Friday, July 07, 2006

Death of a Salesman...

I first came to know of Ken Lay and the company he founded back in 1998. The New York Times had published a detailed article describing the culture that Lay and his management team had created at Enron.

I had more than a passing interest in the Times article as my work as an organizational psychologist mostly focused on building entrepreneurial organizations.

The article described how the management of Enron had created a free-for-all entrepreneurial work environment where managers at all levels were encouraged to find all kinds of ways to increase business and profits. Lay's vision was that everyone associated with the company could become rich.

Kenneth Lay had almost a messianic zeal about promoting innovation. The son of a preacher, as a child he sold newspapers, baled hay and learned how to make money.

I believe Lay became victim to his own hype. He was a super-salesman who was in denial even as the company he created disintegrated.

In the end, a very sad story. A man who was deeply committed to creating a great company and to contributing to his community ends up destroying the lives of many he believed he was helping.

Somewhere, there is a lesson to be learned in the Ken Lay story. Any thoughts?