Sunday, May 27, 2018

What are Some Basic Mistakes Organizations Make?

In the last 70 years we have seen significant developments in technology – just look at what’s been achieved in the development of computer technologies. For example in 1953, Grace Hopper develops the first computer language, which eventually becomes known as COBOL. Thomas Johnson Watson Jr., son of IBM CEO Thomas Johnson Watson Sr., conceives the IBM 701 EDPM to help the United Nations keep tabs on Korea during the war. In 1954, the FORTRAN programming language, an acronym for FORmula TRANslation, is developed by a team of programmers at IBM led by John Backus, according to the University of Michigan.
Then in 1958, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce unveil the integrated circuit, known as the computer chip. Kilby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his work. In 1964, Douglas Engelbart shows a prototype of the modern computer, with a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI). This marks the evolution of the computer from a specialized machine for scientists and mathematicians to technology that is more accessible to the general public.
Look at mobile technology where the speed of advancements have just been incredible, a trait that seems set to continue in the short term to medium term.
The same is true in the medical and health sector, and though we still have to find many more cures, the advancements continue to develop each and every year.
So if we look at today’s business organizations and how they are run, how much have they advanced in the last 20 years, let alone the last 70? For example, has customer service got progressively better year on year? Are today’s leaders significantly better than their counterparts 20, 30, 40 years ago?
Organizations now have access to so much more information, thanks to the advancements in technology; they have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of training courses on any subject you can think of – but the question is, are ‘we’ getting better at leading and developing business organizations, and if not, why not?
I would suggest, for example, that the advancements in business leadership have faded into insignificance compared to the advancements in other areas; where in some areas business leadership has regressed rather than advanced over the last 20 to 50 years. This is partly due to the world changing (not necessarily for the better in some areas); acceptable standards and basic values changing or no longer clearly defined; and a basic lack of accountability at the top of many business organizations on a global scale.
Some of the basic mistakes organizations still make in the 21st Century include;
1. Businesses not being customer centric. Where some organizations simply don’t focus on customer service, and in fact are happy to mislead customers and take advantage of them – where the organizations sole purpose appears to be on short-term profit maximization at any cost.
The 21st century customers are also at fault, whereby they stay customers to organizations who treat them badly, often simply because they can’t be bothered with the hassle of changing their accounts to another supplier – possibly telling themselves that ‘all the suppliers are as bad as one another’.
Governments and ‘watchdogs’ also fail customers by allowing ‘cartel’ like arrangements between suppliers, which we have seen in energy sectors, mobile phone sectors, banking sectors, to name just a few.
Organizations and customers need to start respectively offering and demanding higher levels of customer service; and customer groups just need to realise the ‘purchasing power’ they have as a customer group and start using this to their advantage. Where the advances in technology now give them access to a lot more power than customers had 20 to 50 years ago and beyond.
2. Leaders are not inspiring their workforce. Command and control leadership seems to be on the increase – which is so sad to see. The gap between leaders and employees is widening, due to the poor behaviour of leaders – which unsurprisingly means too many employees becoming demotivated, uninspired and less than optimally productive.
What’s worse, is that when these poor leaders become aware of their demotivated workforce – they are in complete denial of their direct role in creating the negative culture and actually blame their employees for not caring, rather than looking squarely at themselves and realizing they are the problem.
In my view leadership has become too commercialised and we need to get back to the very basics of leadership; where leaders are inspirational, they are transparent, they lead by example, they see an organizations most vital resource as it’s human resource and treat them accordingly, and where they promote future leaders on skills, behaviors, characteristics and values.
3. Organizations don’t communicate a fully transparent corporate vision to their workforce. Too many organizations, of all sizes, seems to fail to be transparent, for whatever reason and don’t share their vision for the future – assuming they even have one.
This is business 101, where a well thought-out and well communicated corporate strategy and vision, owned by the workforce leads to an inspired and motivated workforce that understands the future and the role they play in achieving that future state. Without communicating a clear future vision, employees can’t even start to ‘own’ it, don’t see how their job supports the successful future of their organization and hence are less motivated to achieve anything.
This also links back to the command and control type leader who doesn’t like to be transparent, seeing employees as a resource that don’t need to know where the organization is going and just need to do what they are told to do, when they are told to do it.
A transparent vision doesn’t just help employees see the future and how their role supports it; it also allows employees at all levels to contribute to its success and identify potential problems and also innovate solutions long before a command and control driven organization will know they have problems. Front line employees need a direct link to the organizational strategy to ensure constant optimal growth.
4. Business ethics. Suddenly in the last 20 years – the word ‘sorry’ seems to have become the easiest word (not the hardest). Unethical leaders appear too often these days – ripping off customers at best, and leading to unnecessary deaths at worst.
When these ‘bad’ leaders are caught, there seems to be no shame or remorse from the perpetrators – and a simple ‘sorry’ seems to be okay for too many, especially those bodies that should bring these unethical leaders to account.
Where are the ethical role models for the future generations of leaders to aspire to be like? In too many cases we are giving the completely wrong impression of leadership to the next generation and this is all we see in the media. Where are we showing what ‘great’ leadership looks like.
We need to discuss values more often and openly; what ‘values’ really mean and how they impact organizations and individuals, both in the short and long term. I saw an elderly lady burst into tears the other day in front of an assistant in a store – where she said, I’m so sorry, but it’s so nice to find someone who cares for a change.
The world is advancing at a phenomenal rate year on year in many sectors and it’s time for business organizations and their leaders to make similar positive advancements for the good of all their stakeholders.

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