Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What role do the executive have in an organisation?

Today I read one of the more disturbing articles about Apple and its manufacturing processes in China. It was from the New York Times and has been linked on many other sites. The scariest thing about this article is the blasé way in which a senior Apple executive referenced the working conditions in one of the manufacturing centres in China. I've never been one for conspiracy theories and I've always defended an organisations right to set up shop wherever they believe value is but I think this article is the classic demonstration of how capitalism without regulation can be completely screwed up.

Now I created mbh in 1999 with the full passion of a capitalist working within democratic frameworks that provide freedom of thought with associated stability of government. And yet, I can't help feel that all those who rage against the machine and fight for workers rights/regulation are being proven right but this article. This is the classic modern day version of chemical companies dumping toxic waste down river systems in the 19th century leading to the modern day FPA regulation environments.

And yet, I can't help thinking that this is an opportunity for Apple's competitors. Surely people would shy away from Apple's products if they new that staff were treated in such an inhumane manner. Perhaps their competitors can't differentiate because they are no different?

As a managing director and owner of a small company that has done reasonably well, I can't understand the logic of this philosophy against the human race. Within our company people are to be respected. Criticised constructively when they say something in error, challenged to achieve but never to be received as anything other than an equal in the group.

I was on a flight on the weekend from Melbourne to Sydney. Due to flight cancellations and my premium loyalty qualification with the airline I was upgraded to business class. Now the flight is only of 1 hour duration so why there needs to be a class differentiation I have no idea but here I was in business class. The main reason I have always used this airline is that as apposed to their competition, they've never gone in for the elitist garbage that makes up the class system on planes. All people were treated equal and entertained. This flight had 8 people in business class and about 170 in economy. These 170 were made to feel as inferior as possible. AND, sitting in business class, the air steward was trying so hard to treat us like royalty that she stood next to me for at least 1 minute waiting for the person sitting next to me to notice her waiting to deliver her meal. Eventually, I couldn't handle it any longer and tapped the persons shoulder and waved her to the fear stricken steward. WHAT IS GOING ON!!!

Class driven societies and a lack of respect for other human beings seems counter productive to me. It impacts negatively on all private organsations as the few bad apples (pun intended) make it more expensive for the rest of us to do businesses. If the worker could trust the boss to respect them and not rip them off we'd all be able to do business far cheaper than we do today (even though all workers would be paid more). The logic for this is that the burden of compliance and the overhead of union negotiations would be eliminated. Kind of like collaborative contracting where everyone is in it together so you may as well make it work....for everyone.

The role of the executive in a modern capitalist organisation operating in a democratic country has to change to one that includes social responsibility and the requirement that respect is shown to all employees no matter what their background. How you affect this change is depressingly beyond my comprehension.

No comments: