I’m about to spend four days in a management offsite for Red Hat. This is the kind of thing I’m normally quite upbeat about, and I’m sure I will enjoy this one a lot as well. However I confess to some degree of cynicism, made worse by the fact that I have a ton of work to do having just returned from the BVI and I’m annoyed I’m going to fall further behind while spending three days in meetings.
One of the things that is amplifying my cynicism is a lot of talk leading up to this event about “Cascading The Strategy.” “Cascading” in this usage is a business-speak verb for “Define a strategy at the top and get all the managers to faithfully explain it to their staff, and so on through the whole organization.”
Unfortunately this word has for me — in a business context at least — a whole bunch of entirely negative connotations:
- A Cascade only flows one way. The second tier does not have any influence on what the first tier Cascades, and so on. This is not at all in accord with the way we run our business at Red Hat, where open (and high-volume!) feedback on everything is very much the norm.
- It reminds me of the infamous Waterfall Process, in which a “product” flows downhill through various stages until it finally reaches its users. Know what else flows downhill? Ask a plumber…
- It reminds me of sewers and the sewage treatment process itself, in which effluent often flows down a Cascade in order to aerate and purify it (see photo above).
I’m fairly sure that the folks who use this term aren’t thinking of these connotations at all, but rather something beautiful like this:
Even in this case, however, it’s important to keep in mind what happens to someone standing at the bottom of a 979-meter waterfall.