How Not to Run an Organization: A Parable
BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Gar oo chgar/there was and wasn’t (or in English “once upon a time”) a dreamer, Ergonfound, who loved an activity called mostfunthing and, being Armenian, wanted to create a group so all Armenians would have the opportunity to partake of this joy.
For years, Ergonfound poked around trying to figure out a way to achieve the delightful goal. Then, one day, at a gathering with officials from Armenia, PF heard about another who shared the love of mostfunthing who had great contacts. Excitedly, they got together and hatched a plan to achieve the highest level of mostfunthing. They found more people like themselves and got them involved, too. They raised money, funded a practice run, reached out across the U.S. and the world to Armenian high achievers of mostfunthing. But, things fizzled. Ergonfound, being committed to the dream, kept rounding up names of those who might be interested.
Then, quite unexpectedly, in the unlikeliest place, Ergonfound met Egofound. Egofound, it turned out, shared the dream! Both were thrilled and over the coming months enthusiastically set up more and more opportunities to do mostfunthing. Armenians doing mostfunthing became a regular occurrence.
Then one day, Ergonfound, intoxicated by the ether of doing mostfunthing, came up with a clever name, Mofun, which helped get ever more Armenians involved. By this time, a group of regulars had coalesced and served as the core, the founders, of Mofun.
Soon, BigArmoDate was to arrive. Mofun kicked into high gear, and a multiday event dedicated to BigArmoDate raised money for a worthy Armenian cause. This really made the group gel because many people did a lot of good work and got acquainted. More people started to take on responsibilities. Opportunities to do mostfunthing in far places were coordinated and enabled by Egofound
Egofound also had the idea of honoring Armenian high achievers in the mostfunthing world, on a day named after the first Armenian mostfunthing high achiever.
Ergonfound realized that some order would be needed, and after discussing it with Egofound, they agreed to prepare a set of bylaws to bring to a big gathering of Mofun so all the members could discuss, amend, and adopt a set of rules. Alas, a very few weeks later, Egofound told Ergonfound to forget about the bylaws because after talking to a few of the more involved members, the consensus was to drop the project. Ergonfound felt a bit disconcerted by this type of underhanded action, but decided to ignore it and continue the work of building Mofun.
Involvement in organizing Mofun activites grew as did the types of activities. Mofun’s “birthday” parties and other social gatherings brought together people who didn’t even do mostfunthing, that’s how great the atmosphere was.
All this growth really made it necessary to give Mofun some structure. A meeting of the most involved members concluded that a set of bylaws should be drafted. A group of volunteers, including Ergonfound and Egofound, took on the task. But Egofound kept undermining the process, ultimately sabotaging it, causing serious tension.
Meanwhile, Egofound went behind everyone’s back and created a Mofun branch in Armenia. . Despite the hurt feelings this caused among the organizing members for being circumvented, soon, good work was being done in the homeland, and again, everyone was mostly happy.
As time went on, a few all too human organizational failings began to distract people from the founding purpose of Mofun. People’s natural proclivities as social animals began to supplant the primary purpose of the group. As a result, Egofound, who was very amiable, had ample free time, and interacted extensively with the members started to get “worshipped” as “the leader” in a way that seemed almost cultish, idolatrous.
This adulation and a “my-way or the highway” approach to things by Egofound led to missteps. Some people were pushed out of the group for insubstantial reasons of mere personality. Anytime things did not go Egofound’s way on an issue, the “I quit” tactic came into play (meaning Egofound would say “if we don’t do what I want, I’m resigning”). People thought Egofound was so indispensable to Mofun that they always knuckled under to Egofound’s wishes.
It got so bad that Egofound even marginalized Ergonfound, with whom they had jointly started this group of mostfunthing enthusiasts. Finally, drunk with power, Egofound’s behavior became unacceptable. People started retreating from their energetic participation in Mofun, or they were pushed out. Egofound overestimated the popularity and respect people had and starting making mistakes, behaving churlishly and childishly.
Finally, Egofound angered too many people and the “I quit” crybaby tactic didn’t work. People actually accepted the resignation. But, it was too late. Others resigned too. The once wonderful group went into a tailspin.
But a few weeks later, Egofound came blazing back, usurping Mofun’s publicity mechanisms (social media and communications channels) and “excommunicating” anyone who “dared” say or do anything to displease the self-proclaimed only-decision-maker for Mofun.
All Ergonfound could do was watch tearfully.
Everyone was tremendously saddened.
All they could do is start anew.
Be alert in your involvements. If you see someone developing into an Egofound, quickly address the problem before it is too late.
Link: How Not to Run an Organization: A Parable