Elevators, Bridges and Other Invisible Architecture of the Corporate World – Communications and Relations in Business
If you think about it (or possibly simply look around), you can think of a company that seemed more like dozens of separate departments, all doing their own thing. Sales doesn’t work with the factory floor, HR doesn’t work with Marketing, and the Board of Directors don’t talk to anyone.
This type of situation is the very definition of corporate dysfunction.
Where do you start to fix this if you are the boss? One of the best places to start is to find someone that you can trust from outside the company.
A bit of harsh truth: If it is something that you are doing that is causing some of these problems, you likely won’t find it on your own. An outside, unbiased person can come in and find the difficulties. They can then help you to fix them, even if that means fixing yourself.
Horizontal bridges between departments can be the most difficult things to create. The distrust between departments can be as bad as sibling rivalry. Each department feels the need to blame the others or, worse, will deliberately sabotage them.
A talented corporate trainer can bring these parties into a room and into an understanding of their mutually assured destruction if the rivalry continues.
Apathy is one of the most insidious illnesses in the corporate world. An attitude that prevents change, whether willfully or simply through inaction, has been the downfall of some of the world’s largest companies. Consider how IBM went from dominating the personal computer market to leaving it all together. Many analysts saw this as product of the company’s inability to change with the times. The company’s executives may have seen themselves as impervious to challenge until it was too late.
Building a ladder from the shop floor to the boardroom is not enough; there needs to be an express elevator.
The people in the plant need to have representation in the boardroom and the Board and all of the C-level executives need to consistently visit the place where the real work is going on.
There is always a fear when the CEO or President comes to visit. Everyone spends days cleaning, scrubbing, and ironing their shirts. They hide their problems and middle management sometimes cautions employees not to talk about what they need.
Nothing is a greater disservice to the company, the workers, or the executives. It is the executives job to make sure that the factory has everything it needs to be efficient. If they don’t know the problems, they can’t fix them.
Conversely, the executives should not make every visit an axing session where they are only visiting to see who is extraneous and in need of termination.
The express elevator needs to run both ways frequently enough to be commonplace. One of the best CEOs I ever knew ran a medium-sized enterprise of about 180 people. Every morning he would walk from his office at one end of the plant all the way to the other end to get a cup of coffee. This allowed him to say, “Good morning,” to each person and to let them see him as an approachable and likeable person. He always maintained the chain of command when someone needed something, but he would listen to anyone.
Building bridges and elevators takes a special talent and often needs to be referred to someone who is outside of the corporate structure. Nonetheless, it can be done and almost invariably ends up improving the work environment and the company’s bottom line.
About the Author
Rene Blum was the CFO of the Holcim Group Russia. He has worked in the UK, Russia, Switzerland, and across Eastern and Western Europe. He holds an MBA and a CMA. His experience at helping to improve corporate structures and communication is extensive. Over the years, he has been called into rehabilitate corporate environments that others had declared hopeless. Each time, has been able to turn the company around and recreate a viable and successful enterprise.