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Killers of Corporate Life

by Colin Shaw on June 21, 2016

There are 2 killers of corporate life –  speed and politics.  Let me give you some background.

Before setting up Beyond Philosophy I spent most of my career working in large corporate companies, climbing the ladder of success. I reached the exalted heights of SVP leading a team of 3,500 people globally before I left to start Beyond Philosophy, a customer experience consultancy, back in 2002.

Company Politics 

In my last role I was often asked by friends what I did for a living – I would reply “I play chess”. Why? because that’s what it felt like. I spent my days trying to improve the customer experience and being thwarted at every point by people who have their own agendas. These agendas were mainly not for the good of the company or the customer, but for the good of themselves personally. Many of my so-called colleagues would stab you in the back if it meant that they gained a higher level of recognition in the organization than you did. I guess this is where the ruthlessness of senior positions starts to come into play. The energy and time that politics takes in an organization is incredible. It saps people’s energy and if you are not good at playing, it means that good people fall by the wayside because of their lack of ability to deal with it. Today, while running Beyond Philosophy, I still see this happen every day of the week within our client’s organizations. Good people who are trying to implement a customer experience program are trodden on by others in the organization who simply want to be seen as successful and don’t care if that negatively affects the Customer.

Speed – or lack thereof!

This brings me onto the second area that is killing corporate companies – that is speed. Before I started my own company, I hadn’t realized how much of a difference there was between a big business and a small business in this respect. In my team today, we can have a meeting in the morning and are creating the new strategy and implementing it in the afternoon. Literally. This has happened on a number of occasions as we gain insights and respond to market conditions. Again, in hindsight the decision-making process is inhibited by company politics and the need for consensus. This can cause such delay resulting, on many occasions, in the organization not moving forward and missing opportunities. This happened to me on many occasions in my corporate life and again I see this happening every day in corporate life today.
Here is an example of this. We are fortunate that our reputation drives people to contact us about implementing Customer Experience programs. The time between someone contacting us and agreeing a piece of work is typically six months. Why? Mainly because of politics and lack of willingness of people to make a decision.  It is not uncommon for us to submit a proposal and then still be discussing the details of this months later. The people who have contacted us invariably know what they want and agree within two to three weeks the type of program that should be implemented. However, they need to get other people within the organization on side and then go through the tortuous procurement process. Unfortunately, during this process many people and organizations fall by the wayside as new budget constraints enter as market conditions change.

There have been two very recent examples. One client in the UK who wanted to conduct a one day workshop with their senior team. It took them five months to make a decision about which company should run the workshop and by the time they decided the organization had run out of money in the annual budget and so it didn’t take place!

Another example is an organization who asked us to submit a proposal seven months ago and after many protracted conversations have decided to go ahead. They then asked us to undertake the work in such an impossible timescale which we were unable to fulfill, yet it is they that caused the delay in the first place!

Lack of speed and politics are killing corporations

I’ve often found it ironical that there are no training courses on how to deal with company politics and yet it is such a vital area to be aware and knowledgeable of. I always remember my father’s advice to me when I first started my career back in the 1970s, such a long time ago! His advice was ‘just do good job and everyone will want you’. I think that message holds true today in the corporate world and running a small business.

My advice to everyone is to trust your people to make decent decisions, take more risks, and don’t play politics. I think this would improve the speed in organizations significantly. it is better to make some decision rather than no decision and subsequently tying the whole organization up in knots just to make a simple choice that could be made by one person as opposed to a committee of 337!

I hope this is of use if you are starting out on your career and will join the fight with me to eradicate both of these killers from corporate life.

Have you been stabbed in the back? Are you frustrated by how long everything takes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this article you will also find these interesting:

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Need to improve your Employees Experience? Register now for this webinar on July 20th.

Colin ShawKillers of Corporate Life