Posts Tagged ‘Systems and Procedures’

Managements are well known for their propensity to give priority to business targets, and to hell with all the systems, controls, and procedures! So, go in for systems which are simple and can be operated by idiots. The acid test to be applied to check most systems would be KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Auditors will keep coming up with new Standard Operating Procedures. Before rolling those out, a manager would do well to first go in for a pilot run, debug the process, and only then formalize it. This would eliminate the chances of a smart aleck junior coming up with innovative shortcuts to brow beat the system!

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. The Portuguese version of the excerpt follows.)



Os executivos são conhecidos pela sua propensão para dar prioridade aos objetivos do negócio, e que se lixem os sistemas, os controlos e os procedimentos! Por isso, opte por sistemas que sejam simples e possam ser seguidos por idiotas. O ‘teste do algodão’ a aplicar à maioria dos sistemas é o KISS (beijo, em inglês, de “Keep It Simple, Stupid” – Simplifica, Palerma).

Os auditores irão propor sempre novas normas de procedimentos operacionais. Antes de as implementar, o melhor que um executivo tem a fazer é começar por fazer um teste-piloto, depurar o processo e só então formalizálas, eliminando, assim, as possibilidades de um qualquer subordinado espertinho inventar formas sub-reptícias de dar a volta ao sistema!

(This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016.)


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This is the most commonly found breed of CEOs. They are crazy about getting results. They plan well. They execute even better. People rank high amongst their priorities. They protect them much like a tigress would shield her cubs. But when it comes to ethics, values and systems, they could not care less. Auditors cannot be faulted for labelling them as arsonists.

Managements love them. The efficient ones amongst their team members adore them. The sloppy ones dread them. Their Concern for Production is invariably high. They are often sharp when it comes to adapting newer technologies in the organization’s processes. Their Concern for People is also high. They can be found praising their people in public while ruthlessly ticking them off in private.

However, when it comes to Concern for Ethics, they rank very poorly. Their value systems are driven by commercial goals alone. Systems and procedures are merely the dust beneath their chariot wheels, leaving Finance honchos as well as auditors aghast and exasperated.

In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they rank at 9,9,1.X Y Z upgraded

Under them, short-term and medium-term goals get achieved. In their heydays, the Goddess of Success courts them. But harsh arrows and slings of an unforgiving commercial world bring about a day when their Guardian Angels are no longer in a benevolent mood. Regulatory agencies catch up with them and demand their pound of flesh. They get trapped in the intricate web of deceit, evasion and non-compliance they have woven around themselves. Brand image of the organization takes a hit. Competitors swiftly move in to occupy the mind-space of customers. Market valuations drop. Stakeholders and employees start seeking greener pastures.

Gradually, they start getting transformed into CEOs whom we could classify as Charmless Charlies.

A deeper malaise

A charitable way of looking at Arsonist Achiever CEOs would be to say that they happen to be the product of a system which thrives on greed and avarice. When they get results by using unfair means, managements feign to be in a state of blissful ignorance.

In general, the business world does suffer from this omnipresent affliction. When it comes to perpetrating a fraud on unsuspecting stakeholders, human ingenuity has never been found wanting.

If America had Enron, Lehman Brothers and Tyco, UK had Barclays. If Norway had Nortel, Portugal had Banco Espirito Santo. If Switzerland had UBS, India had Satyam and Kingfisher Airlines. Germany has just had Volkswagen.

No specific industry could lay an exclusive claim on such man-made disasters. Be it banking, insurance, mining, automobiles, energy, commodities, IT or real estate, all have set examples of devious plans to deceive the gullible stakeholders.

Human greed and avarice are obviously the root cause. The sheer pleasure derived by a minority in making some extra gains at the cost of a silent majority apparently has a sense of gratification which surpasses all else.

CEOs of the kind discussed here symbolize this deeper malaise. However, this does not mean that their acts of omission are worthy of being condoned. Apparently, there is a flaw in their innate character – they accept cheating as a way of life.

Correcting the myopic vision

What is it that makes a business owner or a CEO to put his conscience to sleep and take a decision which could impact the whole organization a few years down the road?

There could be several factors at work here. A trade-off between extraordinary gains in sight and the risks involved. A hope and a prayer that a deviation would never get caught. A major investment that cannot be written off merely to make a process legally compliant. A gut feel that the regulatory agencies are invariably open to manipulation. The need for a tight squeeze on costs which makes them shift a part of their operations to distant but cheaper pastures, at times ignoring the interests of the local community. The option of using speed money to get the necessary approvals from concerned government agencies.

More often than not, continued success in meeting business goals proves to be their undoing. Arrogance creeps in. Self-confidence brims over. Few Yes-men around them add fuel to the fire. In their relentless pursuit of business results, they develop a myopic vision. Everything else becomes the last priority.

Smarter ones, however, would take a longer view of things. They would have a 6/6 vision. Their decision-making models would invariably take into consideration the moral and the ethical aspects of a situation at hand.

Yet another solution could be to support them with a Conscience Keeper!

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

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Managements are well-known for their propensity to give priority to business targets, and to hell with all the systems, controls and procedures! So, go in for systems which are simple and can be operated by idiots. Auditors will keep coming up with new SoPs. Before rolling these out, a manager would do well to apply the KISS (Keep It Simple and Stupid) test.


Choose a lawyer based on the gravity of the issue at hand. Local lawyers are pretty effective for minor matters. For global issues affecting the industry, get your HO to rope in the second best in the country. This way, you will get first-rate attention, service and results.


Management can be learnt; leadership is inborn. The good news is that in some cases, leadership styles trickle down the organization, and get copied, thereby improving the behavioral consistency across the set up.

Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said “To lead the people, walk behind them”. LEADERS


Formal education systems lead us to depend more on the mind, which thrives on logic alone. However, the heart is the seat of emotions, and has intelligence of its own. The power of intuition flows from the heart, and so does empathy. To survive and do well in the corporate jungle, managers need both in equal measure!


The men at the top are a lonely lot, with no one to share their blues with. Special care needs to be taken to ensure they have a circle of neutral confidantes who can help them in retaining their balance and perspective on issues facing the organization from time to time.

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