In the worrying, but heart-warming Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge
tries to reassure his one-time commercial partner that his success in business
was all that could be expected of him. Marley, ghostly and in chains, answers
that "mankind was his business", a business that he had almost completely
As we move towards another Christmas, and a new year, these words have never
been more relevant. Mankind is our business. People are our business.
All change in human society happens on an individual basis. One by one by
one. We have to see the benefits before we will change our behaviour.
It’s a human trait that can be frustrating for politicians and for managers
who sometimes want to be able to change behaviour as easily as writing company
procedures or new laws.
They struggle to know how best to spend the time that money can buy. They
find that the time that is available comes with people attached to it. Oh No!
People with ideas, hopes, prejudices, anxieties, and preferences. People who
need to believe in something before they will try and need to understand how
they fit in before they can succeed in working with others.
As David Smith, people director at Asda, explained to me about releasing
potential: "This people stuff is difficult. If we want to be trusted, we
have to listen, and change based on what our people tell us. To gain loyalty we
have to remove status, and this is personally unattractive to people in power.
And yet it’s the only way – which is why so few companies have made the journey
that we have."
So much has changed. Technology has become human sized – attempting to
enhance, rather than replace, human capabilities. Science has become
human-focused – revealing our wonderful interdependence and limitless
It would be wise for you who are charged with understanding the human
condition and human potential to make some new years resolutions. Lead your
colleagues to the conclusion you have reached – that mankind is your business.
That unshrinking the potential of your people is the edge your organisation is
My research has revealed that normal, ordinary people can design their own
jobs, determine their own priorities, vote for who to hire, fire, and how to
reward the teams; they can formulate strategy, and create innovations, new products,
and even new companies. The most influential people in your profession have
made it clear that there are extraordinary people inside all organisations just
waiting to get out. And you need them.
People are infinitely expandable and they are much more fun than machines at
the Christmas party – with the exception, of course, of the photocopier and
those sexy new video phones.
By Max Mckeown, Author and business consultant