Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Year's Resolution Suggestion to Corporate America

After spending 26 years working for the car rental giant - Enterprise Rent-a-Car - I became all too familiar with the way big corporations run

As we all know, the vast majority of big companies in corporate America are run by humorless bureaucracies that don't really understand what it takes to operate in a manner conducsive to achieving maximum productivity.  They may think they do, but they don't have a clue. 

If you work for a big company, chances are you agree with that assessment; unless of course, you happen to be the CEO.  If you're the CEO of a major corporation, you probably don't understand why most of the employees working under you don't seem to like their jobs.  You don't understand why just about everyone you oversee has an "attitude problem"; after all, they have jobs, so they should be grateful; they should work harder.  What's wrong with them?

The problem  is you, pal.  Maybe you're not a pompous, self-absorbed tyrant; maybe you're actually a nice enough person; but you're clueless when it comes to running your...enterprise. 

Let me fill you in on what I observed during my 26 years of faithful service to Enterprise.  It's a scenario that plays out repeatedly in big business; especially when a relatively small company achieves some measure of success; that's ususally when the trouble begins; they get too big for their own good and start changing their operational structure, and worse; they lose focus on how they should deal with employees.  Sound familiar?

When I began my Enterprise career (1974) they were just a little regional company that had a knack for providing great customer service; just as important, they provided a great working environment for their employees, gave them fantastic career opportunities, and turned 'em loose.

It was simple formula for success, and it worked quite well; the company grew like crazy, and guys like me became upper level managers, making tons of money in the process.  By the mid '90s, Enterprise had grown to become the largest and most profitable car rental company in North America; all seemed well in paradise.

But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming Number One; they moved their corporate office to a big, new, fancy facility and started adding layer upon layer of additional corporate management.  It seemed logical; after all, Enterprise was now a corporate giant, and corporate giants are supposed to have gigantic corporate headquarters, staffed with all sorts of important people running around trying to look like they're doing something; sound familiar?

Welcome to Corporate America; an overstaffed and inefficient bureaucracy; where micromanagement, finger pointing, and backstabbing reign supreme.  In this hostile environment, is it any wonder things are in such a mess?

It doesn't have to be this way; the solution to much of Corporate America's woes requires a pardigm shift in the way most hierarchial operations conduct business.  This requires a tremendous leap of faith from the CEOs, themselves; they've got to place more trust in their management teams in the field; a successful organization gives the maximum level of autonomy to its high level managers; let them do their jobs!  Cut the red tape, the useless reports, and the fruitless meetings; focus on the things that really matter in running the business.  By concentrating on providing better service for the customers and creating a positive work environment for the employees, everybody wins.

That's the way any good business should operate; unfortunately, that's not the way many businesses are operating nowadays; I witnessed the corporate bureaucracy first hand; especially during the last four or five years of my career.

Being subjected to unreasonable scrutiny - living under the corporate microscope - was a very stressful time for me; but at least it made for a pretty good book; and I know I was doing a good job for the company.

That's good enough for me.

Larry Underwood wrote Life Under the Corporate Microscope - A Maverick's Irreverent Perspective

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