Chapter 4: What possible ‘defences’ exist against the harm of ‘Money Power’?

So I’ve:

  • set out Ford’s explanation of Dead vs. Live money (Chapter 1);
  • ‘shot at’ organisations that claim they get this –as in “see, here’s my purpose!” (Chapter 2);
  • explained why shareholders are probably the last people you’d want as guardians for an organisation’s successful longevity; and
  • put forward a logic as to why executives behave as they do (including the recent Mylan example to consider) (Chapter 3).

light-bulb…and at this point you may reasonably ask “so what can be done about this situation?”

Thankfully not everywhere is the same…and we can look around for ideas.

Ha-Joon Chang writes that “most rich countries outside the Anglo-American world have tried to reduce the influence of free-floating shareholders and maintain (or even create) a group of long-term stakeholders (including some shareholders) through various formal or informal means.”

These include:

  • government ownership (either direct or indirect) of a sizeable share to act as stable shareholders (examples in France, Germany, Korea);
  • differential voting rights for different classes of shares e.g. for founders and their families to retain significant control (Sweden);
  • formal representation by the workers on the company supervisory board (Germany);
  • minimising influence of floating shareholders through cross-shareholdings amongst friendly companies (Japan)

“Being heavily influenced, if not totally controlled, by longer-term stakeholders, companies in these countries do not as easily sack workers, squeeze suppliers, neglect investment and use profits for dividends and share buybacks…all this means that in the long run they may be more viable…

Running companies in the interests of floating shareholders is not only inequitable but also inefficient, not just for the national economy but also for the company itself.”

(Of course, I should reflect that there are lots of other ownership models ‘out there’, such as State Owned Enterprises, Mutuals and Co-operatives…and I have read many a good-news story about what can be achieved with the latter.

If you already have one of these ownership models, please stay as you are! What follows is aimed squarely at the Dead Money corporations).

Exploring the employee option:

proft-sharing-quoteI’m a big fan of the ‘employees as long-term owners’ method.

Now, many a ‘large corporate’ would respond that their people can buy shares in their company and, further, that they encourage this by administering some form of ‘employee share buying scheme’.

So how’s this different to share ownership through profit sharing (as in the Oktogonen Foundation)?

Well, if we consider a typical ‘employee share buying scheme’:

  • You are asking employees to put up their own money as risk, rather than rewarding them for their ‘blood, sweat and tears’;
  • Only a limited number of employees will buy shares (for a variety of reasons – the most obvious being their level of affluence and their attitude to risk);
  • The minority that do buy a small ‘side salad’ of shares have simply been added to the vast pool of floating shareholders…worried about short-term profits and dividends.

In contrast:

The power in ‘share ownership through profit sharing’ is that EVERYBODY in the organisation becomes an owner, and thereby connected with the same aim.

The power in setting up a foundation specifically for this purpose is that the employees as a GROUP obtain a significant voice, creating representation on the board.

The power in defining a long-term method of payment (say, at pensionable age) is that employees (past and present) care deeply about the LONG TERM success of the organisation…which will produce a genuine focus on the CUSTOMER (and society).

Now these words might cause the following reaction from existing shareholders and executives: “Whoa…I don’t like the sound of ‘worker power’ – this is Trade Unionism by the back door…and look at where that always ends up!”

Here’s why it is the exact opposite:

The birth, and historic basis, of the Trade Union movement was to protect the workers from the power of the owners. In response to Trade Union power, the owners would regularly claim that the employees were ‘biting the hand that feeds them’…and thus a hugely adversarial battle became the norm1 (usually with the customer, and consequently the organisation, suffering in the cross fire).

But, rather than employee ownership through profit sharing stoking the ‘worker – owner’ flames, it actually dissolves the problem! Everyone is pointing in the same direction.

Even better, a foundational base is set to enable the business to become so much more efficient and effective because all those commanding and controlling ‘management instruments of torture’ can be torn down – that would be incentives and Performance Management2 for a start!

….just think how easy it would become to engage with the workers – or should we call them ‘long term guardians’ now?

“Just close your eyes and imagine…”

imagineI have often found myself in company presentations with management eulogising about the next ‘cost cutting’ initiative. A usual candidate is the travel and expenses budget (and the associated rules to be complied with)…and they always use the same logic:

“Imagine it as your own money!”

Ponder upon this for a minute: management ‘get’ that it isn’t our money, and that this will alter how we think about it…but they want us to play a game of ‘pretend’. Hmmm – they’re missing something there.

But what if THEY (management) altered their thinking such that it IS the employees’ money. They can dispense with those silly games, and potentially all those wasteful cost cutting initiatives. Imagine that!

“But it’s not their money!!”

Now, there may be a backlash of comments from shareholders with a view that the company would be giving away their money.

Some thoughts on this:

  • The organisation doesn’t need to raise capital to do this! It just needs to STOP the offering, and paying, of contingent rewards. There’s plenty of money right there;
  • For those shareholders that don’t realise this…there is loads of cost spent in administering the performance management/ incentives lark…and a great deal of harm caused that is unmeasurable! This is no longer required;
  • But, fundamentally, a long term ownership interest (Live Money) will change the way that employees think…for the good of the customer and therefore the organisation…and, as a result, to the benefit of those that invest.

A start to the journey

silver-bullet‘Necessary but not sufficient’: I’d like to be clear that, whilst profit sharing could be game changing, it’s not a silver bullet….but it is a hugely sound foundation from which the right type of business can be successfully built and sustained.

It can act as a catalyst for all those things that you’ve been saying, but not been able to do. Why? Well, because it fundamentally changes the employee – company relationship.

It brings Live Money onto the scene and, if done well, brings Service Power back to the fore.

(Note: I’ve written this whole serialised post because – after many years of pondering – I came to the conclusion that you can understand and passionately want to change your ‘culture’ BUT you won’t (meaningfully or sustainable) achieve this if you don’t address your ownership structure…and this relates to Money Power).

To close: A comment on the current ‘side show’

The current ‘large corporates’ hymn is all about diversity….and that this will ensure the future of an organisation – all those different people, with all those different perspectives and ideas! What’s not to like?!

Now, I’m all for diversity. I believe in respect, equality and fairness for all.

However, you can be as diverse as you like, but if you don’t change the system (of management and ownership) then you’ll simply get more of the same.

To repeat my regular John Seddon quote (I have it ringing in my head most days!):

“People’s behaviour is a product of their system. It is only by changing [the system] that we can expect a change in behaviour.”

Or, to a Deming pearl of wisdom: “A bad system will beat a good person every time”

Stop trying to change people and, instead, perform a paradigm3 shift so that they change for themselves.

I should add that the diversity thing will be so much easier to achieve when all employees want to collaborate together (profit sharing) rather than competing with each other for ratings, rankings and contingent rewards. i.e. If you really want diversity, and what it can offer, then change the system first.


Okay, so I’ve argued that employee ownership through long-term profit sharing is a bloody good way to go…but there’s a few people that I really need to convince first. That would be a) the existing shareholders and b) the CEO. And that is the subject of my next, and final, chapter 🙂

Update: Link forwards to Chapter 5

Footnotes:

1. Owners vs. Unions: As usual, Henry had something useful to say on the matter:

“Business does not exist to earn money for the capitalist or for the wage-earner. The narrow capitalist and the narrow trades unionist have exactly the same view of business – they differ only on who is to have the loot.” (Ford)

2. On the merit system (i.e the rating and rewarding of people’s performance): Here’s a nice Deming exchange in a Q & A part of one of his famous lectures:

Question from the audience: “What do you propose to replace the merit system with?”

Deming: “Replace it? What, you want something to destroy people better than that does?!

Replacement means another method to do the same thing. [Do] you know of anything more effective in the destruction of people?

Question rephrased: “But is there any way to change the merit system?”

Deming: “Change it? Abolish it! Look at what it’s done to us.”

3. Paradigm: I usually hate using the ‘p’ word – it seems so ‘management consultancy’ to me…but in this case it is spot on!

4. So…what if you don’t (yet) want Live Money: If you don’t want to do the profit sharing thing (even though you’ll be seriously missing out) then STILL GET RID OF THE INCENTIVES!

Chapter 1: A long time ago in a land far, far away…

henry-ford…well, about 100 years ago in America…there was a visionary man who led society through a monumental technological disruption – his name was Henry Ford – and he and his organisation changed the world through his desire to ‘democratise the automobile’.

His success in putting the internal combustion engine on wheels devastated the ‘technology’ it replaced – the horse – and its many related industries (stables, horse feed and bedding, saddleries and tack shops, blacksmiths and farriers,….) although, on the plus side, it dissolved the huge problem of ever increasing amounts of horse manure pilling up on city streets!

We talk about modern technological disruptions, like the mobile phone or internet, happening quickly (in years) but we should reflect that profound technological shifts can occur pretty swiftly, whatever the age.

I imagine that once one ape invented the spear, then the rest changed ‘technology’ quicker than you can say “I wonder what those long pointy things are that I can see hurtling through the air towards us?”

The change from the horse to the car was pretty dramatic too:

horses-and-cars

Okay, so Henry Ford was on the right side of a technological disruption…but, whilst this was necessary, it was much more than luck that made the Ford Motor Co. such a success2.

So what were Henry’s core philosophies, and what ‘gems’ might we learn from him in this modern time of technological disruptions? These were his foundations:

  • ‘Service power’;
  • The ‘Wage motive’; and
  • ‘Money power’.

Service Power:

gandhi-quoteHenry was fanatically clear that a business is only there because of the people that buy its products and services. Without them it wouldn’t exist and, as such, the customer (the public, society) is the point. Full Stop!

“Since the public makes a business, the primary obligation of business is to the public.”

(He nicely clarified that “Those who work for and with the business are part of this public.”)

This is so much more than the trendy “customer centric” mantra, in which we are usually shown a lovely circle with the customer conveniently arranged in the middle BUT, and this is the problem, all the other ‘conventional thinking’ management orthodoxy is retained around the outside3.

And to make it absolutely concrete in your mind as to what Ford really meant, he explained as follows:

“The true course of business is to follow the fortunes and pursue the service of those who had faith in it from the beginning – the public.

  • If there is any saving in manufacturing cost, let it go to the public;
  • If there is any increase in profits, let it be shared with the public in lowered prices;
  • If there is any improvement [in the quality of the service] let it be made without question, for whatever the capital cost, it was first the public that supplied the capital.

That is the true course for good business to steer, and it is good business, for there is no better partnership a business can enter than a partnership of service with the people.

It is far safer, far more durable and more profitable than partnership with a money power.”

Everything Ford did was with the customer at heart i.e could he provide the public with a cheaper car and yet also make it better than the ones he made yesterday? If he could do this, he knew that customer demand would continue to rise and profitability would be the least of his worries. ‘Customer, customer, customer’ provides growth and profitability – THAT WAY AROUND.

To make it cheaper and better for the customer, Henry was obsessed with constantly studying, experimenting and improving the process – through fanatical cleanliness and maintenance, ever deeper removal of waste (transportation, movement, scrap…), re-use of anything and everything, in-sourcing wherever possible, constant technological breakthroughs, decentralisation to where the work should be…and so on4.

And Henry didn’t just think about his automobile customers, he thought about the whole system (society) because he realised that it was all really one and the same thing. This led him into all sorts of interesting ventures that supported, and enabled, the core purpose.

In short: THE foundational ‘thing’ that made the Ford Motor Co. such a huge success was that Henry truly believed that his master was the public.

The Wage Motive:

your-greed-is-hurting-the-economyAnd so we move from customers to employees (the worker).

The ‘wage motive’ was Henry’s phrase for his philosophy that “one’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.” If the workers truly prosper then they will love, buy and advocate for the products (e.g. cars) they make…which will create an ever-improving product, a superb reputation and expanding customer demand…which enables the workers to prosper – and off we go round the circle.

He goes on to write that “If an employer does not share prosperity with those who make him prosperous, then pretty soon there will be no prosperity to share.”

Now, Henry was no Saint – he was a man of his times – but he wanted to do the right thing. Significantly, he learned from his early worker experiences and saw that the best, and only logical approach, was for his system to work with, and for, the worker, not against them.

He paid them high wages (far higher than they could receive elsewhere), provided regular employment (replacing the uncertainty of casual labour with steady work), reduced the standard working week to 8 hours for 5 days, insisted that Sunday was a day off for all, and provided them with excellent working and living conditions. Any worker that wanted more than manual repetitive work was given the chance to better themselves through training and increased responsibilities.

And finally, given that Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, he was very clear that improvement was about bettering people and not about getting rid of people:

“Nobody with us ever thinks about improvement lessening the number of jobs, for we all know that exactly the contrary happens. We know that these improvements will lessen costs and therefore widen markets and make more jobs at higher wages.”

In fact, Henry got rid of (incentive driven) piece-work and created a profit sharing arrangement in the form of share ownership (more on this in Chapter 4)

Money Power:

And last, but nodead-moneyt least, to money. Over to Henry:

“There’s nothing to be said against the financier – the man who really understands the management of money and its place in life….but it is very different with the professional financier, who finances for the sake of financing and what he can get out of it in money, without a thought of the welfare of the people…

[Moneys] proper place [is] as one of the cogs in the wheel, not the wheel itself…

This is not to say that money and profits are not necessary in business. Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone attempts to run a business solely for profit…then also the business must die, for it no longer has a reason for existence….

A business cannot serve both the public and the money power.

Money put into business as a lien on its assets is Dead money, its main purpose becomes the production of payments for the owners of that money. The service of the public [will] be secondary. If quality of goods jeopardizes these payments, then the quality is cut down. If full service cuts into the payments, then service is cut down. This kind of money does not serve business. It seeks to make business serve it.

Live money goes into the business to work and to share with the business. It is there to be used. It shares whatever losses there may be. It is asset to the last penny and never a liability.

Live money in a business is usually accompanied by the active labour of the man or men who put it there. Dead money is a sucker-plant….

Business that exists to feed profits to people who are not engaged, and never will be engaged in it, stands on a false basis.…Profits of business are due:

  • first, to the business itself as a serviceable instrument of humanity [i.e. to constantly improve the service to its customers], and then
  • to the people whose labour and contributions of energy make the business a going concern [i.e. its employees]…

The true course of business is to follow the fortunes and pursue the service of those who had faith in it from the beginning – the public…

The best defence any people can have against their control by mere money is a business system that is strong and healthy through rendering wholesome service to the community.


…and so I (and Henry) have set the scene as to what this ‘story’ is all about – customers, employees and money…and in particular, how do large floating (i.e. short-term thinking) shareholder owned organisations ‘fit’…and most importantly, (how) can their structure be altered to provide a foundation for a long term win/win/win for all?.

Update: Link backwards to Introduction and forwards to Chapter 2

Footnotes:

1. All of Henry Ford’s quotes above come from his 1926 book ‘Today and Tomorrow’.

2. Ford Success: Just in case you doubt this success (and accepting that money is a poor measure) Forbes estimates that, in today’s money, Henry Ford was worth around US$200 Billion….more than double anyone alive today.

3. Note to self: I’ve still got to write the post that slaughters the ‘Balanced Scorecard’ sacred cow! It’s been on my ‘to do’ list for far too long because other stuff keeps on popping up every day.

4. Toyota: If you’re a follower of Taiichi Ohno and, upon reading the above, think “Hang on, didn’t Toyota invent all that stuff?!”, here’s a rather nice quote to reflect upon:

“I met Taiichi Ohno on a Japanese study mission. When bombarded with questions from our group on what inspired his thinking, he just laughed and said he learned it all from Henry Ford’s book.” (Norman Bodek)