Sunday, 15 March 2009

A Parable of Management

It was management guru Peter Drucker who said: “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work”

This parable, which a colleague sent me, is a great illustration of this:

Or, if you haven't got time to see the presentation, here is the transcript

The Ant ... A Fable ... Or Maybe Not

Every day, a small ant arrives at work very early and starts work immediately.

She produces a lot and she is happy.

The Chief, a lion, was surprised to see that the ant was working without supervision.

He thought if the ant can produce so much without supervision, wouldn’t she produce even more if she had a supervisor!

So he recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as supervisor and who was famous for writing excellent reports.

The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking in attendance system.

He also needed a secretary to help him write and type his reports and …
... he recruited a spider, who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls.

The lion was delighted with the cockroach's reports and asked him to produce graphs to describe production rates and to analyse trends, so that he could use them for presentations at Board‘s meetings.

So the cockroach had to buy a new computer and a laser printer and ...
... recruited a fly to manage the IT department.

The ant, who had once been so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which used up most of her time…!

The lion came to the conclusion that it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked.

The position was given to the cicada, whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office.

The new person in charge, the cicada, also needed a computer and a personal assistant ,who he brought from his previous department, to help him prepare a Work and Budget Control Strategic Optimisation Plan …

The Department where the ant works is now a sad place, where nobody laughs anymore and everybody has become upset...

It was at that time that the cicada convinced the boss , the lion, of the absolute necessity to start a climatic study of the environment .

Having reviewed the charges for running the ant’s department , the lion found out that the production was much less than before.

So he recruited the owl , a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions.

The owl spent three months in the department and came up with an enormous report , in several volumes, that concluded : “ The department is overstaffed ...”
Guess who the lion fires first?

The ant , of course, because she “showed lack of motivation and had a negative attitude".

Adapted from Portuguese by PR. Obrigado Mário.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Happy Becomes Carbon Neutral

I'm delighted that my company Happy has just achieved the status of being Carbon Neutral, based on reducing our energy use - and then offsetting what is left. TrainingZone has asked me to write 10 tips on reducing your company's carbon impact so here they are:

10 Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Impact
We are all aware of the threat of global warning and its easy to feel the problem is too big for us to do anything about it. However all our businesses contribute and we can all do our bit to reduce our carbon impact. The good news is that most of the steps result in lower costs or more engaged staff. Morrisons, for example, has saved £3.4 million a year by reducing its energy use.

1 – Measure It
The first step is to find out what your carbon impact is, and which areas of the business are causing it. We used, at very reasonable cost. The Carbon Trust can also be very helpful, often for free.

2 – Turn Equipment Off

A single computer left on permanently can cost over £30 a year. Several dozen left on overnight are not only a waste of energy but a considerable waste of money too, and the cost soon adds up. Ours turn off automatically if not in use. O2 reduced its electricity use by 15% simply by ensuring heating and air conditioning was turned off when buildings were empty.

3 – Install Low Energy Light Bulbs
An old fashioned light bulb can use as much energy as a computer. The easiest way to reduce energy use, and electricity bills, at home is to ensure all your light bulbs are low energy. The same is true at work, though it may be harder work to find the low energy versions. And turn those lights off when not needed.

4 - Source Energy Renewably
One of Dell’s steps to carbon neutrality was to invest directly in wind energy but most of us have to rely on the existing electricity suppliers. All the mainstream companies offer green alternatives, with Scottish and Southern now sourcing 11% from renewable. Then there are specialists like Green Energy, EcoTricity and Good Energy, who are 100% renewable. The cost may be a bit more but as well as getting a warm feeling for doing good, you also avoid the government’s energy tax.

5 - Reduce Car & Aeroplane Use
Encourage car sharing, trains and bicycles. Explore teleconferences instead of air travel. Use the government scheme which provides your staff with new bicycles at up to half price. It doesn’t cost you a penny but does give you the benefit of fitter, healthier staff.

6 – Make Your IT Greener
Data centres and IT generally can be a major part of a company’s energy use. There are complex issues involved, but technology like thin client and virtualisation can have a big impact. Get your techies to check it out .

7 - Set up an Office Recycling and Reuse Scheme
Not just for paper, but also for card, cans, plastic cartons, cups – and also mobile phones and tonner cartridges. And ensure, wherever possible, you buy paper and other products from recycled and sustainable schemes.

8 - Engage Your Staff
Get your people activity involved. Set up green teams to find ways to reduce your energy use. Our Green Group came up with a range of changes. For instance, switching from paper towels to Dyson power dryers saved us £800 a year.

9 - Green your Supply Chain
Work with your suppliers. Simply including a question in your procurement, about carbon reduction plans and offset commitments, will get people thinking about the issues.

10 - Offset What's Left
The above steps will reduce your carbon impact but there will be some left. To be carbon neutral you can offset this by paying for projects which save as much carbon as you use. At Happy we’ve been unofficially doing this by endowing rainforest since 1991. This time we used the project Rhino Ark, a conservation charity which helps build energy saving stoves that reduce the need for firewood by 70%. This conserves the woodland and wildlife habitat that live in and around the Aberdale National Park in Kenya.

This will make your company officially Carbon Neutral. As I’ve said its not only good for the planet but it makes business sense. It saves money, increases staff loyalty, gives a positive picture of the business and helps with answering those government procurement questions on your impact on the environment.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Cadbury Does the Right Thing

Congratulations to Cadbury on its decision to make Dairy Milk a fairtrade product. This seems to be a rare but genuine example of a major corporation using its power and influence for positive effect. Chief Executive Todd Stitzer has done well.

Despite loving chocolate, I have not always been a fan of Cadbury. I remember listening to Chairman John Sutherland at a Business in the Community conference some years ago, just after Channel 4 had broadcast a powerful documentary on the role of slavery in chocolate production in the Ivory Coast. The programme had reduced me to tears. I was hopeful that I would hear this corporate giant proclaim that slavery had no place in their industry and they would get the leading companies together to create a programme to outlaw it.

I was to be disappointed. Mr Sutherland chose instead to whine about the role of the media and how consumers might blame Cadbury, even though they sourced very little from the Ivory Coast. For a company that claimed a positive role in society (while selling consumers vast quantities of not very healthy products) it was a truly feeble response.Many companies proclaim their commitment to corporate social responsibility.

However for many it is little more than a marketing gloss. This is obvious in extreme cases like British American Tobacco. BAT has a great community programme but its effect is trivial compared to the devastation wrought by its main product. If BAT had any genuine commitment to society it would at least stop marketing its cigarettes (especially in the third world, where it now focuses most of its pernicious efforts).

Let's hope that Cadbury's decision will be good for sales and will lead other companies to do the right thing. This could be shifting to fair trade products. Or it could be to simply ask the question of what they would do differently if they actually put ethics at the heart of their company.Imagine. Mobile phone companies might give lower rates for customers who hang on to their old models, rather than endlessly persuading them to upgrade. Supermarkets could restrict their special offers to healthy products, rather than 2-for-1 on giant packets of crisps and the like. Electricity companies could do more to help their customers waste energy.

If companies were genuinely committed to social responsibility they would put ethics and values at the heart of their products. It is great to see Cadbury doing just that.