The First Book of Management

Chapter 5 - Knowledge is Power

An example of treating people as important members of the team rather than cannon fodder is Communication. Is it worth spending time telling everyone what’s going on, when it doesn’t necessarily affect them and just gives away your power?


This is because they will feel more secure, more motivated, more involved, and will almost certainly be able to contribute unexpectedly deep and useful ideas.

At DRG we decided to tell the staff how the company was doing, every week. We were calculating the profit & loss every week because it tended to be loss more often that profit, and there was a possibility that the company was going to close. Rumours were rife - “They’ve decided to shut us down next week” was heard every week, always incorrectly. Giving them the real facts seemed like a good idea, even though some of the management team were against it saying “The competitors will find out” (and do what? Laugh at us?) and “They’ll find a way to use it on us”.  

Initially the highly cynical workforce (not surprising considering the rollercoaster the company had been on for several years) felt that the figures were propaganda invented by the management to con them in some way. Why else would we be doing it?

On a good week we would make a bit of profit, and they would accuse us of pretending everything was alright, and then ask us for a pay rise. On a bad week when we made a loss they would accuse us of making the figures worse than they were to try to get them to work harder, or to prevent them getting more money when the pay negotiations came. I would constantly state that I wasn’t that clever and couldn’t be bothered to make up the figures. They were real.

After a few weeks there was a gradual change. People started to crowd round to see how we had done that week - like a football score being announced. They had become team supporters! They asked why we had done badly. They shared our excitement or disappointment when we did or didn’t get an order that we had hoped for. They saw how one lost customer or one quality problem could destroy the week’s profit and mean that a week’s work by all of us had been completely wasted. They began to care about quality. They understood the costs involved in expenses and overtime, and became more cost conscious. We turned the company round, and I am convinced it was because we told people what was happening.

A friend of mine called John Andrewes became fed up with being nagged for money for ice creams when they went on holiday so he put his kids in charge of the spending money. Did they spend it all on the first day? Certainly not! They were really mean with it, and actually came home with some to spare, (unheard of in the Andrewes household). This is empowerment in action!

So if you treat them like kids they behave like kids, even if they are adults. And if you treat them like adults they behave like adults, even if they are kids.

When I started at Stan’s House of Horrors I continued with my policy of informing the people who do the real work. I was told to stop this as ‘it would incite trouble’ but I continued, by putting up a notice during the evening after Stan had gone home. The evening shift would read it, the night shift would arrive and read it, the early shift would arrive and read it, and we would take it down before Stan arrived. He never knew. I would have been sacked if he had found out. That’s how strongly I believe in communication.

Message 5: Tell your team everything you possibly can. They’ll only find out some other way if you don’t, and they’ll get it half wrong.

Next Page
Chapter 1   - The Captain Of The Ship
Chapter 2   - Wandering About
Chapter 3   – Difficult Jack
Chapter 4   - Dr. Evil
Chapter 5   - Knowledge is Power
Chapter 6   - Destruction
Chapter 7   - A real friend
Chapter 8   - Teams from Hell
Chapter 9   - Dangerous Roy
Chapter 10 - Bob vs. Bob
Chapter 11 - Own Goals