S2 E104 — Worst Monday Ever. Very, Very Grim …

Given our steep decline, “rounding out” also meant leading during restructuring, and hopefully addressing serious morale issues while injecting more entrepreneurial thinking.

“5”  Steve Kerr, 54:Don’t wait for praise. They seldom say what you want or need to hear. They only see the public result of what you’re doing, but you’re also on a private journey that requires internal reinforcement you’ll have to provide yourself.” Libra

Hi and welcome to Thursday’s Episode 104 in Season 2 of  “My Pandemic Year Natural Experiment” on this 28th day of August in the summer of 2020.  

“The Tau of Steves: What You Don’t Know Could Fill a Book”

Table of Contents

Season One and Two are a two-year examination of how bits of wisdom changed during the “normal” pre-pandemic and then in this unfolding pandemic year.

Previously in Season Two, the Pandemic Year

S2 E103 Confronting Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, Resistance and Unrelenting Stress ; S2 E102Caught by Surprise in a Major Gut-Wrenching Decline; S2 E101The Story of Strange Bedfellows Saving the Day;

Related from Season One, the Normal Year

S1 E104How Yesterday’s Success Triggers Tomorrow’s Failure; S1 E103Innies and Outies and Other Potential Catastrophes; S1 E102Why Is It Always Hidden in the Fine Print?; S1 E101From Saint to Soul Mate and Trusted Friend


This is a continuation of “Volume Two Manuscript — WorkFit” a work-in-progress.

In previous episodes we described Start Up, Emerging Growth, Rapid Growth, Sustained Growth, Maturity and Decline stages.  But, each with the emphasis on how a specific stage provides another better fit opportunity for one or more of 16 Talent Profiles, yours included.

We described two mini case studies of what it was like working behind the scenes at a mature companies in a financial, in a consumer industries and in another century-old university system — Part One and Two. 

22. Internal Consultant MD&T 

Part Three

We now shift to a fourth example of a century-old mature organization, a multinational engineering and construction company, but this time caught by surprise which led to a major decline in Part One. Thrown into chaos for several years we turn to “experiments”to avoid cannibalizing survivors in Part Two.

Southern California Division to Corporate Tower

Paul, my boss, who fast-tracked to the corporate tower approached me to join him on  the 10th floor where Fluor Engineers, Inc were headquartered in a world-wide research, staff, technology and human systems consulting role. 

Basically, reshuffled divisions would send high potential managers into the developmental pipeline. One of my jobs was to select a university executive program customized to strengths and weaknesses of each — what we called “rounding out.”

Consequences of Not Mastering Growth Crises

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

Given our steep decline, “rounding out” also meant leading during restructuring, and hopefully addressing serious morale issues while injecting more entrepreneurial thinking.

180-Degree Shift in Key Success Factors by Growth Stage

Growth Stage Key Success Factor Leading to a Crisis New Success Key
Start Up Loosen Leadership Tighten
Emerging Tighten Functional Loosen
Rapid Loosen Autonomy Tighten
Sustained Tighten Repetition Loosen
Maturity Loosen Control Tighten
Decline Tighten Red Tape Loosen

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

He outlined my consultative role as applying what was learned about the people factors in our study of the implementation of technology pilot, to a new, farther reaching implementation of “3-D” design CAD package in London, Houston, SCD and at Fluor Daniel

Some of the speculation was that in order to compete, Fluor Management has decided to favor “capital-heavy,” instead of “manpower-heavy”. That year alone there was a $14 million budget earmarked for a pilot implementation.

What’s Life Like at the Corporate Headquarters as an Internal Consultant?  

I had “made it to the top”, that is I jumped from a corner cubicle on the concourse in the basement of the Southern California Division to the top of the corporate tower.

My office on the top floor has light tan carpeting, a dark brown mahogany door with matching desk, bookshelves and a round wooden waste basket.  It turned out to be short-lived, but not for the reasons I feared — taking a corporate job which seemed highly risky when every Friday new pink slips delivered doom.

To get to the 10th floor you need a special plastic badge to gain access to the mirrored elevator.  Without it you have to disembark on the 9th floor.  Two imposing dark brown mahogany doors seal off the elevator lobby from the 9th floor reception area on one side and a hallway of light tan carpet and closed wood doors. 

A camera aids the receptionist screening your arrival.  Usually the door clicks automatically and opens to a expansive “living room” style waiting rooms complete with couches, easy chairs, end tables, antiques and oil paintings, Asian screens and expensive pottery pieces.

On the 10th floor you just couldn’t beat the view from two offices down from the President FEI, the Vice President of Human Resources and the son of the previous CEO.  

I gratefully used their secretaries for correspondence and reports on the following projects:  

    • A survey of ergonomic research for Fluor Australia
    • A matrix of advanced management programs for executives for the Houston division, Fluor Nedetherlands, Telecommunications and the Southern California Divisions
    • A HRD role on the implementation of design graphics technology slated for FEI worldwide, launching is SCD, Daniel in Greenville, South Carolina and London
    • A summary of quarterly people development board meetings held in Houston, Ocean Services, Fluor Canada, Northern California Division, Fluor Power in Chicago, Advanced Technology Division in Irvine, Fluor Nederlands, London, Australia, Germany, South Africa and Fluor Arabia.

And, for example, I phoned Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pittsburg to confirm with the admissions staffs enrollment of 6 top key executive-potential managers into their 6-9 week programs.

Initially my assignment had been to work with IT software experts to automate FEI high-potential candidates.

By now the company had become a mature culture which had attracted three out of four talent profiles associated with Systematic-Professional Organizations.

Four Talent Profiles Attracted to Systematic-Professional Organizations

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

To efficiently manage complex systems 114 Brand-as-Experts and 116 Institutional Traditionalists make terrific additions.

Peak Growth Leveling Off in the Maturity Stage

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

They all favored the higher degrees of independence that came with engineering, project management, and staff assignments. 

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

Many viewed themselves as highly skilled professionals, which they were, because it took advanced, specialized degrees to qualify for their professions.

They also took jobs at Fluor, because they worked at their own, slower, more methodical pace.  In “normal” times that was a strength. 

In abnormal times their strengths turned into resistance.  They weren’t the ones, they felt,  who caused the restructuring, so any threat to their status quo wasn’t their fault and meant their delay in “coming onboard” made it too late to change quickly.   They become victim to their own Red-Tape Crisis.

Falling From Maturity into Decline

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

The last place you’d normally find talent profiles from the “red” Paradoxy-Moron Organizational Type would be in a Maturity Growth stage.  They “peel off” when an organization at the Start Up stage “crosses the chasm” into the first of three growth stages, Emerging Growth.  

Four Talent Profiles Attracted to Paradoxy-Moron Organizations

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

They don’t appear again, until in this Decline stage and once more in the next stage, Reinvention.

In short, reversing the risk adverse, red tape-poisoned culture requires outside intervention with a newer perspective while the company restructures, downsizes and outsources costly internal operations.

The outside partnership blends combinations of high degrees of independence with medium degrees of disruptive innovation, speed, embedded knowledge, improvement and mastery.

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

The 113 Idea Packagers work well in settings that require outside-the-system perspective when information filtering contributes to decline. They provide the conceptual framework by which manuals, organizational procedures, and even work assignments are translated and put into action. 

They also tend to be impatient with the bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies, and politics prevalent in many professions, preferring to work informally with others as equals. But, 113 Idea Packagers use cleverness and independent thinking to problem-solve and reinvent, and in an easygoing, unassuming manner prod organizational change and improvement towards restructuring, downsizing, outsourcing and other relevant solutions to the red tape crisis.

Why a partnership with talent from a Paradoxy-Moron culture?

While 102 Thought Leaders share a high degree of independence with 113 Idea Packagers they’re attracted to medium degrees of speed and disruptive innovation.  If the slow moving, status quo-loving cruise ship falls into desperate straights the captain needs new strategic steering and a new sense of urgency to keep from running aground. 

Lessons Learned

I learned on the job — how to improve quality, introduce new technology, teach and facilitate sales teams (I know, right) and at corporate headquarters send high potential managers in the developmental pipeline to university executive programs for rounding out.  

I learned large-scale organizations resist change like an immune system does. That helped me developed and refined my skill and talent to package new ideas — newer ways of doing things better — than what was the tried and true, especially during a decline when hundreds of employees receive their pink slips on Fridays.  

In bad times you need to offer employees outplacement on their way out and continuous improvement so survivors can feel productive and hopeful. 

In good times you need to build a climate for innovation and solicit ideas for growth. We just wanted to identify when our employers and clients should pivot between the two. 

Grim for Survivors

You play if this, then that scenarios.  If lots of companies relocate in or out of a geographical area then what does that mean to employees already working there?  Will there be enough talented people in the labor pool, or do they have to be trained to master jobs created?

So one of the other dark humor jokes we used to amuse ourselves was, “Will the last ones left turn off the lights and lock up?”  And, then one Monday morning a department’s survivors returned to find their boss had hung himself in the middle of the cubicles from the ceiling.

That took the wind out of everyone’s sails. Worst Monday ever. Very, very grim.


It took a while, but Tom and I always wanted to apply some of the techniques to managing your career and our success with outplacement had made “inplacement” for career development an easier sell. I learned some valuable lessons at Fluor over the 5 or 6 years I worked there as a management trainer and internal consultant.


We named it “Rightsizing”. Usually we didn’t make the call. And we could be blindsided. So we just assumed the worst and  anticipated a major shift to give us enough lead time to minimize needless resistance or sabotage.

Anytime you try to maneuver a mature organization away from what had worked so well for so long the entrenched management resists the opposite set of key success factors like your immune system repels diseases.

It takes skill and talent to package new ideas — newer ways of doing things better — than the tried and true, especially during a decline when hundreds of employees receive their pink slips on alternative Fridays like clock work.

Taking My Own Advice – Plans A, B, and Maybe C

When your work for big companies throughout your career you need projects that make you valuable in booming markets and down markets.  Otherwise, we used to joke companies would begin to cannibalize their “human resources just when they needed them to step up.”

I could see the writing on the wall. “Plan B” was to assist Paul in positioning Human Resources in a different, more “developmental role” at Fluor Engineers, Inc. while my networking efforts led to a new job offer, which I took according to my “Plan A”.


Where can you find the best fit?

Consider the type of Organization defined by the intersections of dimensions that define their talent cultures and business models

16 Talent Profiles by Organization Type

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

And if you feel you run out of options, next consider the demands of the next stage of your organization’s stage of growth.

Finding Better Fits for 12 of 16 Talent Profiles by Stage

Talent Profile Growth Stage Organization Type
101 Breakpoint Inventors Start Up Paradoxy-Morons
103 Commercial Innovators Start Up Paradoxy-Morons
105 Marketing Athletes Start Up Emerging-Entrepreneurs
107 Resilient Product Teams Emerging Growth Emerging-Entrepreneurs
108 Core Business Group Emerging Growth Emerging-Entrepreneurs
111 Agile Tiger Teams Rapid Growth Sustaining-Associates
112 Loyal Survivalists Rapid Growth Sustaining-Associates
110 Analytical Specialists Sustained Growth Sustaining-Associates
114 Brand-as-Experts Maturity Systematic-Professionals
116 Institutional Traditionalists Maturity Systematic-Professionals
113 Idea Packagers Decline Systematic-Professionals
102 Thought Leaders Decline Paradoxy-Morons

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

So far we’ve covered each stage beginning with Start-Up to Decline.  But we have one more to include, Reinvention.  So stay tuned.


“3”  Steve Zahn, 51:It is only natural to want to be under someone’s skin the way they are under yours. Does it comfort you to know that perfect balance and mutuality is not the norm in love? Someone always gives more.” Scorpio

No, it doesn’t comfort me, and probably even less so for the love of my life, the beautiful and talented Emma the Baroness! 

Random ones that make me want change my sign.

“3”  Steve Howey, 42:There’s a type of pain that lets up at the exact same time that the job is finished — sweet relief. This won’t deter you from taking the same task on. The more times you do, the easier it gets.” Cancer

If we repurpose this TauBit of Wisdom to a physical realm and exercising it holds more meaning and relevance.  Oh, and learning a new habit to overcome procrastination.  But not as much for today.

“4”  Steve Carrell, 57; Steve Martin, 74; Steve Wozniak, 69: Right and wrong are obvious. Most of life falls into narrower categories. Address the gray areas with different barometers: kind/unkind, effective/ineffective, energizing/draining, etc.” Leo

Hmm.  This may be a reach.  I’ve zigzagged between passion projects.  This one is more work related, but by misreading narrower for narrator, I might turn this into a saying with more relevance for my memoir.

“3” Steve Greene, 34; Steve Guttenberg, 61:You’ll ponder the underlying meanings and connected personal truths. A little goes a long way with this so don’t wallow in the depths. Soon your brain craves either action, comfort or rest.” Virgo

Sure, anybody’s brain craves action, comfort or rest.  How relevant is that for me today?

“5”  Steve Kerr, 54:Don’t wait for praise. They seldom say what you want or need to hear. They only see the public result of what you’re doing, but you’re also on a private journey that requires internal reinforcement you’ll have to provide yourself.” Libra

So does this TauBit of Wisdom apply to my simultaneous experience with my crowdfunding platform, Patreon, and this blog? 

“4”  Steve Aoki, 41: “No one gets to be all one thing today. Introverts will have to do extraverted things and vice versa. Agreeable people will have to have the guts to disagree. Disagreeable people must learn to acquiesce.” Sagittarius

And, all of this happens out of public view in our home or behind a mask!

What’s Going On

Literally Bottled and Set Adrift from KnowWhere Atoll 

    • @knowlabs followers of one or more of my 35 digital magazines organically grew from 4733 to 4807.




    • Saw the movie, didn’t realize that one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly — his detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch book series and Amazon Prime series — also wrote, “The Lincoln Lawyer” which I just finished. Gotta tell you I can’t not see his lead character (Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother) as anyone else but Matthew McConaughey. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by: Holiday Mathis – Creators Syndicate


The Knowledge Path | Know Laboratories | Knowledge Banking | Knowledge ATMs | Western Skies and Island Currents | Best West Road Trip