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Be credible - organize a funeral

Working people distrust their organizations. People distrust their management teams. People do not believe in the directors, they do not believe in the management.
This is a major stumbling block in many of our companies. Fifteen years’ experience in the Basque Country leads me to think that this is one of the great evils that are all too often observed in Basque organizations.

They look on in disbelief, and they ask themselves: what’s this latest fuss all about? What kind of mess are we getting ourselves into now? The same old thing ... nothing here, nothing there, all good intentions, but all coming to nothing. They don’t believe us, we don’t believe, I don’t believe.

Why is this? When we analyze the credibility of an organization, we are forced to look into a multiplicity of causes. But I will allow myself the luxury of homing straight in on the two main ones:

  • We don’t do what we say we will.
  • We have outworn systems which cause us to lose credibility

All too often I see organizations that do not stick to the principle of saying what they do and doing what they say. As soon as we separate the two, either by excess or deficiency, whether organizations or people, we lose credibility. Here are two examples:

  1. “We are going to meet every month” - and then it turns out that we don’t (lack of credibility generated by deficiency)
  2. “In this project we will devote 20 hours to...” - and we end up putting in 300 with still no sign of an end (lack of credibility generated by excess)

Organizations must make a major effort to try to regain lost credibility, to be able to build trust – but how?

If you make promises, keep them. Mind you, people are not stupid! I'm not saying that that’s all you need to do, but at least it must be seen that an effort has been made. We are forgiving where real effort has been made, but merciless with neglect.

In our organizations we have management systems put in place that do not work any more, and we all know this to be so, but there they are, like an old block and tackle in the middle of a factory, which no longer hoists anything, but that nobody gets rid of. Organise a funeral for them! Get rid of systems that do not work, those that are no good to anyone, which do not meet the purpose for which they were created and which generate disrepute, wastage of time and loss of credibility ... and be reborn with new systems with fresh ideas, fresh air, with determination and perseverance. Let the next posting on your company noticeboard be a death notice with black trim, saying for example "Come to the funeral of the Suggestions Box", and raise a glass of alcohol-free beer in celebration of the death of a system which no longer did anyone any good.

It is very difficult to fool the people you have in your organization. We are all more or less aware of what goes on and what doesn’t, of what is done and what isn’t, of what really makes a contribution and what merely covers our backs ... but trying to do an “inside cover-up job" is a trick that only the nimblest of jugglers and tightrope walkers can pull off, and even then only for a short time.

Let what works work - be credible, be credible!


Gonzalo Serrats. OPE Managing Partner

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