Anyone who works for a corporation knows the frustrations of “Corporate Think.” It is actually, in my opinion anyway, an oxymoron. Corporations do not think. There are too many variables for thinking to actually take place. The egos, the power struggles, the egos…all of these things thwart any attempt to actually “think.” The larger the corporation the less actual practical thinking goes on.
Far too many corporations are locked into the 80’s corporate mindset; perhaps because too many corporate talking heads are from the generation that came into their own in the 80’s. Employees are seen as necessary liabilities; the current popular definition would be pawns, to be moved and manipulated at will. Removed from game play at a whim or the result of backward corporate “think” because…well, due to all the power struggles and ego growth, many corporate execs have missed the boat, train or planes of the future or bottom-line of true growth as opposed to juggled numbers.
When one thinks of a successful growth oriented corporate structure, one tends to think of Microsoft or Google. The one thing these two corporate giants possess is the ability to create and maintain employee loyalty. To apply the practice and implementation of corporate think by looking at the new, the innovative and the forward motion of business theories as opposed to being locked into some sort of 80’s preservationist mentality. Maintain the godhead of the Board of Directors, give orders from on high – never mind if the orders are virtually impossible to implement in real life, in the trenches – ego must come first.
Granted, Microsoft and Google take the treatment of their employees to the extreme but is there a correlation between the success and meteorological rise of these two companies and their treatment of employees, from the mailroom guy to their corporate honchos? It is too easy to say that they were in the right place at the right time. This would qualify as a cop-out when used by the executives of other less successful corporations. Any company, any corporation can be there at the “right place, right time.” It depends on the helmsmen and women. Are they able to discern the appropriate direction or are they too concerned with their own appearance within the corporate structure? Are these people able to implement innovative ideas or do they stay in the background, offering only corporate policy and rhetoric, using many words but actually saying nothing, at all?
The world of business is changing, each second of every day, this corporate blue ball in space is changing at unprecedented rates. So many corporations are simply unable to keep up and the reasons lie at the top, not the bottom, although the bottom is the level that is forced to suffer for the tunnel vision of the top. One of life’s truer “truisms.” The trenches is where the innovations can begin but if the upper levels are unable to see past their policies and their egos, those innovations lie silent, lie dormant and as a result, the corporation falls behind.
Without the support of the peons, of those movable/removable pawns, the corporation remains in stasis. It may well maintain its position but it cannot move forward. The desperation of the upper management types can be seen through their implementation of ISO, LEAN or Kaizen programs. These programs are signs that the directors are unable to pilot their own ships, unable to reach down to the bowels of their ship and find solutions within. If something fails, then blame can be laid at the feet of the “programs.”
Quick fix. Fixes that can be handled by “others.” Fixes that won’t come back to haunt the salaries or benefits of the Chairman or the rest of, usually, a very inflated board of directors.
Some of the fixes are so incredibly simple that they are overlooked, ignored. Fixes that Microsoft, Google and others have kept to themselves because they are so simply, so truly easy to implement. So simplistic that most executives don’t want to be seen associated with them, as it doesn’t require their names be attached, specifically, to something that doesn’t require a full staff to get the ball rolling. Solutions that don’t require expensive travel or expense account padding.
Let’s take a look at the fad of LEAN. Essentially, it is a solid theory that can be applied in any business with some tweaking according to the industry/milieu. LEAN is a business model that encourages the discovery of lost time, of repetitive tasks, of resource wasting and attempts to streamline a business to make it more competitive in the marketplace. What usually seems to happen is that while the LEAN is applied to the corporation, the LEAN theory itself becomes a drain on resources and personnel, which is completely contrary to the spirit of the thing. The facts and figures, the reports and statistics take over and the LEAN philosophy gets lost in the paper shuffle. LEAN was originally used in Japan, where in the manufacturing sector, it had an absolutely positive impact. Other areas of business stood up and took notice. It began to be applied in all sorts of areas of industry, manufacturing and other market based industries. It, by and large, was applied incorrectly and instead of creating a streamline, it simply turned into its own monster of time waste, resource waste and worst of all, monetary waste. Streamlining an assembly line requires particular stratagems while a company involved in, say import or exportation of goods, requires totally different strategies.
Some corporations are starting to take a look at the importance of creating community but lordy, lordy..they have no clue where to begin and as a result, negate their own intent. They sabotage themselves through their own implementations. You cannot create a community with people who simply don’t care to be a part of it. First and foremost, when this initiative seems to be falling on deaf ears, when the only people part of that community are the ones in the upper echelons or the obvious career climbing types, it would seem, to me at any rate, that finding out why the initiative is not working would be a top priority.
Employees need to be engaged. They need to be given a reason to go that extra mile. When employees no longer care whether or not a company rises or falls, with the exception of their loss of employment. This absolutely must be addressed.
A simple statement – when an employee does not feel valued, it follows that the company will not be valued by the employee. Simple really. An elementary law of physics – for every action, there is a reaction. Corporations cannot survive without employees. Okay, a fairly moronic statement on face value but the astounding number of corporation who imply, by their actions, that employees are necessary liabilities, seem to say to their staff – you aren’t important enough to our bottom line to be of any real worth.
There are so many ways to make employees feel valued, feel that they have worth. Simple ways. Far easier to implement than million dollar investments in things like LEAN, ISO or Kaizen but these things are too simple for executives to consider. One of the keys to corporate success, to corporate growth lies in the simple tending to the roots, to ensuring a strong bedrock so that should the corporation rise, the foundations are strong enough to handle it.
An employee who feels valued, is a valued member of the corporate structure. A valued employee will help shore up that foundation. Start picking away at their sense of worth, of their dignity and the foundation will be weak, unable to move forward. Executives are a dime a dozen, an employee with a sense of self-worth, an employee who will go that extra mile because they truly feel that they are a part of something, is priceless. I would take 1 employee with a sense of being valued over 100 MBA holding, tunnel-vision executive types.