Rebels at Work: The Pragmatist

Carmen Medina’s blog post caught my eye over at Rebels at Work, regarding emerging archetypes for what they call “Bureaucratic Black Belts.”

First, let’s remind ourselves of who BBB’s are and what they do. Bureaucratic Black Belts are those individuals in an organization who have mastered all the ins and outs of both its bureaucratic rules and bureaucratic culture. They are frequently the Professor Moriarty to the Rebel Sherlock, a clever operator, a bureaucratic mastermind, who understands the bureaucracy much better than the Rebel at Work. Asked to figure out how to accomplish a particular goal, they can, like an excellent navigation system, identify multiple routes through the bureaucracy. What they’re usually not so good at is coming up with an original destination. Many BBB’s act as if maneuvering the bureaucracy is its own reward, like solving an English garden maze where, when you’re done, you’re right back where you started from. Most BBB’s believe, almost without thinking, that preservation, sameness, and symmetry are the ultimate purposes of organizational life. - See more at:

Carmen’s post includes a few additional archetypes and asks for more suggestions. My contribution is below.

The Pragmatist. (Briefly labeled the “Vanishing Co-Conspirator,” but that title is misleadingly angry.) These have mastered the internal politics and processes, while embracing warmly the naive Rebel. They are respected within the firm, and occupy the eagle’s aerie - a keen eye on the horizon, their silhouette an inspiration for the more junior aspirants to corporate success. They are spokespersons for the corporate principles, and are trusted marketers for the firm. Privately, they speak as Rebels. They see through the process roadblocks, they can cite the measures that fail to measure real value, and they regale with tales regarding the cultural touchstones regarding ‘how we got here.’ They share the heroic narratives of our forebears, while privately reveling in their flaws. Wisely, they have chosen not the path of change, but of tailored accommodation. Their success lies in changing what they can, but always giving ground on an open and dangerous battlefield. The wise Rebel will rely upon them as archers or spies, as their support must always be out of sight and untraceable. The Pragmatist is not a sellout, but an ally. Their careers will outlast the Rebels, by design.