Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reclaiming the Enterprise - 1

Down to tin tacks, after being interrupted on the way here by the Ady Gil affair.
Australian enterprises are severely damaged, they are ineffective and they need change. Big statements, I can see people launching out of their chairs and beginning to tell me why it isn't so. They'll tell me about how much more profit they make than they did 5 years ago; they'll tell me how their turnover has risen; they'll tell me how their costs have fallen; they'll tell me how they are expanding into new markets.
As far as I'm concerned that's all dross unless those organisations are also good places to work; places that empower and validate their employees; places where people individually can achieve and feel good about themselves. This is where Australian organisations fail. Too often organisations are places of stress and fear for employees, they are homes to managers with personality or psychiatric disorders, they are home to long work hours, a sense of powerlessness and to bullying and a raft of other bad behaviour. Knowledge is selectively withheld in order to manage power, people are demeaned and belittled, they are not nice places to be.
Take this test. Have you ever been subject to any of the following or witnessed somebody in your organisations being subject to them:
  • Being shouted at by somebody more senior;
  • Being subject to workplace harassment, whether sexual or otherwise;
  • Having your job actively threatened;
  • Finding out about your employment future from a co-worker;
  • Working more than 40 hours a week more then 4 times in a year, except by your choice;
That's only a small sample of the abuse that goes on in Australian workplaces. I would expect that a fairly large proportion of people who read that list say - yeah one of those things has happened to me. As an aside, I don't believe that Australian workplaces are any worse than those in other western economies, I'd expect that similar things happen there.
My bottom line is that we've forgotten a key thing: enterprises, organisations are there as places where people work. Without people they don't exist, and indeed there is a fair argument that they only exist for people. The problem is that very often they only exist for a subset of people - those managers senior enough to control the outcome and "the shareholders" who are the reason that the senior managers use for all of their abuses.
Until enterprises step backwards from their present path and begin to deliver value to everyone within the organisation Australian enterprises will continue to suffer from their current pathologies and will therefore not excel as they could.
There's a lot to talk about here and I'm going to pick it off one item at a time. More to come.

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