Dismantling the Fatberg: A Metaphor for Modern Management?

Dismantling the Fatberg: A Metaphor for Modern Management?

Of all the unlikely topics for a riveting documentary, or an article in a relatively serious newspaper, fatbergs rank near the top. For those new to the topic, fatbergs are huge accumulations of fat and waste clogging up UK sewers. Dismantling safely these monstrous lumps of everything humans are not supposed to throw into waste systems is the latest iteration of gripping stories from the sewers. Murder victims, aquatic pigs and criminal gangs have lurked in literature beneath the unsuspecting feet of generations of Londoners.

Maybe some of us have been peculiarly unlucky in the tasks allocated to us. Locating, identifying and dismantling the accumulation of bad decisions, poor results, failure to follow some quite simple rules unobserved over a significant period of time looks remarkably like fatberg taming.

Organisations are understandably shy about admitting the existence, size and composition of their own institutional accumulations, preferring to direct attention towards the sunnier corporate landscape above ground. Meanwhile, who will tackle that messy and unattractive lump of errors generated by previous and current inhabitants of the senior management team?

Being known as the person who clears up corporate and institutional messes should be an advantage: surely all organisations need someone unafraid to wade into the murkier recesses of the corporate plumbing? They might, but would really prefer not to admit it.

Where to start? Identifying the one person, the one event solely responsible for mess beneath your feet or on your desk is impossible and pointless. So is attributing blame. Better to see the clean-up as the priority before the entire system is irretrievably clogged. To those who have climbed into the darker recesses of the company and seen the subterranean reality, make sure the next role is above ground and in the sunshine. You will have earned it.