One of the reasons work certificates come in so many different forms is that managers are never sure to what extent they should be transparent or opaque. Strangely, many managers are included in opacity. They avoid feedback or block it and therefore miss opportunities for self-correction and improvement.
In an age where the management model has changed from command and control to a team with a 'first among equals' approach, and where the concept of marketing has changed from 'inside-out' marketing to 'outside-in' marketing, there is an imperative requirement for transparency. However, it is surprising how many managers still believe that opacity helps them.
There must be transparency within the organisation—both vertically and laterally; and transparency between the company and its customers. Managers who have been guilty of obfuscation have caused the downfall of large and apparently successful organisations like Enron and WorldTel and many other corporations around the world, thus ruining the fortunes and lives of innocent investors who had trusted the management of these companies.
There is now great pressure to make it incumbent to have boards with at least 50% of independent directors who will protect the interest of small investors; and pressure to have products checked, approved, or endorsed by consumer societies, with representative consumer panels, which can provide feedback and even proactive suggestions.
The Manager’s Moat
1. He was my client, the chief executive officer (CEO) of a group of companies, which again was part of one of India's biggest conglomerates. He was a retired brigadier from the Indian army. And he tried to run the company with army discipline.
All heads of departments (HODs) met him every day to give him an update. Only 30 minutes allowed. If the time was up, then the rest could be covered the next day. Hopefully, the matter can wait another 24 hours for a decision.
Anyone wishing to speak to him could only do this through his secretary. Only 20% of the calls were accepted. It had to be really 'someone' like the group chairman for the brigadier to accept the call. The brigadier was not available between 3pm and 4pm. This was, perhaps, time for thinking, or who knows? Perhaps, time for napping.
Is it any wonder then, with the changing and highly competitive marketplace, the group was brought to its knees, and finally saved by a new management and the hand of God!
2. I was sitting with Philip in his well-appointed office in London. Philip was the director for Europe for a large multinational company (MNC). While we were in conversation, a call was put through to him. He excused himself and took the phone. He spoke for a few minutes and we resumed our conversation. What surprised me was that I could not hear a word of what he said during his telephone call. Obviously, he spoke softly and clearly and he was understood at the other end of the line. Philip knew how to handle his business conversation in the presence of a visitor. Although this was not a confidential conversation, he spoke without the possibility of being overheard. In a positive sense, he 'created a moat'.
3. Ajit and his brother are joint managing directors (MDs) of a company founded by their father. They sit in the same room at two adjoining desks.
One looks after administration and marketing; the other is responsible for the technical and finance functions. They sit in the same room so that each one is fully informed about the discussions that are held by the other, and the decisions that are taken. It is also easier to consult the other right there and then. There are no secrets from one another. It is a transparent organisation at the very top, transparent by choice and not by any compulsion.
4. A very large engineering company in India, once sent two quotes to an enquiry from Dubai. The Dubai company had sent their enquiry to the head office in Mumbai and also the branch office in Chennai. Since one did not know about the other; and there was no system in place, the Chennai office independently sent a quote 15% lower than the quote from the corporate office. They became the laughing stock of the purchasing company, who naturally placed the order at the branch office. Warehousing knowledge, and mining for retrieval for appropriate usage and sharing, is the key that will separate the winner from the also-rans, especially in the new knowledge economy.
Who suffers from the consequences of the manager's moat? The organisation and all its stakeholders. The only one who wins, and temporarily, is the manager who operates the moat. There will always be errors in operations, but these can be corrected if there is openness.
Everyone can learn from mistakes, from their own and also from those of others. This is the essence of creating a learning organisation. The mistaken brief is that a learning organisation implies training programs, classroom and outbound, case studies and management games.
But the greatest learning takes place in the school of experience.
The insecure, selfish and short-sighted manager, who creates the moat and guards the drawbridge, is a great barrier to creating a learning organisation and to the organisation's progress.
(Extract from Manager to CEO by Walter Vieira)
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are "Marketing in a Digital/Data World with Brian Almeida and "Customer Value Starvation can kill" with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)