The Biggest Risks Are Sometimes the Ones We Never Talk About
By Miles Crisp: CEO – Tarsus Technologies Group
Wow what a presentation. Thank you Miles. I think everyone will agree that we were spell bound and highly entertained by a real heart to heart, honest and refreshing look into corporate culture. My short write up won’t do justice to what Miles spoke about. Fortunately we videoed the event which will soon be up on the web-site and well worth a look at.
Miles spoke about looking deeper into what makes an organisation tick and not just taking things at face value. There is a lot going on under the surface of all organisations. Miles spoke about organisations being ‘mist’ (my interpretation being: ‘a facade and what you see is not quite what you get’), steeped in tradition, brand, processes and controls that portray this wonderful outside image of the company. In many cases however there is a culture right from the top aimed at systematically indoctrinating us all (the public) to believe in this wonderful organisation. But beneath the surface there are these submarines (people and groups within an organisation) battling it out and torpedoing and sinking one another. The oil slick bubbles up to the surface and risk managers and others run around trying to contain the oil slick. They don’t see all the machinations below the surface and the cause of the oil slick which happened 1 km below the surface and 12 kms away from where the slick popped up on the surface. We as risk and audit managers don’t ask the hard questions or get to the root cause of the problem which more often than not involves people, politics and the senior leadership of the organisation. Instead we tick-off and find holes in processes, controls etc. which is an important function but does not address the root cause of how people work / don’t work together resulting in inefficiencies and the inability for the organisation to achieve its strategy. We don’t find or unblock the ‘clot’ (i.e. people undermining the strategy) that causes the heart attack that can bring the entire organisation to its knees.
What made Miles’s presentation real was the number of examples where we as the public have been duped; to name just a few: Dick Cheney / Geroge W. Bush and the world-wide propaganda and justification of calling for the invasion of Iraq, based on the misleading claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; behind the scenes this was about making money for the Carlyle Group supplying and making a fortune out of arms dealings. The FIFA scandal which reads like a mafia story. The orchestrated dishonesty at VW regarding the emission scandal, the Siemens scandals in 2008 and beyond with Solmssen’s comment: ‘a culture of corruption extended far beyond the executive suite. As one German investigator later put it, “bribery was Siemens’ business model”. In fact, the company even had a handy accounting euphemism for its bribes: “nützliche Aufwendungen,” or “useful money”.
Miles spoke about and referred to lessons learnt whilst working with Etsko Schuitema (care and growth leadership consulting) where you need to look at the people element by mentoring the right people to enable them to step up to the plate, take accountability and get results rather than just being rules based, fit for purpose robots. Miles made reference to a good example of ‘robot based’ processes: leave accruals which were so high that by sending everyone on leave the company could make its profit targets. This is where the process has superseded good business sense. How many other processes / controls are there like this which are audited again and again and make no difference. The oil slicks… without finding the root cause. The important thing however is that once you have empowered someone and they are given the accountability and responsibility, there must be consequences if they don’t deliver.
Putting the right people in the right seats to achieve success, removing the clots (people and groups blocking the vision / strategy and smooth flow of the organisation) and ethical and honest leadership (genuine tone from the top) results in a winning business.
For the video please click on http://www.barnowl.co.za/videos/