What Makes a Happy Business?

What Makes a Happy Business?

In management discussions, we often talk about culture and how important a strong, vibrant culture is to the success of an organisation.  I have been thinking about this lately, particularly after coming across a business where the culture was lacking something.  I tried to analyse why this was the case – using all the objective tools in my armoury.  Then I realised something – when talking to the people in the business, I realised that this was not something that could be measured: I saw that they were not happy.

So why is this the case?

The company (who must obviously remain anonymous) has teams of very experienced people running multi-million dollar projects. They are under constant pressure to maintain service levels and margins in an industry where skills are hard to find, customers are demanding and there is constant downward pressure on costs.  Head Office is in a nice city location.  Their operations are spread across a number of regional cities where heavy industry is the norm.

clear line of sight  Good practice says that there needs to be a clear line of sight between a company’s strategy and its operations. Communication from the top down is frequent and inclusive.  If targets are challenging (as they should be), or funds are tight (as they often are), then the senior management of the business should be proactive in communicating why this is the case.  There’s no better way to get acceptance of changing plans than having a senior executive personally standing in front of his or her teams and explaining why things are as they are.

So let’s compare this with the company that I referred to earlier.  At an operational level, they have no visibility of the Company’s overall strategy or strategic plans.  Their budgets are handed down from senior management, with little opportunity for local management to contribute.  In one location, they have never personally met their Chief Executive.  They must use a much-maligned internal service provider, who constantly under-quotes on jobs and does not need to justify cost escalations or, worse, inaccurate and delayed billing.  Personal computers are allocated on a hand-me-down basis.  The list goes on – but you get the idea.

So, is it any wonder that the people I spoke to are not happy?  Is it any wonder that their attitude to Head Office (the “window lickers” as one person described them) is negative and resentful?  Should we be surprised when the people I was talking to are very resistant to change (“why bother”) or feel that they are not being heard?  Keep in mind: this is a successful public company. 

I wonder how many readers would relate to some aspects of the situation that I have described.  Maybe it’s time for all of us to have a good, honest look at our organisation’s culture and to identify the causes of cultural issues.  In an earlier blog post (http://blog.informpros.com/2012/05/strategic-business-planning-casting.html) , I wrote about widening an organisation’s involvement in strategy-setting.  Involvement is a part of the story – communication of plans and the state of the business is just as important. 

Dealing with the people aspects of management and change are vital.  There is a lot of talk about customer engagement in marketing.  In Human Resources and Leadership it is about staff engagement.  Engagement happens in many ways.  And happiness is a sign of its existence.

Is yours a happy company?

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