Nobody would eat a rotten fish by covering the maggot ridden parts with a nice creamy sauce, but I’ve lost count of work rotten from the start that people have made the best of.
It is almost a cliche now, but sadly only in word terms not reality.
Why do organisations, like fish, rot from the head down? Why not up?
Two things. Thinking and power. The thinking about the work, the way it is designed, the things that are important and paid attention to, that is defined at the top, but affects everything below. The reason? That’s where the power flows from, the way the power flows is like water, always down.
Sounds a bit Communist? Well, yes, Communism is a good example of how power and thinking at the top cascaded down, with the paranoid power games of Stalin spreading and infecting a whole nation, from people being disappeared from the Politburo all the way down to kids spying and informing on their parents to the KGB.
It doesn’t have to be as naked or extreme as that. If top management hold their immediate reports to account for “delivering”, then they will too. If top management are focussed on the short term results, then so will their immediate managers, all the way down through the organisation to the front line staff who deal with customers purely to meet their short term targets for that day.
Ever dealt with a service focussed on activity, meeting targets, cutting costs and internal requirements rather than the customer? That’s because the top management are focussed on activity, meeting targets, cutting costs and internal requirements. Staff don’t do this for the sheer heck of it.
Don’t believe the “rogue trader” excuse. The “few bad apples” don’t exist. There’s no such thing as a “clerical error“. 95% of the time, it’s the thinking of top management, the same number that surveys use as a confidence level, people are happy with being right 95% of the time. That’s virtually always.
Sing this little song to yourself. As a reminder.