Walsh Enterprises Business & Financial Advisors
Huntington Beach, California USA
It’s All About the People
Reprint of a blog posted February 2009 at
One of the characteristics of “civilization” is that we become more &
more specialized. People get compartmentalized into their areas of
expertise; which are becoming narrower & narrower. I believe that we’re
now carrying it too far in many of our businesses.
The advent of powerful IT tools has accelerated this process. Great
Attention and money is now put into systems, processes, and
infrastructure. These tools can do wonders for a business, but ultimately
it’s the people who represent the greatest asset - yet they often become
slaves to the very systems & processes that are supposed to make them
People make the decisions. People guide the business. People interact
with the customers, vendors, and other outsiders. People breathe life
into the business. People protect and nurture the business. People bring
diversity, insight, uniqueness, and creativity. People bring success.
We’ve created a business climate where many people are restricted from,
or are afraid of, making decisions or taking risks of any nature.
Management doesn’t share the strategic vision, so employees can’t
clearly understand what the end-goal is. People don’t understand the
total business because they’re compartmentalized into narrow functions.
The first goal of any manager or executive should be to ensure that they
have the right people in place - and train or replace those who can’t or
They should then define clear goals that those employees can
comprehend and be measured against.
Finally, they should give those employees latitude in deciding how to
approach their work; managing by results against the defined goals. Of
course, lower-level employees require more guidance, but even they need
a little latitude.
Unfortunately, we’re gravitating toward treating everyone like low-level
• Opportunities are lost everyday because employees at all levels don’t
feel they have any freedom of choice or support.
• Bright employees who might make great leaders are pigeon-holed into
narrow jobs where they get few learning opportunities or chances to
branch out & shine.
• So many rules & regulations are sometimes put in place that they have
the effect of choking peoples’ ability to function.
• Decisions are driven up into a smaller & smaller group, or are made by
committee (a poor approach in most circumstances, but one that
many people adopt to spread risk & blame away from themselves).
• No two people approach work in exactly the same way, yet we try to
impose vanilla “every-man” rules. Individuals need some latitude to
put their personal “style” into their work.
• Too much of senior management’s attention is focused toward risk-
reduction. Risk is inherent in any business, and employees need
some latitude if the business hopes to capitalize on opportunities.
Implementing a proper culture involves delegating. This is one of the key
areas where entrepreneurs fail. Businesses grow to the point where the
owner can’t control everything anymore, creating the need for additional
people. Many owners just can’t bring themselves to let go & delegate;
turning themselves into decision choke-points that increasingly strangle
I once worked for such a man who carried it to extreme. In his obsessive
zeal to control all decisions in a $200 Million company, he reduced all of
his employees (managers -and- staff) to the role of clerks. His fear of
letting go was so strong that he was blind to the adverse effects which
resulted. He didn’t know what to do with decision-makers, and feared
them. Of course, one of the more negative effects was his inability
to attract or hang on to the more talented people. All he has left are the
people who can’t leave because of age or other factors. Their talent is
fading from lack of use, and they’re all frustrated. Needless to say, the
culture doesn’t encourage excellence. His business will survive, but it
could be so much more. It will always be held down to a level that he’s
Don’t get so caught up in the rules, and regulations, and systems, and
processes, and information regurgitation, and controls, and risk-
reduction that you lose sight of what really drives your business: