Reading Gillian Tett’s excellent book, ‘Fool’s Gold: How unrestrained greed corrupted a dream, shattered global markets and unleashed a catastrophe’ (Little, Brown 2009 – buy it now at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net) reminded me of a memorable saying of the legendary Liverpool Football Club manager, Bill Shankly.
Shanks, commenting on the Beautiful Game once said, “It is a simple game made complicated by those who ought to know better”. I suspect that wisdom reflects much of the corporate jungle that we have created. Beyond the financial practices of murkey credit derivatives there is the complex HR web that is understandable to only a select few. I recall being asked to sit-in on a review process of a large SA blue-chip company as they unveiled their ‘Talent Management Programme’. The programme had been the careful design of a specially designated group and was the culmination of over a year’s endevour. As the graphs, flow charts, spiral graphs and every manner of powerpoint graphic unfolded so the comprehension (amongst the other HR practitioners present) evaporated. It was madness, incomprehensible madness. But of course to question, critique and point out the obvious would have been akin to career suicide. Not being constrained by such concerns, I of course did question, ask and critique. Naturally I have not been invited back.
The point is we continue to make simple things complicated. This is especially true when it comes to the central issue of people within our organisation. Quantum Mechanics teaches us that, when it comes to the very essence, the very construct of our universe, ‘relationships is all there is’. Trust is the foundation, the currency, of all relationships and it was ultimately the breakdown of trust that, according to Gillian Tett led to the current economic crisis we have now. Simple things made complicated. Simple things allowed to be obscured behind elaborate processes, policies, systems and structures. Just who are we kidding? It is time to get back to the ‘simple things’. It is time to realise that to make organisations work well, we don’t need the elaborate, the complex…we need to understand and do the simple things well.