The Business Doctor

'eradicating the Mad Management Virus'

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ban the Boss - BBC1

Just when managers thought it was safe to come back out......

Monday 2nd August 10.30pm BBC1
Tuesday 3rd August 1030pm BBC1

Ban the Boss at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. The Binmen, Recycling Crews and Mechanics taking over the lead! 


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Which One Are YOU!

In most organisations, permission is required for employees to do things, particularly if this is outside of their daily routine.  In most organisations there are limited options for employees to function and there are inflexible structures. Once you are for example in ‘Marketing’ you cannot escape, unless you move organisation! Policies, rules, and guidelines tend to 'control' staff. Indeed my Dean who is pushing this thing called ‘Social Innovation’, recently stated in an email that she was appointed as Dean knowing the School was a bureaucracy and therefore she had to ensure the procedures, policy and rules were followed. How then can we have ‘Social Innovation’ as a core theme in the Business School if this is not practiced by the ‘leader’ or at least challenge the bureaucracy above?  

You see, in my organisations, people are treated and seen as individual who are, fluid and dynamic and who’s interest change over time. In my organisations, no permission is needed to do things, only responsibility to ensure the customers are satisfied within the core values/boundaries. The structures we are in, are changeable, emergent and fluid, with individuals who have unlimited options to do what ever it takes. The focus on boundaries the values become the guidance. Life becomes the main understanding of organisations, not the machine doctrine, which mirror clocks not nature.

We need to establish the simple yet difficult principle that we are buying talent not time. Everyone in the organisation needs to be a personnel manager, operational manager, finance manager, strategist, marketing manager…..and anything else needed at the point of contact with service users/needs of customers.  This new 'manager-throughout' means everyone needs to talk, but above all, listen to ALL employees, staff, competitors, non-users etc. on a minute by minute, hour by hour basis. How else do we maintain a Competitive advantage in this fast changing 21st century, if not via change through the people who actually deliver the service/product.

However, this is not easy as anyone leading people will know. Many issues impact on the organization but the biggest is the one of trust. Without trust nothing else works in the organization. With trust we have creativity, risk taking throughout and within our values as boundaries and we have customer as well as intelligent satisfaction. With trust we create simple but effective flexible performance. By this, I mean the product or service is delivered to the customer’s independent individual satisfaction. The employees with trust count the decision makers not just the implementers for the system. Great companies understand this, live this through their actions and it pays dividends. Great companies don't strive for efficiency they strive to be effective (efficiency follows).

For lots of employees, work means a daily torture, within a boring, arduous, energy-sapping , eight hours of wasted life. Yet in my organisation work becomes interesting,  fun, energising, creative, exciting, with life merging without any hours attached. If work is completed in six hours or a ten hours, no one cares, staff or leaders, as long as the customers are satisfied.

Impossible!!! You only have to ask the Recycling Teams at Blaenau Gwent Council, Environmental Services how its done. Why? Well as an example, some of the frontline crews, after a shift collecting waste are going out in the evening (when most people are home!) to ask if the homes they collect from, could recycle more to save the planet.

This is true ownership and empowerment in action….in a council…without job losses…making a saving in financial terms and still increasing a service to the public….. WELL DONE BGCBC! 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Step Back & Emerge

The use of complexity theory in leadership, management and organization is built around a fundamental architecture. This architecture is simplistic but built upon the foundations of human subjectivity, fluidity and dynamics.

The starting place to this foundation is emergence from the interaction of agents (people) who mutually affect each other and create a new world, thinking or understanding. This interaction is NOT controllable only influenced by those in the system (hence here is the problem of tools and theories implemented in organisations). The influence is certainly around, at this stage of my research about core human values. Trust, openness, honesty, fun, love, passion, commitment… I could go on, but people gel with other people of similar values and the spiral if positive values move up or indeed forward in organizational sustainability terms.

If the negative values such as distrust, lies, hate, fear, insecurities etc attract in an organization then the spiral is downward. You cannot control the spiral as attractions take place regardless of rules, regulations, value statements, etc. This is sometimes called the ‘shadow system’ or real systems. Hope you are still with me….its very rare I have an academic writing moment here in my blog….

My point here is that Leaders should attend to relationships characterised by mutuality or core values among people, among teams, and among departments, in order for novelty to emerge and for this novelty to be aligned with strong core human values. Unfortunately in these times of austerity, some ‘Managers’ are attempting to create their world, in which they are Queen/King so to control others and make their reign stronger. This is at best grossly mistaken for its actions not words or statements that dictate what’s emerges from social systems. As small changes lead to large effects. Removing Research at our a Business School for example stops, cutting edge thinking but also has consequences yet to be realized.

So with all my change processes and advice is that I always seek change through many small trials, led by the teams/people themselves, but with the core boundaries directing these systems forward. For Emergence and new behaviour in human systems is certain, but there is no certainty as to what it will be. Good leaders create the conditions for constructive emergence rather than trying to plan every strategic goal in detail. Try to step back and evolve solutions, do not design them. If you try to design them, you will miss the real system, as you will be worrying about details! Oh yes and one really important bit of experience, always seek diversity; of people, cultures, expertise, mindsets, personalities, gender, etc…. oh and then build in confidence to make mistakes, take ownership and have fun, so that when staff interact with others, the emergence of new is democratic, honest, transparent and real.

The problem with what I have experienced so far in many companies is that the control freak is rampant, the devious people group with other devious people and we have a downward spiral of negative, mediocre, untrustworthy individuals.

Hope as a leader you live the values, because if you do not, you in all probability won’t get away with it….. at some one the system will either end (dissipate – the people will all leave for example) or the system will remove the person causing the negative spiral.

However, whilst this sounds as if the system will eventually sort itself out as the agents (people) will evolve, the problem is that many agents with positive values suffer.

Its time to have democracy, open debate about awful leaders and have the ability as frontline staff to vote in as well as out the tyrants who infiltrate the organisations seeking power, money and status above the core values of human systems. 

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Have a Cup of Tea Instead...

I just had to join in on a CMI conversation yesterday on Performance Appraisals and their use in companies. Well you can already guess that I do not favour them that much! Why? Well I have dealt with the consequences of "Appraisals' 'Performance Reviews' culture for over 20 years now, both in Public and Private organisations as an academic and change agent (sorry not sure what that means ‘change agent’, but trying to avoid the word Consultant). They are an un-mitigating disaster in organisations, both private and public sectors. Indeed, in my time at Glamorgan University I have avoided being appraised for the whole 6 years there…. Now that takes some doing!

They are like most academic theories, wonderful on paper and as a set of instructions, but hopeless in real life practice. Indeed, if the world was neat, ordered, uniform, and staff cogs in the machine world, with perfect information and objectivity; they would be perfect, just the answer to all the mess we have in our companies created by our employees, as detailed above.

Indeed, it was Demming in the 1980's who called Appraisals the 'number one disease in USA Companies' adding that they were the 'Sterile paper chase' causing untold damage to staff morale and performance. I would add here that in my view that is a bit extreme, but they (Performance Reviews) are rarely completed correctly and always have unintended consequences’. They are also a clear sign that managers are out of touch, relying on HR ‘systems’ to help and therefore not leading very effectively.

You also have to consider the costs directly associated to the collection and management of these reviews, add in at the same time the problem of truly understanding how, what, why, when etc. the employee carries out his/her function. Then throw into the mix this thing called ‘subjectivity’ in human interaction and we have a huge potential for ‘issues’.
I suppose it comes down to the problem that if you have to be forced into doing these appraisals as part of your management, then perhaps you are in the wrong job!? Management is about people! Getting the best out of people, creating value through individual employees and allowing people to achieve outcomes (not output!) their way, within core values. If you truly lead people, then formalizing reviews such as these become impossible and each person will be different or messy as I put it. Never fitting into the neat little box, we call employees.

Its also interesting to ask, just how many managers actually know (any more) what, how, why etc the jobs need to be done? We have an idea of course, more so if we live the ‘Performance Review’ on a daily basis (i.e. talk to staff, support and facilitate help) and not rely on a yearly formal meet and if we did that, we would not have time for the PR’s thing, as we would be too busy leading the company.

Is this a bit strong? Sorry of if it is, but I have seen so much nonsense in companies with Performance Reviews or PRP, or Appraisals being just one of the big ones…

I am sure Performance Reviews, Appraisals, will soon go the way of the ‘Targets’ culture in Policing….out!

If you are still not convinced then just ask one question at the Appraisal “Why should you be led by me?” …then sit back and breath in the reply, then go and have a cup of tea together....
Cheers Paul

Friday, 9 July 2010

Lets Rid the World of Managers

I’ve had a great week this week, with some wonderful outcomes and I sometimes delight at being me. With a role that helps people achieve their potential, without any pre-conceptions or worries I am truly privileged . Indeed one definition read recently about leadership, stated that the good leader creates other leaders around them.

However, it’s Friday and feeling a little despair I worry over the future. I seem to deal with and experience some truly awful managers, management and actions in my day job, company visits and change programmes. Not all of course, and one exception this week one lovely Scots lady said that I had made a huge difference to a factory and more importantly to her in the work place. No more a greater compliment can a person like me receive. Indeed, comments like that are what energise my whole drive to change the world…. Well okay Managers, but the world is next.

However we must not forget there are more awful managers than good leaders.

A bad manager can take a good staff and destroy them. Causing the best employees to run and jump ship, and the remainder to lose all motivation and decay from the inside. We see this at Glamorgan Business School at the moment.

Just the notion that someone has been promoted to the position of Manager or Dean does NOT; mean that they are particularly intelligent, hard working, capable, thoughtful, astute, considerate, talented, open-minded, or worthy.

The problem I see in most organisations is that the person who is the most aggressive, socially inept, devious, expert manipulators and lacking morals gain promotion! …..and the very notion they have authority over you because they are expert in your field or well connected is again misguided. Look of course, you may be the exception from the rule if you are a leader reading this, but most are not! The bigger the organisation the more you will in one sense get-away with it and rise to the lofty heights of power. More so if it seems its an organisation in a “Public Sector” institution like, say a University. I think this is so, as a result of the confusion of roles and responsibilities. ‘Its not my job…its HR responsibility’ to sort out the problem managers, is something I hear quite often….

The sad truth is, that whilst most managers conform to the well-known living embodiment of the "Peter Principle" ... that is, they have been promoted to their level of incompetence. Most rise above this level and continue to do untold damage, simply those above are even worse than the one below. What’s worse is they may actually believe they are the manager because they are somehow superior, when in simple terms they are by any definition completely dysfunctional and suffer from some kind of learning disorder!
I suppose the lack of respect for some managers receive is a very serious problem that can make the life of the employees quite miserable. Indeed, research from various bodies tells us the damage these men and women deal out on a daily basis. We spend out a fortune on Counselling for employees, support for those victimised by these idiot managers and yet fail to do anything regarding the cause itself!! Do you think we have got it wrong? Or is it just me?
One thing I always bleat on about is democracy in the workplace. It has to be better than management…..well, it cannot be any worse surely! 
Have a great weekend all you leaders....

Sunday, 4 July 2010

More Social Innovation - Just When we Thought it Was Safe..

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." I say this as I’ve just read an email by our illustrious ‘leader’ reminding me of the torcher, that the UN would love to investigate, as I am sure our human rights were suspended in our away-day. Okay, I know it was at a posh hotel, with posh coffee and a posh room, which I am confident cost in excess of £3000 (this is without the top 60 brains in the UK being costed in to this amount!) at a time of severe austerity. It was a day in which all the positive research; individual core beliefs and research agendas were to be suspended in order 'to do'... ‘Social Innovation’ in all our ‘products’…. I hate that word. Do Universities supply ‘products’….I’m sure they don’t and any self-respecting academic would never refer to their work as a production process, linear, simplistic and measurable! Its not, so I would suspect that the Vision of the Business School (I don’t believe that you can have a ‘corporate vision’…its more management speak, as if the organization is a single human-being) would allow for this and the fact it cannot be measured. Ahhhh nope…… they want an audit of the modules which have Social Innovation, and don’t, so those that don’t, can have the words ‘Social Innovation’ placed in at regular points.

Look my point is simple. Social Innovation is action, not just words, it’s a belief system not just ‘products’, it’s a way of life not just a form. You are ‘Social Innovation’ or you are not. Most academics are, but that does not impact of their stance or belief, their ontology and epistemology. Multiple discourses in education and life shape what we include in our life, what are we able to think, speak about and imagine. Our lives are embedded in educational systems, documentation and policies, which may stem from academic and research and literatures but would also include professional magazines and the experience and practices per se. This allows the complexity of the present indicated by talk within the social world to offer useful ways to attempt to understand for example leadership. Giddens (1994) has called "manufactured uncertainty" of the present where many of our contemporary problems are the result of previous human interventions including those based on scientific knowledge in their natural and social worlds. We know, indeed it was presented by two external speakers that ‘democracy’, freedom, trust, bottom-up leadership were the way forward and underpins ‘Social Innovation’, yet we get ‘commands’ to place into all modules irrespective of the ‘social’ values of each academic! It seems the mechanical engineering metaphors still dominate most management discourse (including ours), Education and thinking and whilst ‘organic’ approaches may have a higher feel-good factor, it fails to influence those charged with satisfying shareholders.

The traditional view of the linear supply chain and ‘controlled employee’, while useful for academic analysis for example, is well recognised as being unrepresentative of the true operating environment of many organisations, who’s reality requires them to function effectively within a structure better described as a dynamic, random network built on relationships. Rules, procedures and regulations used by managers to control staff limit the enterprises ability to evolve and achieve a level of fitness so that delivery of consumer requirements are achieved in spite of shorter lifecycles and higher customer expectations, which is why ‘Social Innovation’ exists as a subject in the 21st Century.
The classical ways of teaching is in reality management in a different guise that imposes critical mass thresholds on people and many organisations are finding this unrepresentative of how they actually operate particularly with today’s educated peoples as stated by our second speaker at the posh away-day, and try to discover ways in which natural systems, themselves are the generators of influence and not control where there has to be a controller and a controlled.

Theories such as SWOT or Six-Sigma, so much ridiculed on the day claims behaviour is specified from the top down and suggests that through a process of reduction everything can become ‘knowable’ via linear causality with perhaps some exploration of the edges where the gloom is not quite impenetrable, but never moving to the ‘unknowable’ dark. It is here that the perception of the survival of the fittest is the route to success where progress is made through the influence of one person over another by means of the force that they use over them. From time to time someone manages and my Council, like the guest speakers to switch on a new light; a paradigm shift, and a new area of exploration is opened up and a new way of doing things occurs i.e. Social Innovation, or Human Systems Thinking. Until recently, the light by which science was working was only able to illuminate simple, linear systems where metaphors hide the detail, with logic and averages working to direct organisations toward their futures. Leadership will need to address this non-linear thinking in organisations and provide additional thinking to challenge the conventional thinking in Business, if we are to survive as a society if not academics.