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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

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‘We have the best working environment around here’ … ‘we changed the whole competition landscape, we are the best now and our competitors have to live with it’ … ‘Our products/services are not comparable to others, we are the best’

Once such kind of mentality starts flying around your organization, then it is in need for a serious therapy; it is going through the ‘illusion of the best’ syndrome! And once you have it, it is the downhill road thereafter.

There is no doubt that the marketplace is a competition arena. However, deciding who is the best should be left to stakeholders and unbiased observers, certainly not to the organization managers only!

And let’s give it some thought; in a business environment, what is the best? the best compared to what? and in which categories? And should we compare our products/services/practices to our competitors only? in our environment only? or should we do that globally? I am sure you can come up with endless series of question like these …

My argument is that the whole concept of being the best should have no place in a business environment. The ‘best in ….’ is a relative term even if based upon ground measurements, because, at the end, those measurements are based on agreements between a number of people.

The illusion of being the best could be damaging on the long run. It generates demotivation and kills innovation; why should we do more, we are the best?!

It happened that I have being sitting once with one of the so-called-managers of one of the biggest companies in the country and he was talking about how they are conducting some of their business. The strange thing is that he was referring to many managerial flaws in his talking, and he was acknowledging those flaws! I asked him ‘it is great that you can put your fingers on the wrong doings that are causing pressure on your staff and your productivity. So why don’t you solve these issues?’ His reply was ‘this is how we do business around here!’ I said ‘but there are many companies around the world that faced similar problems and there are many lessons that you can get advantage of.’ He replied ‘No No No … do not talk about companies around the world. Tell me about local companies. We are the best company in the area and this is how we are running our business’!!!!

I hope you got what I mean now!!

 

p.s. I think the ‘illusion of best’ syndrome fits Jim Collins’s stage number one of declining organizations; the stage he calls ‘Hubris Born of Success.’ Read more about it in his book ‘How the mighty Fall, and Why Some Companies Never Give in’ published in 2009.

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One of the most bizarre techniques that is sometimes adopted by weak managers of culturally weak organizations is the use of threatening language in the communication channels across the organization levels!

The repeated use of expressions like (or else … those who are not with us are against us … I will remember that in the annual appraisal … if you do not want to stay on the ship) in meetings, emails, circulations, or even in the company written policy, cause nothing on the long run but the loss of trust, disappearance of loyalty, and performance tardiness.

What provoked this post is a memo by one of the international brands working in Saudi Arabia. It is hanged beside one of its warehouses in front of everyone to see. It is written in Arabic; but here is its translation:

Attention!!!!!!!!!!!! For all staff, please do not set anywhere outside the store unless it is a permitted area. If these instructions are not followed, the store management will have to take any necessary action.

Regardless of the main topic of the memo, which is the staff seating arrangements, the memo was going somehow OK till the threatening language begun. As someone who knows nothing about the internal processes or culture of this company, reading these few lines I can tell that it is based on fear and intimidation. I can picture how demotivated their staff are and how the internal communication channels are filled with tension.

I am not saying that companies policies should not contain rules against misbehavior and so forth, but I am saying use them wisely, trust your staff, and do not threaten them. If you cannot build your company, department, or team culture based on trust, rest assured that you are going … nowhere!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=grocery+shopping&iid=5210525″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/5210525/products-shelves/products-shelves.jpg?size=500&imageId=5210525″ width=”234″ height=”311″ /]Few days to Ramadan and the consumerism carnival has already started. Consumers, retailers, and the Ministry of Commerce and its monitoring bodies are the usual triangle sides of the price hiking struggle and debate; who did what to whom!!

One of the strangest analyses that popped out this year came from ‘an official’ at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) according to Arab News (here) The manager of the Corporate Social Responsibility at the JCCI is saying that the consumers themselves are the problem of any prices hikes because, those bad consumers, have brand loyalty!!!! He is also adding that there is no need for any prices monitoring systems, and assures us all that the Saudi market is one of the most open markets in the world, even more open than the West!!

I am not sure how Mr. Official understands the concepts of brand loyalty, consumer protection, and open markets but here are some comments:

  • When consumers trust a brand and develop some kind of attachment to it, then it should be their own choice to continue with it or not if the brand owner decided to increase the price for any reasons (e.g. manufacturing costs, new features, raw materials cost, etc). But when the prices increase not because of the brand owner but because of other factors in the local supply or distribution chains, then whose responsibility is this? And even more, what if the brand owner is a local who takes advantages of different seasons to increase prices without any reasonable justifications, whose responsibility is this?
  • There are no contradictions whatsoever between free markets and consumer protection activities. Not only that, I can take it a step further and argue that, consumer protection groups are major signs of a truly free market!
  • Prices monitoring is one of many responsibilities of consumer protection groups. Quality checks, fighting monopolies, be the channel of communication between the customers and other governmental bodies are all examples of such activities. Again, how all these activities contradicts free and open markets??

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Just before the summer vacation sneaked in, I wrote ‘Tourism is a Business’ talking about how I, and mostly anybody I know, have never been persuaded by any local tourism activities.

Now, as most of the Saudi cities are living the so called ‘Summer Festivals,’ one of SCTA’s members went out on Arab News and talked about how these festivals are poorly organized, and how much they lack creativity and fresh ideas!

Most of the points he touched on like prices, transportation, diverse activities, and even electricity and water cutoffs, almost reach the level of agreement between those interested in the idea of local tourism, and we as customers are certainly interested.

The point is that if one of the organization’s members knows and can so eloquently list all these problems and shortcomings, I believe it is legitimate for us all to ask, where are the solutions??

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I was talking with a couple of colleagues today and the topic of reading just popped up. One of them said “you know, we should really read some more, we developed the habit of no reading. It is a common problem.”

So he confidently knows that we have a problem, and admits that it is a common problem (he is saying ‘we,’ right?!), and I am sure he had said this same statement before. But he is just saying it and doing nothing about it!!

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=lazy&iid=255339″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/255339/middle-aged-heavy-man-with/middle-aged-heavy-man-with.jpg?size=500&imageId=255339″ width=”234″ height=”331″ /]I have repeated this so many times, and I might’ve said it on this very blog, nothing in my professional life get on my nerves like when discussing some business matters with someone and he starts saying “I know you are right, all what you are saying is true, but we cannot do it!!!” especially when everything we need to get on the right track, that we both agree upon, is within our reach!!!

Submitting to the usual, doing things in certain ways just because they are in our comfort zone, lacking the willingness to learn new things and try new paths are all devastating whether we are talking individuals or organizations.

The conclusion of this post is simple; when you know there is something right and you want to do it, go ahead and do it!!

  • Want to read; stop at the nearest bookstore and grab a book or two.
  • Want to change a process because you know it will reduce costs and boost productivity, connivence your team and nurture the change challenges.
  • Want to develop your leadership style, go learn by reading, by consulting, by joining trainings and so forth.

*******

An Arabic poet once said (trying my best to translate it):

– I have never seen a shortcoming in a human being, like the shortcoming of those who can be perfect, and never try!

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President Obama and his administration have been under pressure to take a firmer stand against the the tragedy of the oil spill taking place at the Gulf of Mexico. As days were passing by without any hope of a working solution, people frustration was getting stronger and they were expecting their President to do the same. So on one of his TV interviews, Mr. President responded to a question about how the crisis meetings were going on by stating that one of these meetings’ goals was ‘to determine whose ass to kick.’

So ‘Should Leaders Ever Swear?’ was the question asked by Dan McGinn recently on HBR Blog. Should leaders really give up formality in certain situations to attain certain goals? Or such tongues slips could cost the leaders and their organizations later on?

Strangely, the post refers to a study that has been published in 2007 where the researchers emphasized the importance of using unconventional or uncivilized language in the workplace. Not only that, but they also grouped workplace profanity into two categories:

  • Social Swearing: where swearing just pops up in the middle of causal conversations.
  • Annoyance Swearing: which is used in stressed situations to release pressure or used as ‘relief mechanism’ as they put it.

However, both types of swearing mentioned above should not be so much treasured when talking about PR activities, branding initiatives, dealing with staff, or in front of customers. Using improper language could cost the organization a lot of its image and authenticity in the eyes and hearts of its customers. And could definitely makes it a repulsive place to be working in.

Not only organizations, even when we are talking about personal branding of leaders (business or not) and celebrities of any kind, having a bad mouth is a trait that sticks to the person and cannot be easily forgotten.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Rooney&iid=9151450″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9151450/football-england-algeria/football-england-algeria.jpg?size=500&imageId=9151450″ width=”234″ height=”167″ /]Jack Welch, the infamous CEO of GE between 1981 and 2001 was known, beside his managerial abilities, to have a tough tongue that likes to throw the f-bomb now and then. And for those following up the World Cup nowadays, we’ve just seen the poor kid named Rooney throws some of highly tuned trash at the camera after England’s last match with Algeria (read about it here)!!

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So you are leading a team at the moment, or even part of one; Do you know when you should be really worried about your team performance?

It is when there is no conflict!

Conflict is a part of any healthy team work environment. It is not only natural to have different views and rising disputes whenever group of people are interacting with each other, some management experts go further to emphasis that conflicts must be there. Without conflicts over ideas, concepts, process, etc … group thinking prevails, adhering to the status quo cripples creativity, and lack of job excitement controls the work environment.

That does not mean conflicts should get out of hands, and team meetings turn to wars and power struggles. There are so many techniques that could be used to contain this conflict and employ it to work for the sake of the team, not against it. There is only one prerequisite. The team members should have a common objectives, an identity they believe in, and shared values.

So it goes like this:

  • Have a team with no common believes and unified goals, and the organization will turn into a circus!
  • Have a team that shares a strong identity and give them the chance to do miracles.

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