In Brussels there is a charitable organization which
arranges experts from Belgium to spend time working on a voluntary basis for
companies in the southern hemisphere that need expert help but have no way of
being able to pay for it.  Having engaged
my consulting business with this organization, it got me wondering how our
clients might also benefit from such a scheme.

To put it bluntly, no matter the company, I
notice a common trend.  After a number of
years in the job, many employees become so insular that they are simply unable
to imagine doing their jobs, or running their businesses, in any other way.

Over the last decade or so the software company SAP has
played a considerable part in challenging large companies to seriously look at
their end to end business processes and to streamline them.  Over time their software has been released in
versions that are tailored for specific industries.  However, no matter how similar one business
might be to another, most have one thing in common:  They think, even without really knowing, that
they are different and that any other way of doing business would not work for
them.

For most companies redesigning their business processes ‘in
line with a software program’ is a challenging change of mindset, and therein
lies the danger.  Alongside the many
success stories there have been numerous disasters.  In general these were not down to the
technology but to the way that the projects were owned and managed.  Too often it is the IT department, working
with external consultants that try to tell the business how it should be
done.  Resistance becomes endemic and
business ownership flies out the window.

However, looking beyond this horizon, one of the problems
lies in our lack of desire to objectively look at ourselves from another’s view
point.   When my children were at school
their teachers used to organize school outings to local businesses, factories
and museums.  Apart from the adventure of
a coach trip and a day off school, these trips encouraged the opening of young
eyes.  Opinions were formed and even
career choices made in those early informative days. 

In the same way, it would make a refreshing change for long
term employees and middle management to have the chance to visit other
companies and even consider exchanging jobs for a few weeks.  This could be safely done with either a
similar, but non competitive business, or by working for a small company in a
developing country where the benefit of one’s input can be more than matched by
the total experience and knowledge gained. 

I believe that leaders should work with voluntary
organizations such as ‘The Exchange Company Club’ and try to find ways to
encourage their middle management to inject new ideas and life into their
organizations while benefiting others at the same time.  Just an idea!

Have a good week,

Harley