I am not a huge fan of AdAge since it seems to revolve around old advertising techniques/media and big behemoth brands and agencies that I don’t work with, but this article about why most company websites suck was very interesting and very true. I believe that the highest paid person’s opinion (hippo) is what drives the development and makes decisions on what happens with most products and web sites. Even in a web site company.
I saw this happen at my last job, and the decisions were so contrary to what should have been happening that it nearly drove me mad. I left thinking I would find a better place to work and I did, but the rule still applies here to a lesser extent. The subtle difference is that I am higher paid now, so I have somewhat more say and my data and research disprove a lot of bad ideas from the start.
In the interest of getting things done quickly and quietly without any discussion or debate, management usually critically limits the decision makers in most every decision to less than 3 people who share the same brain. (epic fail!) One, (a hippo) to make the decisions, and two others to say “yes” and find a way to justify it with data, research and sell it to everyone else. This may be the entire reason that the newspaper industry can’t make any money on the web.
The article points out that these hippos are the people least in contact with the customer and therefore have the least information possible about what the customer needs, thinks and wants. Golfing at country clubs and jetting around to accept awards does not put you in contact with customers or vendors or really at all with your company’s processes. This kills me. I can’t resolve how this happens and people get away with it except that once you have gained the trust of the upper management they pull you further and further away from your purpose with bonding exercises and sporting events. Management should be hands on without micromanaging and still interact with the finite details of the day to day operations. Without this you get one hand erasing what the other has accomplished, opposing directions for initiatives and a general clusterfuck in processes. In general this also plagues most of American businesses and I think contributes to our crap economy not evolving fast enough.