This week’s blog is exploring the challenges of running a large organisation with many bits to it. The ideal reader is someone who is part of a larger organisation and realises that they may not be getting it all right all the time.
I am reminded this week of the eternal cry of the TIE / Theatre in Education departments of theatres that I have worked in. The cry was of being left out of the main flow of the Artistic Director or Chief Executive’s notice. The focus appeared to be on the “in house” productions, or the major visit of the National Theatre, and never enough on the work with the under 6’s on storytelling. In a world where we create Great Art For Everyone this is a mistake. I am sure it is far less prevalent than it used to be.
However if this resonates with you, either because you feel that you are in someway the less noticed department in an organisation, or because you realise you may be guilty of favouring the high risk, high earner, high profile over another part of the art, then this blog asks you to think again.
I’ve written this before, but I was told that when Richard Branson started his PA Penny had a daily routine. She would make a phone call to each of three people who were on the pay roll of the growing empire. Maybe it was to an airline booking office, or a wedding dress shop, or a record marketing person. She would be a normal customer with a normal enquiry. She noted the response she got on a postcard each day, and put it on Richard’s desk. In this way no-one knew whether the next call would be Penny or an annoying customer. They had to treat each call equally importantly.
[Wonder how connected to Prada the store manager in this picture feels – the freedom has its benefits, but you can also feel very alone]
Alongside this are the myriad stories of the new CEO of some department store chain taking time away from their desk and walking the aisles. They are connecting with their customers and every department in their empire. They are accessible.
My last boss made a habit of walking into every office in the theatre at the start of most days and just checking in. It was a small empire and may have taken 20 minutes to do the rounds, but he got a sense of the tension or joy in each area. As a House Manager at the start of my career, and whenever I have since been duty manager, I created a round of the building to make sure I visited every area. I hope I will always continue to do this as I continue my career.
In Open Space there is a “talking stick”. Everyone in the circle is given the chance to speak, without interruption from anyone else in the circle, because they are holding the talking stick. People hold the stick with reverence, and respect the right to say something (usually succinctly) and also the right to pass it on if they have nothing to say. Again an opportunity for everyone to have their voice.
If you are reading this and feeling “lost” in the bigger mix, then maybe you will need to invite the CEO to an event, or connect with their equivalent of Penny. Maybe there is a staff or departmental meeting where this can be raised, or come and have a CGO Surgery with me and we can explore the challenge.
If any of this resonates as a “manager”, and there is a department of your offices or business that you haven’t connected with in a long time, I am sure you will be made very welcome. There may be tension or joy. If there is tension, maybe you can help by understanding it. If there is joy, then you can share it. The worst thing as a Manager is not to know I always find – that’s when things come and bite you in the bum.
[My thanks to some D&D11 reports for inspiring this train of thought]