The old business model doesn’t work!
Big business has a stark reality to face.
Let’s face it. The current big business operating model is failing progress, innovation, competitiveness, and productivity.
Let’s look at the foundations of the current western white collar business model.
It all started in the industrial revolution.
The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from between 1760 to 1840.
It was a time of fast progress and profound social change. The period altered rural, slower paced, agrarian societies in Europe and America into industrialised, fast paced, urban ones.
The industrial revolution provided the opportunity to increase the amount of goods that could be made, undercut the artisan markets thereby reducing the cost of previously considered luxury or high cost items, and widen the network of domestic and international business. All good things right?
Well, this economic transformation changed not only how work was done and goods were produced, but it also altered how people related both to one another and to the planet at large.
Laws and regulations lagged behind. The drive to keep the machines turning (We’re not earning, if the wheels aren’t turning) combined with securing space for machinery to be housed would be, at times, met with tragic consequences. Poorly built warehouses that had been packed within people working 12 hours a day with heavy machinery on the upper floors would collapse killing hundreds of people. Injuries were countless. Conditions were oppressive.
Factories were often very hot during the summer and freezing during the winter. Workers that fell sick would be replaced.
One of the first labor laws passed was the Factory Act of 1819 passed in Britain. It made it illegal to employ children under 9 years old. It was seldom enforced, however, as workers organised, they began to go on strike in order to demand better working conditions and hours. Some early laws were passed in favour of worker exploitation and actually made it illegal for workers to unionise.
Exploitation of Workers
Enter Frederick Winslow Taylor. Fredrick grew up in the thick of the industrial revolution and trained in a new skill the period gave birth to, mechanical engineer. He was trained to think in systems breaking down larger systems into its modules and then reconstruct a new system that would promise greater speed and efficiency. He changed the way humans interacted with mechanics and with the business systems. He relegated people to automatons. Cogs in the machines.
Frederick became lauded as an intellectual leaders of the efficiency and management and at Uni I studied The Principles of Scientific Management and was inspired by Taylor’s method to scientifically identify flaws in labour productivity and work processes and then map out the best way to to increase business efficiency was through improved management methods and the manner in which the work was done.
But, I had a nagging feeling something was missing from his systems thinking. Taylor’s Scientific Management put unnecessary pressures on the employees to perform the work faster. Importance was given to productivity and profitability. Promotions were awarded for driving up speed. And for demonstrating a “hard nosed” management attitude. This resulted in exploitation of the employees.
Taylor assumed that workers are motivated only by financial gains. However, in reality, workers are motivated not just by financial incentives but also by social needs, individual goals, to be part of a bigger solution, and personal egos.
In the service sector, we now have Job Tasks/Descriptions and Key Performance Indicators and Performance Reviews. They’re all built on Taylor’s scientific management however, his principles were designed to be applied only for factories where the performance can be measured quantitatively. But, it is used, surreptitiously, in finding flaws in the individual. And yet, performance of an individual cannot be purely measured quantitatively.
Taylorism has many cheerleaders. They say that he paved the way for management and he only wrote wat he believed to be right then. Taylorism might not work now for the times are different from back then and back then people were indeed motivated by money because they were trying to survive and the government was not as lenient as it is now.
Have we evolved?
Not quite. Big business is built on pillars of mechanical management. A Divisional Structure. Some disadvantages of this structure include operational inefficiencies from separating specialised functions — for example, finance personnel in one division do not communicate with those in another division.
Within these divisions, office workers will work in cubicles reminding them that they have a a narrow and limited view. Information and ideas stay firmly within divisions. If a worker dares step outside of that division to offer an idea, it is met with incredulity. Then there are the titles and roles assigned to workers such as Task Supervisor, Director, Team Leader, and operations managers. Each geared to have a myopic focus.
Organisational culture demands following norms. Often new employees or change agents (like me) will hear the nine most toxic words in business “This is the way we’ve always done it here.”
These words perpetuated siloed thinking and actively repress frank conversations and ideas. It perverts the course of competitiveness. It corrodes the real heart of productivity — multiple level innovation.
I concedes that no office environment is perfect. In open plan offices, for example, there will still be those who irritate peers by bellowing into the phone. But a more ideal one is giving workers a choice of work environments to fit the demands of different tasks.
What will the future workplace be like?
Well, it wont take an intense PEST Analysis (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) to determine what major external factors could impact the future of work. This pandemic and the battle between scientific information and misinformation will create waves of lockdowns forcing businesses, that have been myopic in their management style, to change. It will also provide the perfect proving ground for future focused businesses to leapfrog competitors. To find the perfect balance between productivity and Work-Life Balance. Offering Improved Inclusivity, greater collaboration throughout the business ecosystem, and customisable home offices.
With the increase in remote working, will physical offices still exist?
They will change. Look different. Offer different services. Be location Independent. Help eliminate commute stress. Save money for investors by eliminating huge lease costs. Blend technology with staff lifestyles and business. Technology will all make working remotely easier. But it will be HOW the business will retain staff that will be the magic ingredient.
This is where the brand becomes important.
The biggest risk in branding is not maintaining a single, distinctive, and compelling Brand Truth. A single brand ideal that permeates all the way through the organisation. The companies that do this end up have an extremely powerful brand and brand experience regardless of where staff or customers are located.
What is the Brand Truth? It is the most important and powerful aspect of a brand. It is the “Nucleotides” that hooks together all characteristics and expression of the brand.
Business gets easier when you have a recognisable brand and that every staff member understands. With a strong brand, you don’t have to sell nearly as long or as hard — potential employees, staff, and customers already know what you stand for.
Here’s how to give your company the kind of brand identity that will help build your business in this socially transformative period.
Define your brand personality
A brand is the promise you make to your staff and customers. It not only includes your logo, colour scheme, taglines, slogan, design elements but also the organisation’s values and the personality of the culture.
Think through exactly what it is you offer and why staff and customers choose your product or service. Define what makes you stand out from the competition.
Use brand tools
Hire a brand agency. Full disclosure… I run one of Australasia's best strategic brand agencies.
You want the company personality to be easily identifiable at every human touchpoint, from word of mouth to final sale. Make sure that any built environment (offices, WFH fit outs), organisational culture approach, packaging and all of your communications and advertising — from e-mails through to billboards — speaks with a brand-consistent voice.
Many business leaders don’t bother actively focused on branding because they’re busy navigating internal politics, chasing sales, impressing investors, or recruiting talent. Yet success comes from differentiating your offerings in the marketplace and rigorously connecting with your audience. If you take the time to brand — that is, figure out how to articulate who you are, what you sell and which audience to target — all your marketing and staff engagement efforts become more focused.
Finally, honour what your brand symbolises. The greatest tagline in the world won’t get customers to come back if you don’t fulfil your brand promises.
A company’s task is to build, maintain and manage that relationship. The brand’s design (in every respect) is a signifier; even a territorial marker. But who is marking the territory — the customer or the brand owner? It’s all a function of design A brand is a distinct product, service or business on the mind of a consumer, or set of consumers. This process may last a lifetime, or for as long as the consumer remains in a demographic group Branding is not only about ubiquity, visibility and function, but about ‘emotionally bonding’ with a target group of customers.
It is important to distinguish between corporate identity, brand identity, and brand image. Corporate identity is concerned with the visual aspects of a company’s presence. When companies undertake corporate identity exercises, they are usually modernising their visual image in terms of logo, design, and collaterals. Such efforts do not normally entail a change in brand values so that the heart of the brand remains the same — what it stands for, or its personality. Unfortunately, many companies do not realise this fallacy, as they are sometimes led to believe by agencies and consultancy companies that the visual changes will change the brand image. But changes to logos, signage, and even outlet design do not always change audience perceptions of quality, service, and the intangible associations that come to the fore when the brand name is seen or heard.
The best that such changes can do is to reassure consumers that the company is concerned about how it looks. Brands do have to maintain a modern look, and the visual identity needs to change over time. But, the key to successfully effecting a new look is evolution, not revolution. Totally changing the brand visuals can give rise to consumer concerns about changes of ownership, or possible changes in brand values, or even unjustified extravagance. If there is a strong brand personality to which consumers are attracted, then substantial changes may destroy emotional attachments to the brand. People do not expect or like wild swings in the personality behaviour of other people, and they are just as concerned when the brands to which they have grown used exhibit similar “schizophrenic” changes.
On the other hand, if the intention is to substantially improve the standing of the brand, then corporate identity changes can be accompanied by widespread changes to organisational culture, quality, and service standards. If done well, and if consumers experience a great new or improved experience, then the changes will, over the longer term, have a corresponding positive effect on brand image. If you are spending a vast amount of money on corporate identity, it is as well to remember this.
Brand identity is the total proposition that a company makes to their audience — the promise it makes. It may consist of features and attributes, benefits, performance, quality, service support, and the values that the brand possesses.
Please feel free to drop me an email if you’d like to discuss your organisational performance or brand challenges at firstname.lastname@example.org