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Hanley (Doc) Harding

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The Business Organism
by Hanley (Doc) Harding   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, May 04, 2007
Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2007

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Are you concerned about the "health" of your business? You should be...

Thoughts on the Business Organism

Most organisms, biologic or otherwise, have inherent needs which enhance their general health and promote their growth. These might be listed as follows (not necessarily in order of importance):

1) Nutrition
2) Environment
3) Protection
4) Sense of Well-being
5) Sense of Accomplishment

Let's equate these biologic necessities with those of the business organization.

1) Nutrition

This, of course, equates directly to:

A) the amount and quality of business conducted, which can be measured as bottom-line end-of-day profits.

But, also, to:

B) management's ongoing psychological support and re-inforcement to the teams and individuals who work every day to bring in that "Nutrition" for the benefit of the entire business organism.  This psychological support and re-inforcement should be fostered in many ways, which we shall cover later on.

2) Environment

The working environment encompasses many important  --  even bottom-line critical  --  points.

A) Social environment  --  the "getting along" of team members  --  is absolutely necessary to your bottom-line profits.  So many petty "tits-for-tat" can hurt business: failure to bring a missed point to a co-worker's attention; "back-burnering" a task which really needs to be handled in an immediate time frame; failure to message a co-worker about a time-important matter; originating and/or promoting gossip about an un-popular co-worker; keeping important information to oneself in order to increase self-importance; putting an inordinate amount of time (company-paid-for time!) and energy into the building of a "personal empire" to the detriment of the rest of the members of the business team; simmering jealousy and resentment against a promoted co-worker perceived as being unfairly favored by management [But was that co-worker, in fact, promoted by favoritism and not by his/her hard work?  If so, management has now created a problem within the company's social environment, a problem which only management could have avoided.].

What, as management, do you actually know about the people who work for you... how's Joe and his wife's new baby; is Patricia's youngest getting well; is Eduardo's mother out of the hospital yet; are we getting a gift  --  or at least a card and some flowers  --  for Shanika's engagement celebration; did anybody note that Jay-Dee is now making enough money to buy that new car he is so proud of; are we having an appreciative in-office lunch buffet to thank the customer service team for successfully warding off our biggest competitor to retain our top-dollar client; is anybody at work sending a fruit basket and congratulations card to Elena to help her celebrate moving into her new home?  Of course, in a large factory-type environment, the shop manager or line supervisor should be responsible... obviously not an office manager.

B) Physical environment  --  or lack thereof  --  is a great compounder of the mental stresses of the modern day business environment.  The jamming of individuals into bee-hive-sized cubicles, facing into opaque walls, can be very de-humanizing.  Do your workspaces allow room for employees to personalize their surroundings  or are they stuffed into a jumble of screens, keyboards, phones, calculators, file cabinets and bookshelves, and piles of work files, with barely room to turn around, let alone work comfortably?  Are you aware that employees who feel better about their jobs use less sick days and are more productive and loyal to their company?

C) Team work environment: do the "old pros" take new team members under their wing and take the time to "teach them the ropes" or are the old pros just too swamped with work to even have the "luxury" of breaking-in the new member? How about a printed job description manual and an organizational chart, so the new employee knows what is expected and where he/she is supposed fit in?  Is there a new employee orientation program and on-going training programs, whereby management shows workers that the company is interested in furthering their careers and it cares enough about its business to invest the time and effort to teach new people what is needed to accomplish their work effectively and in a timely manner, all to the benefit of the bottom line?

The bottom line to all the above is: are you building a core of loyal employees who are personally interested in the success of the business and look forward to growing with the company, or are you just forever replacing average "worker bees" who soon gravitate to the next job, simply because it seems better than staying at this job -- with your company?

3) Protection

Management is totally and entirely responsible for the level of protection of all employees, starting with the "old pros" who aren't actually in management themselves.  If an employee has a problem, can he/she bring it to someone who will actually pay attention to their concern, or does everyone seem to have a sense of "Nobody cares; I'll be better off if I just keep my mouth shut and do my work."?  And if that's so, is that how you want your employees to feel?

4) Sense of Well-being

All of the above-discussed points can make or break an employee's  --  and an entire company's  --  sense of well-being.  This will have a direct bearing on the bottom line profitability of your business efforts.  It will be sensed by current and prospective clients and affect how they "feel" toward your company.  How do your employees feel as individual workers; as team members; as representatives of your business?  And how do your clients perceive you as a company, through the attitudes of your employees?

5) Sense of Accomplishment

As stated earlier, these salient points aren't necessarily in order of importance, though all are important to the health and success of any organization, be it sports team, military unit or business.  To continue, a sense of accomplishment is necessary for your individual workers, and for your work teams.  Too many workers just "mark time" during workdays, looking at the clock, awaiting the end of day, hating the drive home, looking to see the paychecks being deposited into their bank accounts.  This has become an all-too-common attitude in what has become a palpable "disposable worker" American business environment.  Employment is as much a fiduciary as any professional business/client relationship.  Employees are expected to work diligently, always keeping the company's business interests in mind.  Management, in turn, is expected to provide a comfortable and encouraging work environment, humane treatment and a regular fair wage for work produced by the employees.

As examples, typical telephone sales operations and automobile sales operations have very high turnover rates, because there are many such operations and the low producers are quickly forced out.  Additionally, many of these sales persons are constantly looking for jobs and almost regularly moving from job to job.  Whereas, a high level corporate finance company tends to retain experienced capital and financial specialists, who have spent years accruing valuable business knowledge, which, in turn, makes them highly-appreciated and well-rewarded company assets who bring in major business on a regular basis.  Each business/industry must examine its field of expertise, review its day-to-day business operations and carefully determine where its pitfalls lie and what it must do to make the daily business process go more smoothly and successfully.  Very often, needed measures are easy to identify and easy to implement.  But, sometimes, the process takes serious corporate soul-searching and a sincere realization that some long-standing policies may actually be impeding the company in its efforts to reach a more profitable bottom-line.

As management, do you ask your employees what they feel might help get their jobs done better?  As an example, one of the companies where I worked instituted and encouraged the "Quality Circle" methodology of identifying and solving problems.  Each Circle consisted of a range of employees, whose job positions ran from lower tier all the way through middle management.  The program worked very well, rapidly pinpointing problems and uncovering solutions which were both efficient and cost-effective.  As well, all involved had an exceptional sense of pride in solving long-standing problems... some of which management was not even aware.  When their solutions saved accountable dollars, the Circle members received bonus checks.  You can bet those Circles were always looking to save the company time and money... it made their jobs easier, and it often resulted in cash rewards.

In the notorious Ford Explorer / Firestone tire failures, it was revealed that the tire-makers on the factory floor were dubious of the design and construction of that particular series of tire, but somehow, those doubts, from experienced and knowledgable employees -- the employees who actually made those tires -- didn't seem to reach upper management.

How often do you listen to the ideas and opinions of those who actually perform the tasks?

Something you'll almost always find, when searching for better ways to enable the business to run: there's rarely a single cause of problems.  It's almost always several factors, when added together, which prevent smoother, more profitable daily operations.

Management must implement needed policy from the top, down.  Fortunately, your workers can provide a collective wealth of knowledge from which to formulate new strategies for building stronger, more loyal teams -- teams which will increase company profitability.  And that's good for everyone's bottom-line!

Hanley "Doc" Harding
April, 2007

Reader Reviews for "The Business Organism"

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Reviewed by Rosemarie Skaine 5/15/2007
Excellent write -- most employees have a sense of pride in their work that is sometimes stifled by uninformed management. R
Reviewed by Randall Barfield 4/30/2007
Taking these questions into consideration (There are many!) and actually caring what employees feel as well as soliciting their invaluable input are two things that help to make a company great! Down here where I am, things point in the other direction. Now new employees are hired on a 3- to 6-month contract so they start out knowing that they have to 'appeal' and work hard or bye bye in the 3 or 6 months. There aren't enough jobs now and too many applicants, both situations that cause worker boredom and managerial apathy. It's complicated it seems. Good write/read. Thanks for sharing it.
Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan 4/29/2007
great words of wisdom here-

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