Trendy Business Concepts Have a Dark Side
Coded language serves the purpose of making things sound better or worse than they really are. This is going to be a journey through the lexicon of some of the ‚buzz words‘ we have been hearing during the past two decades:
Total Quality Management (TQM), empowerment, downsizing, restructuring, customer-driven, cross-training, change management, ISO certification and environmentally conscious organizations are some of the most common coded language expressions.
TQM means the exceedingly difficult task of convincing senior management of the importance of doing things differently than they have become comfortably used to. Second, if you succeed at selling them the idea, you now have the very much more difficult task of getting them to act according to the new line of thought you have persuaded them of. This is truly challenging because you are asking them to work harder by paying attention to details they never concerned themselves with in the past. Third, they will ask you what is the reward they will get for doing their job ‚right‘ from now on. Finally, they will have to be more than fully prepared to do all that TQM demands of them in order for them not only to ’sell‘ it to their subordinates, but to model the appropriate behavior themselves.
What if senior management doesn’t buy into the TQM culture? Replace senior management or drop the subject until they retire.
EMPOWERMENT means helping your subordinates to free themselves of you. Meaning that they should be able to do most of what is required of them without waiting for your instructions at every step. If you view this as a loss of ‚power‘ or ‚control‘ don’t try it. If you don’t see all the possibilities of how this would help free your time so you can really do ‚management‘ then stay away from Empowerment Programs.
DOWNSIZING means taking the ax and chopping all the deadwood or redundancies out of your organization. Stated more simply: „Kicking out as many persons as you can possibly manage without, from your organization.“ This is designed to squeeze labor costs to the minimum and boost profit margins to the maximum. The benefit of the exercise is in adding an important indicator for the further attraction of stock holders. For employees it means working longer and harder and with the constant fear of being the next to go: a special formula for insecurity and stress.
RESTRUCTURING means confusing the hell out of everyone by changing things, persons and processes around every day. It also means discovering that a lot of the old staff don’t have the competencies and skills you need for your new structure, but you can’t fire everyone or hire a totally new staff. What do you do? Design an organizational structure to meet the capabilities of the manpower you have or one that meets the needs of future business plans?
CUSTOMER-DRIVEN means you fully recognize that there is so much competition in your kind of business that your customers can easily find alternatives to your service. This helps to wake you up to the fact that you no longer enjoy the monopoly you thought you had, so you had better lean over backwards to keep your customers happy and therefore out of the hands of your competitors. It is an expensive place to be because it imposes certain constraints such as the need to be always taking initiatives that keep you ahead of others, a very costly business.
CROSS-TRAINING (MULTISKILLING) means recognizing the limitations of maintaining minimal staffing levels and preparing to meet the resultant risks, by ensuring that every staff member is able to replace another in case of illness or other cause for absence. Stated differently: everyone should be able to replace the other because they all know each other’s jobs. This requires that management runs a continuous job rotation program to ensure that each member of staff gets to do as many other jobs as possible during the course of a year. This requires extra work and detailed record keeping on the part of management.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT requires long term, integrated planning and execution. It begins with the identification and understanding of the sources and nature of resistance to change you will encounter in any given organizational entity. It requires a lot of seemingly contradictory skills: patience with people as well as impatience in the delivery of tangible results; long-term thinking in the achievement of super ordinate goals as well as short-term thinking in the achievement of a series of small ‚wins‘; excellent communication skills in persuasion and selling of ideas as well as extreme confidentiality with regard your influence and incentive plans. Don’t start such a process unless you define your time scale in terms of years and have the full understanding and backing of those directly concerned.
ISO CERTIFICATION means attendance of more meetings and documentation of more details than you have ever done in your entire life before ISO. If you are not a patient group with at least a few excellent listeners, analysts and writers don’t ever think of ISO. The process of certification is costly both in human effort and in the upgrading of facilities and premises. The process will also touch all of the above mentioned concepts in one way or the other.
ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS ORGANIZATION means practicing what you preach when it comes to keeping the environment clean. For example, you can no longer afford to put up a real pine fir ‚Christmas tree‘ that has been cut from a forest; you can not have a chimney belching black smoke or other toxic fumes into the atmosphere; you can not have open drains pouring fluid, chemical wastes into the streets or into the rivers or sea; you can not have piles of rubbish or ’scrap‘ acting as health hazards or eye-sores in or near your organization. You must be prepared to put your money into your deeds before you speak of environmental protection.
This brief journey should help you ask the right questions so you can judge more accurately what process you are getting into and how far you are able or willing to go to realize the goals you hope to achieve.
Fay Niewiadomski founded ICTN (International Consulting & Training Network) in 1993. ICTN provides complete management services to its clients who are among the leading regional and multinational players. Furthermore, she has worked with CEOs, Board Members, Presidents and Ministers of Government and other Leaders to help them meet the challenges of change within their organizations through creative problem solving, management interventions and powerful communication strategies. Prior to founding ICTN, she researched the subject of „Managing Change through Needs-Based Assessment‘ in large Lebanese Organizations“ for her doctoral work at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Additionally, she also held various university positions as a professor at AUB and LAU and as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at NDU.