Friday, 24 February 2012

Is Depression Costing Your Business? Probably!

The cost to UK business alone of poor mental health management is in the region of £25 billion per year (Centre for Mental Health, UK);

Depression is soon set to become the second most common cause of disability globally, after heart disease (World Health Organisation)

One in four adults will suffer from a mental health problem in a given year and the majority of these people will suffer depression (British Office of National Statistics)

(Global Business Magazine, February 2012)

And guess what? The most significant impact on workforce stress and depression is the way work is organised and managed! The latest findings on workplace depression suggest that the solution is to ensure that people

  • Are able to see how their output makes a valuable contribution to the organisation.
  • Are allowed as much variety as possible in the tasks they carry out, the speed at which they work, the way in which they work and even the place in which they work if possible.
  • Receive regular performance feedback – repeated studies have shown that uncertainty about performance is a major stress factor.
  • Are given ownership of their responsibilities.
  • Are provided with suitable opportunities for learning and problem-solving

In short, workplaces that have [open] communication and that allow their employees greater flexibility and control have fewer instances of depression.

Hardly rocket science! But despite manager-talk, few organisations get anywhere near approaching such a climate. Most are so interpersonally dysfunctional (mad) that they could hardly be better designed and operated to intentionally produce depression and anxiety.

The secret is to transform the context: the members’ shared unconscious and conscious assumptions about the way the organisation functions.

So how do we do that? The best time to do it is when the organisation is in crisis. The current global economic climate offers many exceptional opportunities. However, most such opportunities are squandered with conventional restructure, cost cutting, and consequent reinforcement of what’s bad about the way we typically organise and communicate.

The best way to do it is to engage in widely inclusive strategic planning and execution along lines advocated by

· Denning(2010) The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century (available on Kindle from Amazon USA for NZ$18)

· Hamel (2011) Reinventing the Technology of Human Accomplishment (Management Innovation Exchange Video)

· Kim and Mauborgne (2005) Blue Ocean Strategy (available on Kindle from Amazon USA for NZ$11)

· Sinek(2010) How Great Leaders Inspire Action (TED Video)

· Weick and Sutcliffe (2007) Managing the unexpected: Resilient Performance in and Age of Uncertainty (available on Kindle from Amazon USA for NZ$18)

All write about strategy for organisational transformation.

These aren’t “tool boxes” for managers to apply to the managed. The transformation begins with managers’ open commitment to first transform their own behaviour, despite the perceived risks of loss of authority and chaos. Most managers fail at this first hurdle.

To succeed they’ll need the full support of their board of directors and accountability, with education and encouragement, to a coach skilled in such transformational process. That way they can learn experientially - the fastest most effective way - to lead the transformation process.

The benefits: market leadership, unimagined high levels of client and employee satisfaction, amazing technical innovation, reduced costs, higher profits.

The most powerful determinant of NZ business success today is all in the mind.


Monday, 2 January 2012

How to be successful in 2012 and beyond (II)

Pervasive belief in individualistic self-improvement, goal achievement, profligate consumption and bullshit opulence was the target of my previous post: the tongue-in-cheek rant “How to be successful in 2012 and beyond” . 

The satire was too subtle (or maybe too long) for some. For instance a friend commented on Facebook, "Hey Steve, it's not that I don't believe in what you say... but I've had one hell of a 2011, and none of it was planned. Happy New Year and very best for 2012, planned or not."

I replied, “ My (satirical) point precisely. I'd say you have had a very successful year "dancing in the moment".

The thing is that he and we all seem to have become so accustomed, so programmed to the mantra of individualistic self-improvement and goal achievement that we tend not to see or value other forms of success.

This was highlighted for me in 2011 when as business development coach I “went back on the tools” a couple or three days per week to provide some flexible trades capacity in a client’s property maintenance business while we set it up for growth.

Not surprisingly the growth strategy includes niche-focusing, differentiating, and enhancing the value of his services, so to increase the price. 

Turns out that the first task was to rebuild his concept of the value of what he does.  His belief was that his service is manual work and therefore low status, low value, competing on price.

I can understand his belief. You don’t have to look far to see that success is widely regarded as not-doing manual work. It’s indicated by graduating from manual to administrative work. The further you are removed from the manual work into administrating it the higher the financial rewards and status. High paid people don’t get their hands dirty. This is I think grotesquely apparent in the differential between shop-floor and CEO remuneration.

I set out to convince him that despite the virtualisation of many aspects of contemporary life and the reification  of financial services, administration  and “knowledge work”, people still dwell in bricks and mortar. They depend on built-in utility equipment and services that suffer wear and tear. At the same time, the skills and knowledge needed to maintain and renovate these things, or even to install them properly in the first place, are increasingly alien to most.

The value of that skill and knowledge becomes acutely apparent with hard times, natural disaster, and environmental degradation when maintenance and renovation become a favourable alternative to profligate consumption.

Another thing I discovered with working on the tools was that I quickly got fit. There’s something about sustained physical activity that can’t be achieved in a thrice weekly, intense, hour-long gym workout, no matter how hard you go.

It wasn’t only the physical health but also the mental health of directly creative activity and tangible product – such a contrast to sedentary intellectual work in a typically manipulative bureaucratic setting.

I mentioned my re-evaluation of manual work to a surgeon friend who replied that surgery is labour. This was confirmed when a paediatrician friend confirmed that surgeons have lower status in medical circles than other medical specialists because they are the plumbers, fitters, carpenters and decorators.  

To return to the opening topic: in contemporary life it seems that success has become such a narrow and distorted belief that it rules out pretty much all people and activity except being on target to become or being a Glossy-model-looking CEO in “knowledge work” living at peak-consumption. 

That has got to be sick. My successful business clients, in terms of profitability, health and contribution to society, have overcome that programming to find a much more fruitful concept of success. It’s about finding hope, joy, and peace in doing good things together: in collaborative enterprise. 

That’s practically the antithesis of individualistic self-improvement and goal achievement.