Sorry Mr. Grey…

One of the things it’s taken me a long time to learn in business is that giving a little leeway does you no good at all. The reality is business is primarily black and white, right and wrong, with few shades of grey.

Now this can seem kind of tough but it’s supported statistically in various studies on empathy and decision making in business, but I recently read a case study about decision making in the army. There was a monitoring of potential causalities in outcomes where facts were simply considered or when empathy was employed.  What output do you think had the best results? Surprisingly the outcome when the facts were employed less casualties resulted in the long term – the decision making unfettered by the consideration of the people element had the best result.

In running your own business how many times a week do you bend the rules, make allowances and don’t impose the 100% discipline of your business? If you are anything like how I used to be then you employ this flexibility liberally.  And I am telling you now it is not good for business.

The reality is we know people are people and stuff happens but I highly recommend you toughen up and start treating your company’s rules, your HR policy and your performance criteria with the discipline of Alex Ferguson. Because discipline is very very important.

We have had challenges in terms of low performance in our network in a minority percentage of our depots.  We have been pretty mellow about his – very understanding and nurturing, and haven’t applied the rule of the law, but it’s hurt us badly. Some would call it kindness – and we are kind people – but when I realised that by being ‘kind’ to the individual we were potentially harming everybody on the good ship Diamond, it had to stop. This lack of performance has impacted on HQ and our planned provision of services for the wider network.  So in trying to be kind to the individuals actually in reality we were not managing the best outcome for the majority.  We needed to go back to the black and white application of our contracts, manuals and legal criteria. No more shades of grey.

And then we’ve looked at credit control, and our gentle handle on this, it has cost us over £50k in the last year – again being kind to an individual has in the end really hurt the wider company. And HR – being more than understanding of peoples flakiness has meant our whole business plans are sliding – because we haven’t stuck to the law, the black and white, the fundamentals of the business.

So I ask you – what shades of grey have you got in your business?  And if you applied the black and white approach how much better would you perform?  If you do the analysis I think you’ll be as surprised and as gutted as I was.

We have and always will be people company at Diamond – but to act in the best interest of the greater good I know we’ll be sticking firmly to the rules and applying discipline.

Let me know how the judicious use of a bit of discipline in your company goes.  Now get cracking!