A particularly irritating document turned up on everyone’s desk at work last week: entitled Managing for Value and me (italicised exactly like that), it’s one of those corporate idea things, based on the concept that we should go through our working lives asking ourselves fatuous questions like “Everything I do today will create or destroy value. Which is it to be?”. Just in case we haven’t grasped the concept there, it’s illustrated with a hand clutching a bundle of money (dollar bills — welcome to the 51st state of the USA), and money in flames. Ooh, scary…
The tone of the document is wildly uneven, swinging between the fatuously obvious, aimed at backward seven-year olds i.e. “We all face alternatives and make choices in our daily work”, and paragraphs which can only be understood by those with an honours degree in the sort of economics which only work at the sub-atomic level. Ah, we do love delicious examples of jargon-laden nonsense:
“At the core of the Group’s strategy lies a clear statement of intent: we will beat the mean Total Shareholder Return performance of a peer group of financial institutions over a three-year rolling average.”
Well, that’s cleared that up. I’m so glad. There’s a whole double-page spread, populated by the sort of happy, smiling “workers” (posed by models, no doubt) that you only see in promotional rubbish like this, surrounded by the sort of questions we are now apparently to ask ourselves:
- Am I spending time performing tasks that don’t add value?
- Is there other work I could do that would be more productive?
- Can I find better ways to use my time at work?
I think the word “than” is missing from the last one. I’m sure some company has been paid a huge amount to come up with this strategy, not to mention printing and distributing this full-colour, glossy publication, but everyone here just sniggered and tossed it — except me, of course, who’s always keen to find a new target for a quick pot-shot at Korporate Kulture. Because it simply has no relevance to our everyday lives, and indeed, is not unlike going to the Mako Shark Petting Zoo. For we know the company has no loyalty to us, and would toss the entire department for the sake of the bottom line. So why should we bother?
There are a couple of nuggets buried in there that make sense: at the very bottom of the line leading to “increased shareholder value” is “employee confidence”, and increasing that should be the engine which drives the whole process. Yet it’s barely mentioned anywhere else in the brochure, and the company perpetually shoots itself in the foot by, for example, forbiding half of its employees from having a dress-down day for charity. Yes, only half of us, thereby neatly managing not only to piss them off, but also give the general impression that the left-hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. This kind of thing yanks the carpet out from under “Managing For Value” before it gets off the ground.
Another of the “basic questions” we’re supposed to ask ourselves is “Can I find new ways to eliminate waste and reduce cost?”. There is a very obvious answer to that one, which can briefly be summarised as “not producing bullshit like this.” Maybe if they started by sorting that out first, the prospect of jacking the job in and heading for America might be slightly sad…