Janitors Rule (down with high handed management)

A few years (almost a decade) ago in another telco that I was working at, I had an on the job conversation with my then manager.  I urged him to go talk to the shipping clerk to find out the skinny on how the company is really doing. As a result I was called a “bloody communist”  “Καλά είσαι κομμούνα ρε? “. That line was the conversation killer.

Well during this year’s AIFS conference in Athens, Wendy Goucher of Idrach ,said exactly that: “talk to the janitors, canteen caretakers and such personnel; they will tell you more or less how to fix your business”.

Now I am not privy to Mme. Goucher’s political opinions, but I do certainly feel vindicated that my gut feeling has been extensively studied in the field of psychology.

BTW. Many thanks to the organizers of AIFS, it was a good note comparing ground.


3 thoughts on “Janitors Rule (down with high handed management)

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yiorgos Adamopoulos and Angelos Karageorgiou, Robot J. McCarthy. Robot J. McCarthy said: McCarthy wuz right? RT @kangelos I am not a bloody communist, no really I am not http://bit.ly/cFUEcn […]

  2. Hi Angelos,

    A combination of my social psychology and management studies, and experience (my own and those others have shared with me over the years) tells me that then “hands on” personnel have a great deal to tell us about the practical problems, and ideas for solutions, not least in security matters. For example you may have a secure scheme that says that nobody can enter the building without their ID badge- but door security staff will tell you that there is always someone that forgets their badge, or leaves it in another pocket. The way around that is to have them produce another form of ID (such as a photo driving licence), and a check made for them on the staff list (or better staff a phonecall to their boss). A note could be made and, in the case of repeat offenders, their boss informed so they can manage the situation.
    This is not a matter of politics it is a matter of, in the process of collecting all relevant information about policies and procedures, doing a thorough job. I am not saying operational staff have all the answers, but they do have some answers and plenty of information. Much can be gained in business by showing respect to people and acknowledging their input.

  3. One essential point is that raw, rather than processed, data is often necessary when you are looking to make critical judgements. The shipping clerk knows what products are going out (and what are coming back as returns), the invoice clerk knows who is and isn’t paying their bills. As Wendy said, the people who have to enforce security controls, whether they are receptionists, guards or your IT helpdesk, will often have very good ideas to improve processes and know where processes are being circumvented in the sacred name of “getting the job done.” Staff at all levels are a vital source of gossip – and, while not evidence, anecdote can often help you to target analysis resource.

    The further you are away from where the actual work of the company is being done (regardless of where or what this is), the more likely your information has been filtered to the advantage (or, at least, the non-disadvantage) of somebody in the reporting chain. The management-speak phrase for this is “walking the floor” – but that is generally necessary because few people at the lower levels have the freedom to leave their position to come and see a senior manager and, except in the smallest or most flat-hierarchy organisations, even fewer will see it as appropriate.

    I don’t think that the politics of resource ownership are actually relevant (except as a gratuitous insult) to any discussion of ‘who knows what’ – pointlessly bureaucratic management structures are generally seen as a feature of communist rather than capitalist economies. The Soviet “5 Year Plans” were notorious for the inaccuracy of the information they were built on, because of the vicious penalties for deviations from the requirements.

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