Do you know what's going on in your own company?

Written by David Tebbutt, PC Dealer 12/86 item 01 - scanned

I ask the question because, every so often in my travels, I find that the employee has one view of what's happening and the boss has another.

Now it may be that the boss is anxious to give me the impression of the company as a well-ordered, smoothly functioning machine, to ensure the appropriate sort of write-up. Alternatively, it could be that he or she has lost touch with what actually goes on at the coal face. It is difficult, when trying to manage a growing company, to go back occasionally and test that the mechanisms you created still actually work.

Earlier this year, I visited a company which had installed a substantial PC network. I was treated to the usual grand tour during which the intricacies of this rather snazzy system were explained. I was shown how various checks and controls are built in to minimise the company's exposure to financial risk. It all sounded well thought out and was utterly convincing. I was hooked.

Then I went down to the pub where I bumped into some of the shop floor staff. They'd apparently seen me being shown round. After I told them how impressed I was with the system, they laughed and told me how easy it was to fool the computer by simply telling it lies. The effect on the company was to expose it to the very risks it thought the computer was helping it avoid.

The staff claimed to have tried to highlight the problems in the early days, but soon gave up when no-one took much notice. Had the boss kept in meaningful contact with the shop floor, he wouldn't now be trying to untangle a web of lies embedded in the computer records.

More recently, on a trip to California, I was introduced to an American way of keeping in touch. Every week the staff and the management of a small company there have 'truth sessions' in which they're expected to air their worries, doubts, fears, complaints and criticisms about work. The boss told me what a great idea this was and how much harmony it created.

The staff told me another story. Apparently they were terrified of the boss, whose line was heavily influenced by behavioural psychology. She also couldn't believe that people could possibly be unhappy under her enlightened leadership. The result was that every time anyone said anything negative at these meetings, she argued with them. 'So what happens now?', I asked. 'Oh, we lie. She's told what she wants to hear. It makes the sessions short although rather pointless'.

Most PC dealerships are fairly small affairs and it's not difficult to maintain regular contact with your staff. If you've lost touch, it's probably not too late to make proper contact again. In these difficult times, can you afford not to know what's going on?

After all, people who try to walk on water do have a tendency to sink.