Beyond the self constructed wall


By Terry Flanders.

“This is how we do things round here!”

If you haven’t heard that before, chances are you’ve seen the sentiment expressed in other ways during your working life engrained in the organisational culture. Every organisation has a culture; the larger the organisation the greater the chance of clashes between the different cultures within. Some cultures adapt and grow while others are stagnant and conflicted.

The death of the HIH Group at the beginning of the new millennium with deficits totalling $5.3 Billion is an example of a poor management culture. Don’t wait for the next corporate autopsy results to learn the lessons of how to manage your business better, it’s simple, best practice = a higher return on investment. Best practice guidelines exist because of the data collected from past business management failures. Unlike technical standards that should be followed to the millimetre, these guidelines can be tweaked to the management style in your organisation. You can still achieve ISO accreditation if you produce evidence that you have adopted the elements of the standard and that it is being applied.

Continued failure by industry to follow best practice guidelines usually results in regulatory intervention and prescriptive legislation. Between 1873 and 1983 there were seven separate pieces of legislation enacted in NSW dealing with health and safety. However since 1983 to date there have been five more Acts and Regulations, proof that our Government is becoming more prescriptive when best practice is ignored.

Businesses generally seem to resist change. One reason is that at work we are trained to associate ‘cash’ rewards with workplace processes acting as the external stimuli. All workplaces involve inputs subjected to processes resulting in outputs. Add a weekly, fortnightly or monthly cash reward and the result is that you can become addicted to another simple formula; work processes = reward (wage). Threaten to change a work process and you inherently threaten a wage, usually resulting in resistance or conflict. Another reason why change is seen as a threat is that as people we have a primal need to feel safe and secure.

Historically, people have always felt safe and secure surrounded by walls and we still use walls today to protect ourselves from external threats. If your workers are not safe and secure then they are thinking of their own survival and not concentrating on work processes, a distraction that reduces profits through lost productivity and increases the risk of injury and poor health in the longer term.

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