’s refusal to even acknowledge a problem.

    Addendum: Immediately after the survey summary, I called a number of people whom I knew worked in bozoville and asked if they were in that 20% of disgruntled. They all gave some version of: “Hell no, I didn’t trust that the survey was truly anonymous and didn’t want to suffer personal backlash until I can find another job I really want and quit.” This means that bozoville was significantly more widespread than executive management originally understood and the “shocking” number was actually closer to 50%.

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