There was a fad a few years back for companies to send teams of employees (or maybe just managers) on a certain kind of ‘team-building’ activity. These would always be outdoors and would involve some strenuous (and often muddy) physical activity, maybe paintballing or even an army assault course.
I’ve seen a few of these in my time and enjoyed some. I’ve also occasionally managed to be “too busy” or have holiday “already booked” for ones that I really didn’t fancy. One department I used to work in did actually have a real army assault course as a team building activity. That was one of the ones I managed to be “too busy” for. Of course I heard the stories the following week. Apparently the worst bit was a pipe submerged in muddy water that you had to hold your breath and crawl through. Now that doesn’t sound very pleasant to me, and not surprisingly, some people flat out refused to do it. Other (less senior or less strong-willed) people didn’t want to do it but did it either because of peer pressure or because they felt they were expected to do it by the enthusiastic senior people in the department. (The unenthusiastic senior people were the ones like me who stayed away.) Continue reading
Here’s a good business cliche, the sort that David Brent would use:
“Your people are your most important business resource.”
But if you look at how many businesses are run, you might assume that people are only a useful business resource because they are cheaper than robots. Work for a big company, and you might occasionally be asked to take part in an employee satisfaction survey which, after much paperwork and editing of spreadsheets will lead to insights such as “10% of junior employees don’t trust their boss, up from 8% two years ago”. Work for a smaller company, and you might see an old-fashioned suggestion box neglected in a corner of the office or factory (with a three-year-old piece of paper folded up inside asking for a better kettle for the kitchen).
Isn’t that a waste?
Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, your people think about what they are doing and how they could do it better? Even better, maybe your people think about what you are doing and how you could do it better. Best of all, maybe your people think about what your organisation is doing and how it could do it better. Continue reading
If you read cartoons like Dilbert, one common theme you’ll come across is that of the poor downtrodden worker who knows more about his job than his boss. In Dilbert’s case, he’s a hardworking and brilliant engineer. His ‘pointy-haired boss’ is pretty clueless about Dilbert’s work and, well pretty much everything really. Above the pointy-haired boss are a number of vice presidents and executives who are better paid than the pointy-haired boss but seem equally clueless.
I wonder how many medium and large businesses have structures like this. Well, one of the things that being an external auditor for many years taught me is that the answer is probably “too many”. Too many firms have a level of management in between the people at the top who get to make the really big, really important decisions and the people who actually do the work or run the departments. Continue reading