Redundancy (Mass Layoffs)

Good Leadership: It’s All about Value

Continuing with the recent theme of leadership and the question of whether or not you are a good leader, here is something else you can do to find out. Ask yourself, “Do I focus on value?”  

Value and price 26236493_sThat might seem like a very strange question. Your instinctive reaction may be to shrug it off and say “Of course!”   But I urge you to probe a little deeper. You may recall Oscar Wilde’s line that, “A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing!” Unfortunately cynicism seems to be a trap that many business leaders can fall into all too easily. So it may be useful to take a good, honest look at yourself,  your behaviour and your thinking, to be sure that you haven’t inadvertently fallen into that trap.

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Why Employee Engagement Efforts Aren’t More Effective

In his book, “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek expounds on how the human species has been biologically programmed for survival. He describes the chemical stimulants that the body produces under different circumstances. He identifies 6 different chemical reactions and the situations in which they are produced. These are, briefly, as follows:

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Transforming Human Resources

You likely heard the news late last week that the Shell share price rose 7% in response to the news that the company was cutting 10,000 jobs. So, what was your reaction?

I wager it hardly made any impression on you. Yet that report encapsulates the pervasive attitude that people are simply a resource, and reinforces my case that the HR profession needs to change its approach. Let’s take a look how it could go about this.

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Redundancy: When will they ever learn?

It was Bob Dylan who asked the question “When will they ever learn?” Unfortunately, when it comes to redundancy, it seems to still apply: certainly when it comes to large organisations and what you can only call their “readiness for redundancy” – the speed with which they resort to redundancy as a solution to problems.  

This cartoon that I commissioned for “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” remains relevant.


As long as you continue to manage people as costs, rather than as assets, redundancy will always remain an attractive option. Even if redundancy is not a “knee-jerk” reaction to bad performance it certainly can seem like it. At best it reflects badly on management and calls into question their ability – and therefore their right – to oversee a large organisation. Why?

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People as Assets – Fact or Fiction?

Alignment“People are our greatest/most important assets!”

How often have you heard that? It has become rather a cliché. But how much validity does the statement have? What does “people are our greatest assets” actually mean? Does it mean anything at all?  

To start to answer this you need a clear definition of what an asset is and then decide whether a person can be one.

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HR: The New Frontier

Young explorer iStock_000010208873SmallIt’s been 10 years since I set out on a new career path with the mantra “HR is the new IT.” For me it was as plain as the nose on my face. The returns on investment were shrinking.

For decades business had been pursuing the benefits of new technology and optimising that technology through what came to be called Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) – and with unprecedented success. It delivered enormous change and radical new ways of doing things that are now so much a part of everyday life we take them for granted. Inevitably, however, the pace has to slow. When the new becomes the norm and is no longer new, then the returns have to diminish too. Increased or extraordinary profits only result from doing the extraordinary; when the extraordinary becomes ordinary the profits do too. It’s economics 101!

But for me there is more to it than that.

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It's Time to Pull Together

This week brought confirmation of something that I have more than suspected for a long-time. Yet, while validation brings vindication, the picture portrayed is alarming. It would have been better to be proved wrong.

According to the 2013 Deloitte Shift Index Report the Return on Assets (ROA) for US business has declined from 4.1% in 1965 to 0.9% in 2012. (See the graph below.) That’s a decline of 78% over 47 years!

DUP505_Figure-11-960x543 Declining ROA

This is extremely alarming when one considers that the US is the world’s Number One economy. You can only wonder what the decline is for the entire block of “developed” economies. It helps explain just why China is closing so rapidly on that # 1 position!

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The disastrous consequences of mixed messages!

As I have always stressed, there are two distinct parts to strategy. There’s strategy development and there is strategy implementation. They are two very different things, but you can’t really have the one without the other.

Mixed message_000003871853XSmallIt’s all very well for executives to sit in their plush offices and develop strategic plans but those plans aren’t worth a can of beans if they are not carried out. And of course, it is the rest of the organisation that does the carrying out! In fact executives generally play little or no significant part in implementation. That is why it is imperative that the strategy is effectively communicated through all levels of the organisation.  How else can you expect to achieve strategic integrity – the perfect fusion of strategic planning and strategy implementation?  

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The Tyranny of the Task!

Have you had a bad customer experience recently? Unfortunately the answer is most likely yes. And more than likely your frustration has been caused by someone’s rigid adherence to rules, even when the rules don’t appear to make sense. All too often the person serving will even agree, but say they are powerless to do anything about it “because those are the rules and that is the way things are!” 

Hopefully such experiences make you more alert to ensuring that your organisation does not operate with a radical, rigid and almost religious reliance on rules. They do prompt you to talk to your people and find out if they ever feel that way, don’t they? You can never expect to provide an exemplary customer experience if you don’t.

To do Istock_000012280649XSmallHowever, rigid reliance on rules has a near cousin that also impacts negatively on your organisational effectiveness, and thus on your service and ultimately your customers’ experience. You could call this “the tyranny of the task.” Let me give you an example. 

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Square wheels and the secret of continuous improvement

Square wheels 2Have you ever seen a vehicle with square wheels?

When I was about seven or eight I was taken to a motor-cycle rally with motor-bikes with square wheels. It was the funniest spectacle and had the crowd weeping with hysterical laughter, although with the benefit of maturity and experience, I can only think that it must have had the riders weeping for entirely different reasons!

Now for some reason I recently found myself remembering the experience and chuckling at the recollection. What brought it to mind I have absolutely no idea, but as I reflected on it, I realised it was a wonderful lesson.

Would you think of putting square wheels on your motor-bike or car? Of course you wouldn’t. The very idea seems insane - unless it was for a fun exercise like this one. It is the very insanity of the idea that makes it so funny. And yet there are times when we witness – or even do - things that could be analogous to using square wheels.

Perhaps a good example of this was the recent UK budget when the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a number of ill-conceived measures that he has subsequently been compelled to revoke. Why, you ask, is this like a square wheel? Well, it is symptomatic of what I call “nickel-and-diming” management; what is possibly more often identified as “a lack of joined-up thinking.” Unfortunately it is a pattern that is perhaps far too common in both political and commercial management.

Here you have the Chancellor justifying what he is doing by saying that he is trying to simplify the tax regimen. But because these efforts result in a decrease in tax revenues, he is compelled to find other sources of tax to offset that loss in order to “balance the books.” Thus he ends up contradicting his own stated objective; increasing complexity; annoying the people affected and having to reverse his hasty efforts because of the unforeseen consequences of his proposals.

It is easy to mock but how different are your commercial management initiatives? Think about the cost cutting measures; the redundancies and the “back to basics” campaigns that permeate much of your strategy. How different are they? Don’t they all point to a lack of seamless thinking?

Any effort to address a particular aspect of your operation could effectively be said to be retreading one side of the wheel and so creating, developing or perpetuating a square wheel. It is like squeezing a balloon; if you grip one end the air or problem simply moves elsewhere. Thus to be an effective leader you have to see your organisation as a continuous whole – as a round wheel – and manage it as such.

And of course that is something that you are really trying to achieve with your continuous improvement initiatives. However, in order for these to be successful, you have to recognise it is not your efforts that will enable this. It is simply a case of letting your people get on with what they have to do with clear objectives, clear values and a clear understanding of their role. Letting them roll, so to speak.