Long story short, the guy was making stupid technical decisions (some of which were incredibly harmful to the project), he was unable to complete his tasks within a reasonable timespan, he was dictatorial and argumentative with other developers despite lacking technical expertise and a plethora of other issues. A few developers got together, went to his boss, told him about the situation (basically what I wrote above, though in a more tactful way), managed to convince the boss that the guy is a major liability and a risk to the project and succeeded in removing him from the project. The project is now successful once again.
It was an incredibly risky move in my opinion but it succeeded because the devs were organized, disciplined and tactful and presented their case to the higher ups in a rational and reasonable manner. If you're dealing with a situation like this, it helps to stay calm and try to not come off as a moaner/potential power grabber or something worse. It's risky but it can be done.
What about if "guy" == "son and "boss" == "father"? Any tips? :)
More accurate: 100 years ago it was an intensely studied era, as the West struggled to understand what had allowed it to conquer the whole world. But it is an era that has gone out of fashion. It is not now widely studied.
But even now, the subject is not unknown. The person who did the best comparison of modern entrepreneurs and the old sea faring culture was Ted Goranson, in a small pamphlet called "Whale of a Tale." It is tragic that this pamphlet is now out of print. It used to be that you could find a copy on Amazon, but now it seems to be gone. It was only 25 pages, and did a brilliant job showing how the old laws and cultures of the seafaring nations became the basis for the modern understanding of entrepreneurs.
I understand that his "whale" story was incorporated into the book he eventually wrote:
I have not read the book so I can not vouch for it.
In his pamphlet, Goranson did a great job of arguing that whaling ships were the worlds first Virtual Agile Enterprises. Very insightful reading.
That single strategic factor makes stories of mutinies dramatically interesting, but it also leaves me puzzled (even after reading the article at hbr.org) as to why the author of the article at hbr.org expects his book or his article to shed much light on situations in which all parties have recourse at any time to a judical system with a strong centuries-old commitment to the preservation of the rights of property and its duly appointed "agents" (i.e., the managers of the corporation).
ADDED. Well, yeah, for a group of employees with a bad boss to go over the boss's head to try to get the boss removed has some resemblance to a mutiny on a ship, but why rely on this rather tenuous connection between mutinies on wooden ships and "modern employee mutinies"? Why not directly study cases when in this day and age employees tried to get their boss removed? Because reading about mutinies on wooden ships is more fun? Because it makes for drama that can be converted into page views?
ADDED. Another huge difference is that for an employee to leave the ship during the voyage means being stranded 1000s of miles from civilization, which is a much bigger deal than walking away from unvested options or the chance of a pension.
Depending on the country. There is probably an interesting relationship between the openness of the business system (how easy is it to quit and get a different job) and how much people feel the need to fight to reform their current job.
I know that in Eastern Europe there is still a culture that feels that past a certain age it is difficult to find a new job, and so one must stick with one's current job, and mutiny if the leadership is very bad. (To some extent, that attitude is everywhere, but it is much stronger in some areas of the world. The English speaking nations seem to lead the way in assuming that quitting and hiring and firing should all be fairly free.)
* bypasses all "managers" to assign tasks direct to the employee
* never has a meeting asking for suggested fixes, just what he thinks he should do
* will not support any directives not thought up by him
This is not standard "every office" has this paranoia. My friend has a long history of employment and they know the difference.
The problem is that they grew to care about the rest of the staff. My friend fancies himself the protector and even for a time was |---| close to heading up company operations. Nevertheless, it never happened.
My point is that the company is ripe for just such a mutiny. People are unable to do their jobs effectively and it's caused such a turtling effect that nobody wants to stick their neck out anymore.
But a mutiny wouldn't help, would it? Would it?
All my friend can see is more divisiveness separating the ownership from the employees who are already treated as a line in the expense ledger. If the owner could, he'd do everyone's job and he'd do it better than they could.
A mutiny would do nothing more than to reinforce that he thinks people have a bad attitude, as opposed to realizing one exists because of the situation.
Everyone where my friend works want to see the company continue to succeed. But what incentive is there for people to care when you are treated as if your input is meaningless?
This sort of strategic mutiny is made possible in California by its employee friendly laws which make "non-compete" clauses unenforceable and ownership claims over work the employee does outside the office difficult.
In the case of a small company, strategic mutinies like this can be fatal to the original company because often times expertise is concentrated into a single individual. When management is aware of that, it is sometimes possible to 'mutiny in place' where a meeting with management is held where the choice is provided to change or potentially lose the entire company. Such mutinies have a somewhat more checkered outcome of the ones I've been aware of (two succeeded and three "failed" in that the strategic group ended up walking out anyway). In larger companies a group of 10 - 15 folks can walk out and cause pain but not a mortal wound to the parent company.
In this case, I think a mutiny is far less likely because the valuation of talent is far less than its true worth. In this case, the staff just needs to win back their own confidence that they are good enough to find a place where they may be appreciated more as opposed to teaching an old dog new tricks.
Recently an outside corporate executive from a competitor was brought on board and the first thing he marvelled at was the lack of any sort of culture the place had. To him, it felt more like a gas station than the hip place he had come from.
The company is in a very "young" niche (extreme sports retail) so to see something more akin to a 70's office pool blew his mind.
Also, a mutiny gathered steam inboard a ship because poor management of ship and resources was life threatening. A lot of folks in a poorly managed company still live a comfortable lifestyle and take home a large paycheck (cough Yahoo! engineers pre-Mayer) so have little incentive to join a mutiny which might jeopardize that.
I think it's important to make a distinction between the typical infighting of corporate politics, in which one organization (or leader) wins out over another, resulting in a round of layoffs and re-orgs where one of the leaders comes out on top, and a mutiny, in which those subordinate to an ultimate leader of a firm (CEO) take control.
In the scenario of a mutiny on a ship, this is done by force. In the scenario of the modern public corporation, the CEO is subordinate to the board of directors, and I'm struggling to come up with an example in which the subordinates of a CEO displaced that CEO. Certainly not by force, and almost never by doing an end-run around the CEO to the Board of Directors, except in the case of fraud/violations of corporate policy - which I don't really consider a Mutiny, but more of a reporting of violations to the Board of Directors, in which the Board makes a decision.
I agree with the parent - It really is very, very rare (still trying to think of an example) in which anything more than a departmental mutiny takes place. The CEO's job is usually quite secure (until the Board decides otherwise) - it is much more often the case that those individuals simply leave and go form their own venture (The traitorous eight)
Strictly speaking, yes, but certain values are much more likely to lead to mutiny if disrespected. I'd like to think most managers would get deposed/abandoned pretty quickly if they disrupted their employees' access to food and safety.
The organization seemed to work like an organism - every new idea was treated like a foreign body. Rightly so, because when you have that many jobs at stake, the wrong idea can get the whole business sick. The projects that went through acted like a virus in that environment... until they reached the political cloud.
At levels below VP, we operated as a relative meritocracy. At levels above that, power was limited, so for someone to win others had to lose. If you wanted to push an initiative above that level, you had to bet on the right SVP. At that point you start seeing them play out the House of Cards mutiny style in action: the "Piss sideways to avoid splashing and to lessen the noise" kind. Needless to say, I left to do a startup.
(edit) presumably that includes the scrum master.
The problem with deposing bad leadership is that it usually likes being bad, because it's more fun for such people to be arbitrary, capricious and mean than to actually hold themselves responsible for making good decisions. You're going to have to find a "good guy" executive to lead the fight and, often, there aren't any. They've all been driven out, and bad guys or apathetic people remain (most corporate execs aren't "evil" in the sadistic sense, but merely apathetic and corruptible.)
Effective corporate mutinies don't come from rabble-rousing. They come from executive turmoil. You have to create a Red Team and a Blue Team and set them against each other in an all-out war with no quarter and existential stakes. Warning: you'll probably lose your job even if your side wins.
Usually, successful corporate mutinies lead to the winning executive contingent becoming powerful, but their supporters (including those who started the mutiny) being the thrown-aside "useful idiots". So that's another problem with it.
I love the idea of corporate mutiny, but I've also seen enough to realize that it rarely works. It's better to just let brain-drain take care of it (and be part of the drain, too).
In one mutiny, during a pretty significant re-org/layoffs, part of our organization had been sold to another (perceived to be inferior) company - the majority of the organization (that hadn't been laid off) - was just happy to still have a job, but a select group of technical employees decided (under the direction of a strong ring leader) - that they would not go to the other company. The ringleader was able to get five or six key technical employees to mutiny with him, and that would have been sufficient to jeopardize ongoing operations. His demands were met, and they were able to stay with initial company. No retribution ever occurred, and they had several successful years as employees.
Another attempt at clear-cut mutiny that I've seen, was a technical leader who was not fond of his manager, reach out to a competing organization (In a clear cut Red/Blue scenario) in the company, and volunteered to "take all his employees over" to that organization. The manager, for whatever reason, forwarded the email to the technical leader's manager, and that technical leader was then terminated the next morning for "insubordination." - Over the next two to three months every single member of that team resigned their jobs in protest, causing disruption for the next several quarters at the company. Mutiny both failed, and caused great disruption to the company.
The OP article is pretty good - it captures pretty much all of the elements that make for mutiny, and the circumstances in which it can be successful, and how it takes place.
One person was leader of a newly formed team, and a kind of star programmer (that actually delivered). That person started to bypass the most direct boss, and talk directly to the CEO, frequently.
So we have a CEO that like the "victim", and a person between CEO and "victim" that want to get rid of the "victim" because he is a potential threat.
Then "victim" has some health issues, and start to code much slower... the "boss" attempts to fire him, but CEO rescue him.
Then "boss" awaits for CEO go some months later to a meeting, asks "victim" to show his finished project (the deadline was still next week, but "boss" claimed he could review now), declares it as failed, and fire him in a very public way, forcing him to exit the building with all of his stuff immediately and leave all his credentials and keys behind. Also "boss" stealthly sets up some e-mail filter, so "victim" cannot mail the CEO.
Other employees realized what happened, and most of them quit (Even several ones that had nothing to do with the "victim")
"boss" gambled, he was the favourite of CEO, and he knew that a public firing could not be undone by the CEO, because the CEO would not do anything that looked like a public punishment... Indeed, CEO did nothing, except watch his ship almost sink (it did not sunk, they could hire another team after about a year and a half...)
The boss of the team decided that there were good fees to be had, and so went to key players and tried to bid for the contract direct to the client under his own banner, in effect trying to form a company and go into competition with his current employer. The plan was to stitch up the contract for the second phase of the contract by underbidding, and pocket a portion of the massive fees being paid by the client to the consulting company.
He came to me with an offer of more money if I threw my lot in with him. I agreed to do so, $$$ flashing in front of my eyes.
Of course someone leaked the entire deal to the consulting company management and we all got sacked on the spot and I learnt my lesson which is to be very cagey about these types of things. It didn't worry me about losing the job, I wasn't into it much anyway, and I did actually get paid out a notice period, which was generous on their part (perhaps it was go-away money). But at a more crucial phase of a career it could have been very damaging.