Untie the Corporate Straight Jacket of Policies and Procedures in a Siloed Workplace
It always makes me slightly uncomfortable when I hear the words “from good to great,” “synergy” or my all-time favorite “corporate restructuring.” Through my many years of working with different companies, I know it could be one of or all of the following things at work. 1. A company is financially suffering and grasping at straws to fix the proverbial leak in the dam. 2. A company has become siloed/compartmentalized and is held captive by policies and procedures. 3. A company has lost its relevance in the marketplace and is desperately trying to reinvent itself.
When an economic downturn ruptures or a business struggles to make its sales goals, a state of panic sets in. Corporations become desperate and usually cut marketing budgets, or even worse, stop marketing all together. This in turn can start a perpetual downward spiral. Some companies will either dramatically rebrand or refocus to stop the bleeding, throw money at a problem, or lay off staff. Marketing, if done right, is the driving force in any business, and if the machine of the business is oiled and firing on all cylinders, it’s quite unstoppable in any situation.
We work with so many businesses and see this in all verticals and industries. Before you take any drastic steps and start a quest for a rebrand or new marketing efforts, consult the list below to see if you need a change. Good brands tell good stories, and it may be the case that your brand is stuck in a chapter it can’t get out of. I can’t say I blame any one thing in particular, but I can help give you the warning signs to see if your company is heading into an area for concern:
- Your company has plateaued and can’t seem to grow consistently.
- You report to more than one boss.
- You or an employee challenge a policy or procedure, and the response is, “I don’t know why we do it that way. We just do it.”
- The procedures or policies create more work than they solve.
- You have meetings after your meetings to discuss what you talked about in your meeting.
- Your boss tells you to do something in relation to policy and procedure and then turns around and does the complete opposite.
- Your coworkers talk more about each other than about new ideas or work.
- You and your fellow employees are afraid of making decisions because you don’t want to get in trouble even though the decision would save the company money or help them avert a disaster.
- Your organization conducts a best practices audit, and the end result is an even worse set of policies and procedures.
- Meetings last for hours with no agenda and nothing ever seems to get resolved or moves forward.
This is a small list, but if you answered yes to at least 5 of these items, your company may be in need of a reality check. It’s a shame that this is a reality for a majority of corporate America, both large and small. We have to be nimble in this economy to turn a profit.
I applaud companies that are taking the time to reevaluate themselves in the pursuit of running leaner, meaner and sometimes greener. But at what cost? Certainly, not the cost of buying the book “Good to Great” or “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and thinking you can push a button and magically apply it to your corporate model. Running any business is similar to creating a great ad campaign. Do your research, establish a target and goal, bust through the clutter to get noticed, get traction, and finally examine the results and modify your approach until you exceed your pre-established goals.
As an ad agency, we fall victim to the same challenges as most companies. The difference is our job requires us to think outside the box, and we try to evaluate our companies’ direction yearly, streamline our process, and maximize efficiencies. It’s very easy to be the shoe maker with holes in our shoes, but as an agency if we don’t practice what we preach, we can’t deliver that truth to our clients.
Trying to stay afloat and profitable in this economy has meant working twice the hours for half the pay. Corporate America is asking everyone to sacrifice their personal time and be a “team player.” If you’re a CEO or manager, make sure you do not take advantage of your employees. Good teams stick together and support each other through the hard times but also reward and remember that sacrifice during the good times, too. Just like in advertising brand management, rules of engagement say if you don’t talk the talk and walk the walk, the people you are trying to shape will see right through you and your message and will rebel. If you truly want to go from good to great, take the time to listen and allow your company the stick-to-itiveness to complete the journey and adhere to your new policies or procedures. Don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
Creating a new corporate culture is something that you have to embrace every day from the top down even when it’s not convenient. Don’t be afraid to put a list together of everything it takes to get your work done, see if it is redundant or nonsensical. Talk with your fellow employees or staff, audit your practices, get buy-in, and if you have a cancer, remove it quickly.
I implore you, don’t try to restructure or rebrand on a whim whether it’s to save a buck or because you got a new book or life coach. In this economy if your business is still operating, you’re doing something right. Find out what that “right” is and do more of it and document the journey and process. And for some extra credit, I highly suggest watching one of my favorite movies about a corporate culture that has run amuck, “Office Space.”