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Saturday, 17 May 2008

Communism or capitalism? Not as much difference as you think

I’m running around Europe this month promoting a rather nifty new idea my partner had. You can see it at www.Eadim.com, if it’s up.

(That’s the first overtly commercial statement I have made here, I think - but don’t worry; you may not be in the market).

Anyhow we were both speaking in Bucharest on Thursday, where we had a chat with a most entertaining lady who runs a fulfilment house. Besides having a very interesting background – one quarter Turkish, two thirds Tatar, and being very funny - Ilchian Omer is also very smart.

She said something about one of our most-loathed species - bit, fat, dull, stupid, slothful clients – which I thought amazingly perceptive; at any rate, it hadn’t occurred to me.

“We have no trouble at all with them,” she said. “After all, we grew up under communism. They are exactly the same.”

This stuck me like a bolt of lightning.

Of course: it’s all amazingly slow, everyone is afraid of making decisions, they all have to consult someone else, there are about seventeen layers, endless meetings decide nothing, more concern with rules than results, promotion through arse-licking rather than merit, don’t rock the boat, stick around for your pension, toe the corporate/party line, screw the suppliers, the people at the top get all the perks, everyone else gets buggered around, the official language is incomprehensible, the boss goes around boasting in dull speeches, all his cronies are on the board, nobody except them really likes their job – identical.

That is the reason why despite the expected economies of scale, larger organisations don't work, and are often beaten by smaller, niftier ones where everyone knows everyone else. It is the reason why the U.S.army gets clobbered by guerrillas; it is the reason why the National Health Service (world's second largest employer after Indian railways) is a shambles.

Interestingly, Gordon Brown’s approach has always been communist – “ We know what to do with your money better than you do - and we'll waste it on things that don't work until one day everything falls to bits."

The best organisations trust their people. The worst don't. And it doesn't matter what the ideology is. People first!

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