It is only when we discuss the barriers which hinder the progress toward collective goals that we can expect to deal with any management elephants in the room.
These administration semblances can take many forms but reveal obvious problems that people do not want to talk about or choose not to.
Regular visitants include:
Health and Safety: By far the largest and most feared of the elephants in the room.
A case when bureaucracy overtakes the initial objectives of a vital process. Where the focus is on a paper trail via tick-the-box compliance to cover executives’ behinds.
Rather than the mentorship of a beneficial practice for all, most health and safety activities are punitive, even hostile, against the very people they design them for. A dictatorial governance of long meetings, unmitigated paperwork and inane instruction. A tyranny of do-as-you-are-told operatives intent on blame, before culture and mutual growth.
Human resources: This may be another white elephant that adds little value.
With the continued decline of retail talent and failure to sustain meaningful leadership within the trade, it begs the question, why is retail less attractive now as a career choice than it has ever been?
For all the projects, training schemes, improvement programmes, fast-track systems, retail still finds itself as a last resort to prospective employees.
What is the return on investment of the millions spent per annum on head offices? Is it mere fluffy, feel-good propaganda or is there the cold hard fact of accountability? A simple poll indicator on how the entire workforce perceives the management department is always a wise start.
Both have a crucial role if it holds them answerable to those they intend it to aid. Neither is beyond reproach or sacrosanct. Like all white elephants the intentions are honourable but because of poor decision making, they are expensive to support and give so little back.
Technology: The retail industry is hell-bent on implementing robotics and cyber telecommunication and justify the enormous costs behind the facade it is of benefit to their end user.
Made worse because the aspirations for personal development pale in contrast.
So too, the speculation into artificial intelligence will have dire repercussions which will end in the dumbing down of a brand’s talent pool. A harmful and imminent matter that is plaguing society as we speak.
Prophecy: The sector’s integrity is questionable because of the prevailing corporate mindset of a destiny shaped by external parties with a vested interest.
A primary reason companies veer from their core business is in the vain hope of a silver bullet reprieve. Overlooking the past and that which produced them success in a gamble for what the future might or might not hold.
Pink elephants are the effects of hallucination brought about by the consumption of stimulants that eventuate in a drunken delirium and addiction regardless of the consequence. Outpace your consumer at your peril. Change the fundamentals with great care. But never alienate human synergy.
Narcissism: A growing demeanour of hidden agendas, political ambitions and the love of one’s voice. An inadequate perception of moral and communal gratification in contributing without reward.
Current employment conditions favour practices that negate loyalty and block career paths for those who do not fit. By failing to provide for the basics in the pyramid of needs. In the paying of lip service while dancing to the rhythms of ‘I’m all right Jack.’
Unsustainable: Retailing has a poor record in business, community, life and world sustainability. The selling of so-called ‘green’ product is no longer tolerable, because of the impact it has on natural resources. The same aspects it claims to preserve yet often ends up in the decimation of third world ecosystems and exploitation of the destitute.
A rogue elephant is a dangerous and unpredictable beast. Who destroys at will and inflicts harm for personal fulfilment and domination. A toxic influence of rejection and exclusion and in rallying the deluded to serve without backlash.
The elephant is one of the purest species on our planet. Majestic, with a complex social organisation and an emotional intelligence most humans, strive to emulate. Never ignore their presence in the room for they are a sign that all is not well. Deal with the issue until such time they leave the building.
Retail is a challenging and invigorating career of hard work, straight talk and passion. It is about people, for people by people and sometimes our friend the elephant.
Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents.