Who Didn’t Voice Their Concerns?
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Slip the Surly Bonds of Misguided Management Theory

You cannot help wondering what management lessons need to be learned from the Grenfell Tower Fire disaster. Undoubtedly the Inquiry will highlight many. Yet it appears that there also plenty to be learned from the post-fire management.

Uncuffed 123rf_16888401_sIt seems that every day a fresh incident raises somebody’s ire, and outrage and fury abound as those dealing with the consequences are portrayed as callous, unfeeling or bungling incompetents. In all likelihood some of the criticism is justified, but there seems to no allowance for the unprecedented nature of the catastrophe. For example, is it really realistic to expect all victims to be in permanent new homes just three weeks after the fire?

Goodness knows, identifying and acquiring a new home is difficult for most of us at the best of times. It certainly isn’t something that we normally do in a matter of days. So, why would we expect these poor people to be any different, especially given the difficulty of finding homes in London? So, would you or I do better if we were responsible for dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy?

While thinking about this, I came across another “Leadership versus Management” article, which took my thoughts in a different direction. Pondering the statement, “Managers maintain things, leaders change things”, I was struck by the thought that it is impossible to maintain something without the ability to change. The Grenfell Tower fire proves that. It threw up a situation in which it was impossible to carry on as usual. Thus, you could say that the criticism of subsequent actions is the inevitable consequence of management struggling to do things they were not equipped to do. After all, change – by definition – destroys the status quo.

This, surely, invalidates the statement about the role of managers. It means that, in the time of a crisis, the last thing you need is a manager. Will it, however, take a crisis for you to recognise this?

A crisis is simply a sudden, drastic change. But change is constant. It may be slow and evolutionary, it may be conscious endeavour or it may be the sudden result of the unforeseen. Whatever shape it takes, for your organisation to survive, you have to be able to accommodate change of all types. This makes change an endemic, integrated part of any manager’s role. Thus to cling to the idea that a manager’s responsibility is to “maintain things” is to do you, your managers and your organisation a disservice. You have to equip your managers to deal with change. Or, to put it another way, you have to turn them into leaders.

Enthusiastic Businessman 123RF_4108602_sIn fact, I would suggest that you need to go further and make all your people leaders. And that doesn’t have to be as difficult as it may first seem. After all, people basically all need the same three things:

  • Identity: A sense of who they are and where they belong.
  • Purpose: A sense of what they are doing, why they are doing it and how it fits with their own values.
  • Value: A sense of “making a difference” with the autonomy of doing so and the recognition for what they achieve.

Ensure you provide your people with those and you will have the responsive, resourceful and responsible leaders you need, at every level; able to meet the challenges that come their way. That is when you truly slip the surly bonds of management. This is what ‘Every Individual Matters’ delivers and how you create the organic culture you need to ensure you adapt, survive and thrive. 


If you like what you have read contact me today to discuss how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could help you value your people and provide the catalyst to help you create an organic culture where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding continuous improvement that engenders ‘love at work’ and transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.


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