Ensurance – or how to avoid corporate crisis

For me this journey started 15 years ago with the realisation, while at Razorfish, that in a digital environment transparency is inevitable. The clear implication of this new reality is that organisations need to find ways to only do the things they are proud of.

Since then transparency in various forms has exposed a remarkable litany of corporate mistakes that turn into crisis of one sort or another. It does not require any research to reel off a list – Findus, VW, Siemens, Barclays, BP, Serco, Tesco, Olympus, Parmalat, HSBC, News International, Lloyds Bank and so on.

My Holos colleagues and I have been involved in some of the responses to these events, working with leaders to make sure it does not happen again. The really clever thing to do is to ensure against them happening in the first place. The cost of such a crisis runs into multiple billions of dollars and risks the survival of the business.

Most of these organisations or their brands have been well respected and trusted. When the news broke the vast majority of employees were truly shocked by what they learned about the company they worked for. All of them have strong recruitment practices and hire those who were most successful at school and university. They have codes of conduct and disciplinary processes designed to keep them safe. My own experience of years of working with senior managers is that they are extremely decent, clever people with great integrity. So how are corporations so apparently vulnerable to these situations.

If we look at a very high level we can see some well known commonalities:

1 – Short term focus
2 – Detached Senior leadership
3 – Difficult for less senior people to escalate concerns
4 – Focus on transactional rather than relational conversations
5 – Prioritisation of results over other considerations
6 – Poor internal communication
7 – Mistrust

If you notice these cultural traits in your organisation it could be vulnerable.

At Holos we offer “Ensurance” against these risks.

Ensurance is not a matter of additional controls or policies, it is not a matter for lawyers or compliance officers, it is a cultural challenge that falls disproportionately on the leadership. Ensurance is about creating a culture which has the opposite cultural habits to those listed above,

1 – Effective balance between long and short term
2 – Connected leadership
3 – Excellent communication channels for concerns.

etc. you get the picture…

For organisations to be safe they need to have cultures where colleagues really look out for each other. Where if they see things that concern them it is easy to escalate them. Where everyone is very clear what the values and the behavioural boundaries are and that these are reinforced daily, by the behaviour of leaders and by the policies and practices of the business.

You cannot have an effective balance between short and long term thinking and offer monthly commissions and annual bonuses.

You cannot have a connected leadership if they don’t make a habit of listening to junior employees.

You cannot have excellent communications channels for concerns where there is fear of consequences.

You cannot have a balance between transactional and relational conversations if people are under such pressure to deliver that they don’t have time to get to know each other as people.

You cannot have balanced priorities if all leaders ever talk about is results and performance.

You cannot have excellent internal communications unless leaders are willing to prioritise it.

You cannot have trust if leaders don’t go out of their way to create it.

Few well established, large organisations have deliberately optimised their cultures to keep them safe AND deliver excellent performance. And yet without that intentionality many organisations are at risk.

The Holos process starts with a cultural audit which can assess the level of risk inherent in the present culture. The audit can identify both performance risk as well as crisis risk in a general sense.

Once the risks are understood we can work with the leaders to identify the target culture and continue to work with the leaders to embed the habits and behaviours that will enable it.

Holos believes that change is easy and this is true when the right process is followed. We all know from our own experience that some changes have been easy and others have been hard. What Holos has done is to distil the essence of what makes change easy into a process and it is that process that we bring to our clients.

For any organisation that needs to engage it’s culture with change, whether it is because of innovation, competition or regulation, Holos can help to make that change easy.

To help make using Holos easy we offer inspiring standalone sessions on Megatrends, Leadership, Culture and Change that give organisations a chance to see us in action and helps to get a wider process started.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com


Neil Crofts

+447803 774239


About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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