Upside-down management

If you treat people well, it is blindingly obvious that they will do a good job. — John Timpson

A common complaint of those at the bottom, is that those at the top, have not a clue what they are doing, though they claim all the credit and trouser a massive unlearned bonus when things go well, and often when they do not, and when things go wrong, blame those at the bottom, and yet still manage to pocket a massive bonus.

You cannot, at the top, run an organisation, as you would have to be all seeing and all knowing. That is why the Communist central control, planned economy, failed so abysmally.

Though it should be noted, that when things do go wrong, as with the banks, as with the Murdoch press, those at the top claim they did not know what is going on.

If control from the top fails, and in Argentina it spectacularly failed, with offshore owners fleeing the country with what they could steal from the business, leaving closed down factories.

If control from the top fails, why not try control from the bottom?

This is exactly what happened in Argentina. The workers scaled the factory gates and got the factories up and running, and did a far better job than the previous owners.

If it can happen in Argentina, why not elsewhere?

Let us look at a real life example.

Harris + Hoole is a chain of coffee shops, serving quality coffee. Unless you inquire a little deeper, you would not realises they were a chain, even less, 49% owned by Tesco. They do everything they can to have the look and feel of an indie coffee shop.

Well let us take this a step further, let them within certain parameters, operate as indie coffee shops. The only parameter would be the quality of the coffee. The role of the manager within the coffee shop, to ensure those working there got what they needed. And that customers were listened to.

They would order their coffee from head office, but be free to try other coffees, free to serve different coffees, for example to experiment with freddo cappuccino, as customers have advised would go down well in the summer. Free to extend their opening hours, free to organises live music, free to buy books to seed a BookCrossing zone.

The only restraint, apart from the quality of the coffee, would be to return a profit. But even then, if one year was bad, there may be a good reason, roadworks down the road and ways would be sought to mitigate.

Trust is important. No matter what systems you implement, staff will tell you ways to circumvent. Therefore do not bother. Do not impose systems that upset 98% of the good guys, to deal with 2% rotten apples. It is not cost effective.

Do away with point-of-sale information and point-of-sale tills. It generates useless data and justifies people in non-jobs

What role middle management, regional mangers? Basically none at least not in their current form.

Middle management to order people around. Nothing annoys people more, than some useless tosser who does not know what he is talking about, no experience of the job, ordering you what to do.

Middle management act as a filter between the boss and the workers, the boss is rendered clueless as to what is actually happening.

Middle management come up with dumb schemes. They do this to try and justify their existence and their over-inflated salaries, basically for doing nothing, often worse than nothing.

If we are to have middle management, their role would be drastically different. It would be to offer support for those at the bottom to do their job better.

Head office is now reduced to a handful of people as there is very little for them to do. Warren Buffet at head office has very few people.

One role of the head office is to visit the reaches of the empire, to see what is good is going on, see what people are doing, what do they need, what is best practice.

For example, the Harris + Hoole example, to provide not only quality training in coffee serving, but also about from where coffee is sourced, roasting, trips to roasters, maybe even trips to the countries from where the coffee is sourced. Why fairtrade, direct sourcing, organic, is important.

Dissemination of information.

What works in one coffee shop, may work elsewhere, it may not. They learn about it, are free to try it if they wish, but are under no obligation/

Pie in the sky?

Actually please note this is how Timpson shoe repair shops are run. Each shop free, within reason, to run as they please.

If a child walks into a shop, has not got quite enough money to have their keys cut, do you turn them away and lose the business? In a top-down businesses, the answer would be yes. In a Timpson, the guy running the shop, has the freedom to decide.

They can even settle claims, up to £500, without reference to anyone else.

The scheme at Timpson was put into place by John Simpson, grandson of the founder who founded Timpson shoe shops in the 1860s. He is now the chairman, and his son is running the businesses.

Contrast this with Oxfam and British Heart Foundation charity shops. Point-of-sales till, sales targets, useless information fed to head office, regional managers cruising around in company cars want to know if sales targets are met, if not why not. The only people best placed to determine the prices in the shops, are the volunteers working in the shops. If your books are £2-50 in a deprived area and the RSPCA charity shop across the road is selling the same books at 50p, then you are not going to sell many books. If your clothes are more expensive than Primark or Asda. If your CDs are more expensive than the local second-hand record shop.

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