"Businesses take care to get the right value on the balance sheet for their assets, when they are useless without ideas and people. Ideas and people are the air that let your tangible assets breathe."
More words of wisdom from Anna Farmery's father as recorded in her Engaging Brand blog recently. Needless to say, I just loved the implication that businesses cannot exist without people and ideas. This is precisely the philosophy that I have always espoused for Zealise. Yet, somehow the way it is expressed seems more inspiring and brooks no argument. It both articulates and explains the concept of empowerment, beautifully and simply. In doing so it also implies two key lessons.
Firstly, the futility of spending so much time valuing and accounting for the tangible assets while completely ignoring these 'intangible' ones. Of course this is something that I have been challenging from day one, and why I believe human asset accounting is the only way to really beat the "war of talent" and win the employee engagement that will build sustained success.
Secondly, the inherent flaw of command and control management that still dominates current business thinking by placing so much emphasis on the top people. This was demonstrated again yesterday by the news that the new CEO of RBS will be offered incentives of £9.6 million in order to "maximise shareholder value" and oversee the bank's turnaround; reportedly enough to pay more than 50 senior civil servants.
The government is buying into this on the grounds that it is in the taxpayer's best interests as they have a 70% stake in the bank, thereby perpetuating the discredited shareholder value argument. Clearly the causes of the economic collapse have not been understood nor the lessons learned. Furthermore there is no attempt to stand by basic principles of proportionate remuneration for work done, for the major justification is that this is the "going rate" and thus the only way to attract suitable candidates. So not only is the first opportunity to start effecting meaningful change being squandered, but - more significantly - the command and control culture is reinforced.
Why? Because it perpetuates the belief of top down management and success only coming from the top. This attitude completely ignores the fact that the lower levels have more direct contact with the customer and a clearer understanding of the day-today business needs. It implies that only executives are capable of having worthwhile ideas and, in the process, cuts off the air supply from the lower echelons upon whom success ultimately depends. Employee engagement issues will never be solved until such thinking is eliminated.