Symbiosis, The Reason For The Greek Crisis

greek crisis symbiosis

Scott Berkun is a man of many talents, plus a notebook. It’s only after i met Scott and his team that i discovered his writing skills and thought process. It’s usually the other way around. First you read the book and then you eagerly want to meet the writer.

Scott’s latest book, Mindfire, was the reason for thisinterview and among the questions one caught my attention.

Q: Do you think there is a cautionary tale in the rise of power of the project/program manager relative to Microsoft? How might you prevent that in other companies?

Think of Microsoft as a large organization not as a company. With 92.000 employees (not counting the contractors), Microsoft is an organization with 1/100 of the size of Greece. The analogy is pretty clear and Scott’s answer is the only one needed to understand the Greek crisis.

A: The short answer is too many cooks. The long answer is, in the case of Microsoft and most successful companies, decay and bloat are inevitable. The story of PMs at MSFT is just part of that. You can’t be lean and have 100,000 employees at the same time. Some roles don’t increase in value as you add people, particularly meta-roles (e.g, leads, managers, etc.) Somewhere along the way the ratio of PMs to engineers got out of control, and as soon as PM types were in charge of controlling that ratio, it’s not a surprise no corrections were made. Over a few years it becomes part of the culture, and all the developers expect PMs to be there to protect them or do the annoying work. It becomes symbiotic. In some cases, it’s codependent, but not always. The basic rule I was taught, which has been forgotten, is make the tough choices. If you can’t make decisive choices, you’re lost. I bet if we asked most PMs at Microsoft (or managers at any large company) if there are too many PMs, they’d passionately agree. The problem and the solution is all right there.

This is exactly what happened to the Greek state. The relationship between parliament members and other authority figures became symbiotic with the people of the state. It was in the best interest of every part of this symbiotic system to maintain the status quo.

Unlike Microsoft’s shareholders, the people of the Greek state only care for one this and one thing only: maintain the symbiosis. The situation was win-win after all, no one really care about changing, optimizing and tweaking the system. Thus the Greek crisis.

What an irony. Symbiosis (from Ancient Greek sýn “with” and bíōsis “living”), a Greek word explaining the Greek crisis.

In a symbiotic mutualism, the clownfish (pictured above) feeds on small invertebrates that otherwise have potential to harm the sea anemone, and the fecal matter from the clownfish provides nutrients to the sea anemone. The clownfish is additionally protected from predators by the anemone’s stinging cells, to which the clownfish is immune.