Have big companies lost the plot?

The Center for Media and Democracy reports a story from the Wall Street Journal regarding the activities of Wal-Mart in 2006 to infiltrate and monitor activists, vendors and critical shareholders.

It may not have involved the PR people, but it is appalling public relations – and an incredible investment of time and money.  It speaks of an attitude that is closed and doesn’t recognise the right of others to hold or express different opinions.

I believe this is part of the increased madness of big business (athough present in other large organisations such as government and NGOs or charities too).  Paranoia and processes are dominant over  and trust. 

There are many functions that seem to have a vested interest in such defensiveness – as they seek opportunities to increase their power, control and budget:

Security – the believes organisations should adopt layers of security like airports in the face of:

Highly sophisticated hackers and hacking tools, organised hactivism, poorly engineered software, cyber terrorism, identity management and lack of corporate security management.

Organisations are criticised for “bad security culture” with recommendations for CEOs to be challenged if they aren’t wearing an identity badge (obviously in such companies, employees couldn’t be expected to recognise the CEO).

IT – not only are technology teams obessed about security but the power gained “defeating” the   enabled the ““.  The global spend on the switchover has been estimated at $300 billion – but of course, we survived, so that was ROI – wasnt’ it?

HR – the department that sees people as a resource, little different to a chair or other tool.  Likes to use a sledgehammer to tackle any challenge.  I’ve heard some recent stories of employee sickness programmes based on a “three strikes and you’re out” approach applied “fairly” across the organisation rather than addressing the minority who exploit any policy.  Again, technology has been a joy for the command and control obsessed in HR.

Accounts – I’ve just been paid by a client for a project completed last July – thanks to their complicated processes.  The aim is to make it as difficult as possible to get money owed – even if you follow all the rules (quotations to get purchase orders which are required before you can submit an invoice in the approved format), there is usually a final sting of being paid within 90, even 120 days from the point when you “pass go” – via the payment method of their preference, of course. 

– the centre of “health and safety” matters, where you can no longer move a pencil without completing a risk assessment form. 

– a bunch of people who require anyone who just might be of assistance as a supplier to complete a mountain of paperwork, which includes tracing the finances of their forebears back at least six generations.

Are there others engaged in such restrictive practices?  Am I being unfair?  How much money and time is spent by individuals within organisations simply trying to adhere to the internal commands and controls?  How does anyone ever get to do their “real” job – or are consultants employed now to do that?

Like massive organisations seem to get bigger and more unweildy as their backroom services – supported by their consultants – expand and expand.

I am aware of more and more people like myself who find self-employment preferable to working in larger concerns – but even we cannot avoid the impact of processes from our clients or

Is there no escape from the burgeoning process fixation of many wage slaves?  Not only are those in control functions probably out-numbering those seeking to deliver any product or service, their processes are increasingly computerised.  This makes them increasingly impersonal, inflexibile, unwelcoming, intrusive and even unethical.

How can we deliver open, responsive, flexible communications in such a world?

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.