One consistent observation from working in a large organisations is that it is often hard to find a common purpose or goal that people unite and rally around. This leads to a divergence of purpose, activities and inefficiencies.
Large organisations are often complex and global and operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People working in them just get used to doing “stuff” and often go though the motions because that is what is expected.
Of course, within a bank for example there are day to day activities that have to happen e.g. booking a transaction in a timely fashion or making a payment to a client. However, there are many cases of large meetings that occur, or powerpoint slides that are produced, that could be done in a more efficient manner, or not at all.
“Would you do that if it were your money?” – this is one my favourite questions to ask people at work. It’s very interesting to hear their response. Some people say “of course not, this is a total waste of time!” right through to “yes I would.” Some people are positive about the question and other become defensive. It does stimulate some debate though and the side effect of that debate can be beneficial.
Having been fortunate to enough to have personal experience of small charities and start ups that have limited resources, I was initially surprised to see that some stuff done in a large organisation was simply not done at the smaller organisation. The resources were not available. That said, these institutions still thrived and were well run. It certainly made me think.
We have all heard the phrase “think like an owner” but for me that is a little abstract.
Try this. Imagine you had a pot of money available at work and whatever was left at the end of the year got shared by staff. Every time you did something that wasn’t truly needed then some of that money taken from that pot. Before it ran out, people would quickly become much smarter about organising a 50 person conference call with no real agenda or producing a 100 page powerpoint deck that didn’t even get read.
Throughout our careers and lives we will all need to do things we don’t want to do and may not always know why, but creating and fostering a culture to challenge and discuss openly has tremendous impact for all.
One question to ask next time you see something happening you don’t see as being valuable is “Would you do that if it were your money?” The results can be very interesting indeed.