Monday, 23 January 2012

Organisational Linkages

What do the following all have in common?

o Multi-level, treacle like, hierarchical organisations

o The common “ procedures will be updated, re-training carried out” statement when there is a mis-selling or service level scandal

o Buying and selling Structured Debt vehicles that you don’t understand

o And possibly, the extensive earnings multiple between the highest and lowest employees

They are examples of linkages throughout a company getting stretched to, or beyond, breaking point. Not dissimilar to the “chain of command”, it also encompasses the values and principles that should govern an organisation at all levels.

When some common sense value needs re-stating in a training session, such as “ don’t sell inappropriate insurance” or “ don’t forge signatures” (a misdemeanour more serious in my field of Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices than even the Financial or Utility switching sectors), the linkage between the principles of the business and its employees is broken.

So what should be done about it? Pre-emptive actions could include:

o Meaningful self-audit programmes

o A Whistle blowing policy that encourages the declaration of broken links

o Audit by external people, with no vested interest in hiding the breaks.

More important are senior people, leaders, making clear by their words and their deeds what is important in an organisation, re-enforcing the links, re-enforcing the right behaviours, rather than fixing them after the breaks are discovered.

An old boss of mine, senior and removed from day-to-day Production, used to walk a part of the Factory floor where he was responsible every morning for 15 minutes before starting his day’s work. Over a number of weeks he covered his whole patch. Walking round he commented on tidiness, organisation, and attitudes. Everything that he saw that did, or didn’t meet his view of the world, received a comment to those present and the supervisor or team leader. He may have been right or wrong, but everyone knew what was expected of them.

He took the time, and demonstrated by his actions. Linkage wasn’t a problem there.