Food for Thought from 2018

Kairen Harris
December 19, 2018

A tongue-in-cheek look at the menu that 2018 has served up to us!








The gravy train

The banks and insurance companies get the 2018 Gravy Boat Award. Billing dead customers, selling worthless policies and taking large commissions and bonuses for their efforts.

What should we learn? Financial incentive schemes will drive behaviours so worry about what you are incentivising. You will never find out if you don’t have an independent and fearless audit system, and especially not if you routinely shoot whistle-blowers. If you stuff up, a sincere apology always goes well.

Don’t count your chickens

Last year we had the Brexit vote, this year we had vote to overthrow Malcolm Turnbull. If you are going to determine your next step by means of a vote or survey, best make sure you scenario plan all possible outcomes and are equipped to deal with the results. Neither of the above cases suggest that fortune favours the reckless!

Duck for cover

Royal Commissions various, International aid agencies, informer 3838 and the #MeToo movement teach us that secreted misdemeanours will eventually out.

If you are a supervisor or a parent or workplace leader, it is your responsibility to call out bad behaviour, abuse and rule breaking while people are still young enough to learn.

It’s much less painful for the offender than front page headlines and a destroyed reputation when they are established in their career. It is also less expensive for the organisation.

Behind every 2018 outed offender was someone with power or knowledge who could have acted sooner, but didn’t. Leaders, the buck stops with you!

Stuffing it up

The Australian Cricket team ball tampering scandal…need we say more? What value winning the match if you lose your reputation in the process?

Cambridge Analytica proved it is possible to specialise in data and still lose the records of 87 million people. The begs the question for all of us – how good is your IT security and is it equally good where you have people working virtually?

Passion bears fruit

It may take a while, but 2018 showed that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary change, when they have vision, courage and persistence.

The people of Africa eventually removed President Mugabe; Saudi women won the right to drive; 5 million Spanish women marked International Women’s Day by striking over gender inequality and sexual discrimination; the Miss America pageant announced an end to its swimsuit competition; Collingwood proved that standing by your man and letting him learn can almost win a Premiership.

This year, we also farewelled the late, great Steven Hawking who, with determination and courage, challenged and redefined the concept of disability.

Cold Turkey

Amazingly one million French smokers quit in one year after anti-smoking measures were introduced, proving persistent and persuasive communication can change minds – even in the face of well entrenched culture.

Half baked

Several national and world leaders (naming no names) demonstrated the danger and disruption of powerful people flying kites (or floating thought bubbles), with impacts they may never have intended. This includes generating enormous volumes of unplanned work in supporting organisations. Beware your twitter feed and its organisational equivalent.

The proof of the pudding

The Longstaff culture review conducted for Cricket Australia was insightful, but arguably a few years too late. Smart organisations ensure they have some process for ensuring they get feedback about what is really going on in the organisation – before they hit the wall.

Just desserts

Federal parliament contemplates what happens when you scorn one group for long enough – as female parliamentarians go from the reserve bench to the cross bench and the back bench and voters express their displeasure. Could it be that inclusion is a prudent business strategy not a mad leftie plot?

Turned to custard

The ABC appears to have mismanaged various staff processes and ended up with egg on their face.

What can we learn? Ensure everyone understands their role boundaries, especially the Board. Set measurably performance standards if you intend to use them to evaluate staff, even the CEO.  Be clear about the status of and uses intended for 360 feedback. Clearly separate performance management and complaint processes, but deal with both. Have a decent risk management strategy before you sack a high profile public figure.

The icing on the cake

And in the good news, the Thai cave rescue showed what can be achieved with a clear and bold plan, the right skills, good organisation, good will clear roles and a healthy dose of optimism.

Back home, the Royal Family welcomed Meghan Markle, showing even an ancient institution must and can adapt to a new era.

About Kairen Harris

Kairen HarrisKairen specialises in strategic workplace advice, dispute resolution and policy development. She understands how and when external HR can best augment internal function. Her depth of experience, wise counsel and practical problem-solving make Kairen highly sought-after.

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