The Rituals of a Mediocrity Shaman

Greg, our Mediocrity Shaman, pretending to be hard at work. Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

One of the challenges of being a top quadrant provider of global collaboration and productivity PaaS (Parody as a Service) is staying in touch with our customers, especially large corporations. Our culture and people operating system is so unique that our work practices and environment does not reflect that of many of our clients. After yet another outburst from our CTO in a client meeting of “What do you mean you spend all days in meetings?’ we decided we needed to find a better way to bridge the gap.

As a result, CollabSystems is proud to announce the hiring of our first Mediocrity Shaman, Greg. Greg is hard to spot in our office as tends to blend in. Greg dresses in the palette of a Jedi but solely in synthetic fibres. Greg’s role as Mediocrity Shaman is to help keep our organisational culture in touch with the shady grey spirit world of the mediocre.

Greg has already brought profound insights into the bureaucratic, safe and predictable world of our mediocre ancestors. One of the first tasks he undertook was to lead the office in the naming of spirit totems. There is not now an item of office equipment that doesn’t have some employee’s name marked on the side with a permanent marker pen. We have found the increased tribalism troubling but the people of the stapler have largely stopped firing staples at the people of the filing cabinets.

We thought some kind of group exercise would be an ideal way for Greg to lead the group in the rituals of our clients. Greg explained that a sweat lodge was too much effort for the mediocre and as a result we dedicated a week to a workshop that Greg facilitated, complete with sticky notes, butcher’s paper and sweets. When the opening session entitled “Why are we here?” ran for a half day and achieved little more than gathering everyone’s coffee orders, we could see the value of Greg’s work. We still have bowls of the hard little mints all around the office that people pick up absentmindedly before realising the error of their ways.

Like traditional shamans, Greg is a specialist at profound statements that perplex our team in the middle of their work. His mystical questions highlight the world of the mediocre with such gems shared as:

  • Shouldn’t we organise a meeting on that?
  • Whose scorecard is that on?
  • How would we measure success?
  • Who are the stakeholders who have not been consulted?
  • Why would we make the effort, as it’s only going to fail?
  • Are we sure we can proceed without it being perfect?
  • Can I be excused?

In a few short weeks, Greg has brought new connection to the spirit world of our customers throughout the business. Where once there was a lean customer focused sales team, Greg has introduced a complicated initiation ritual called compliance training. When the team finally passes and are able to make a sale then we will see the benefits, but in the meantime customers must wait while employees click their way through interminable online learning. Where once we had a business outcome oriented product team, Greg has implemented a unique large organisation version of Agile rituals which has stopped all work. Decisions that were made on the fly are now subject to long forms and need multiple committees of review, none of which has the ability to authorise any decisions. We now have process maps for process that take longer to read than the process themselves take to execute. Greg even mapped processes we didn’t know we had. Appartently, there is a training session on these additional makework processes next week.

Greg has let us know that he is overworked and already requested three additional mediocrity shamans be hired to work for him. We are not sure the office can cope with that much solitaire being played at once.

Greg was about to bring his magical rituals to the tea room in pursuit of new levels of employee engagement but we had to send him back to his cubicle to communicate with his ancestors before Jerome’s coffee machine was replaced with instant coffee. Somehow while chatting to his grandmother about her health through most of the business day in the hearing of the rest of the office, using his extraordinary powers he managed to pry the lid off the biscuit jar and make all the biscuits stale just by thinking about it.

We have begun to wonder if perhaps a Mediocrity Shaman will be too disruptive for our business in the longer term. Greg has already had a dramatic impact on our culture and bottom line. However, the paperwork that Greg has introduced to make organisational change is so complicated we may be stuck with him. In addition to being a Mediocrity Shaman, Greg has multiple change management qualifications. Shame he hates change. Anyway, Greg has explained that he is due for retirement in 20 years and is happy to wait us out.

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