Farewell to the pyramids?

Christine-Richard right sizeI promise this isn’t a history less although the proposition does begin with the Egyptian Pyramids. To remind ourselves, the original ones were built in 2060 BC and were designed as tombs for the most powerful men, their consorts and precious possession.!

In the modern business world the ‘Pyramid’ is used as an example both in terms of a selling method and generally to describe large organisation – for example banks, commercial companies wielding enormous power as well as governments. The peak represents the individual at the top of organisations in public sector, governments, charities and downward to the broad base of the lowest point and opposite the peak.ie the ‘workers’ whether as operatives and those doing what are considered as menial work, eg cleaners, porters, packers, shelf stackers (you get the idea) or other roles in the public sector as well as the private sector which are not regarded as valuable to success. Why then has this Pyramid model continued for so long?

At a Conference last week discussing economic development nationally and internationally in the modern world, I was perhaps not paying complete attention when, as happens to all of us from time to time, an idea began to develop in my mind about which I didn’t speak at the time! Although we did briefly look at ’employee owned’ commercial companies, which are still relatively new if we discount the well-known partnership approach in place now for many years in one major retail company but where I would suggest there is an entirely legitimate formal pyramid management and financial structure.

Afterwards I began to make other ‘shape analogies’. One employee-owned company I compared to a ‘virtuous circle’ where, within it, everyone shares the equity but, more importantly the responsibility for success or failure operationally. Yes, there are different jobs to be done which are essential. Directors and those in positions of managing not only their own work but that of colleagues. Those who have legal and financial responsibility who we usually call Directors are elected annually by the entire workforce and in extremis can be voted out of office! Maybe a loose analogy with Parliaments? I use this example of the way the virtuous circle can work. It may also be useful for the ‘Third Sector’.

I would not include the legal system in Britain as a legitimate or desirable model.

Although as far as Government is concerned the Electoral Reform Society has just announced it is look at the implications of reforming the present ‘first past the post’ voting system which is based not on the number of votes cast for each candidate/political party but in the past on the basis of ‘winner takes all’. Certainly the analysis of the votes cast in the General Election just held does show a disparity between numbers of votes cast for parties and, indeed, a great deal of tactical voting is said to have happened. PR is not foolproof either and the voting framework for the devolved Scottish Parliament was in the first instance designed to avoid any one political party receiving an overall majority. I believe an individual who stands for election (which I have done) should want and if elected be truly representative of individuals and organisation in a defined area and seek to serve, not simply be a ‘top up’. I stress this is my personal view.

My final ‘shape’ analogy is the perfect ‘square box’. Often, perhaps too often, we are urged to ‘think outside the box’.What I mean by this is perhaps excluding really new technology for example the solar-powered airplane, I believe many organisations – large and small, private or public have the ability and capacity to improve performance, productivity, profits (where applicable) communication both internal and external ‘inside the box’. One example of how this can be achieved is fewer emails sent to the individual at the adjacent desk, true also of text messages and allow more talking and listening together with all new ideas, from ‘inside the box be considered worthy of consideration and, of course, capable of rejection without fear of ridicule.

Looking back at my own lessons learned through the course of my career thus far I believe I have achieved more success – not necessarily for myself – ‘inside the box’ and where appropriate as part of the virtuous circle’ which, in case you are wary of my choice of this expression you don’t need to be a ‘goody goody’ to operate in one.

I would love to know what YOU THINK!

Christine Richard, OBE, FRSA

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