Department Naming Theory

I’ve carried a theory around for some time now about department names, it’s a bit cynical but I’ve found that it works as a good measure of organisational motivation.

The theory goes like this:

You only have a department when you need to control something. Then you name the department after the thing that you want to stop happening.

Think about it:

  • You create a department called IT because you want people to stop going out and buying all of those computers and applications.
  • You create a department called Purchasing because you want to stop people buying things.
  • You create a department called Financing to stop money being spent.
  • You create a department called Facilities Management to stop people messing about with the facilities.

I’m not sure where this theory came from because I’ve held it for so long; there is an inkling that it belonged to a previous manager but that’s as good as it gets.

Like I say, its a cynical viewpoint, but I’ve found it to be a wonderful counter-balance to understanding organisational motivation.

Now consider this, in most organisations the IT department reports into the finance department. So what does that make the motivation of the IT department?

This theory is one of the reasons that I dislike this diagram from a colleague:

The reality is that the Enterprise IT organisation in this situation has done EXACTLY what they were asked to do as a subset of the Finance organisation. If you want Enterprise IT to do something different then you need to build something different and not call it the IT Department!

2 thoughts on “Department Naming Theory”

  1. Agreed – I also have this perspective – I’d add the HR dept is designed to stop you recruiting people. But it makes me wonder, outside of my IT-view of the world if there were any other, equivalent to IT, things that causes as much disruption to a company.


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