Entrepreneur’s Diary #108 – Morals of Metric

A value-based enterprise culture is an essential requirement for its sustainable success. And what is more – if all the performers in an enterprise are well-educated and work on shared projects with courage and joy, then you are on the home run already.

Dürre_RolandThis was and is my belief. Except how are persons in leading positions (according to my definition, those with the normative responsibility for the enterprise) supposed to manage that? Perhaps they could be role models to some extent? But then, can you really generate entrepreneurial culture from top to bottom?

I experienced myself that it cannot be done. On a small scale, it happened in my own enterprise – on a larger scale, for instance at SNI (may it rest in peace). At this company, I met for instance Gerhard Schulmeyer. He started out with great expectations and introduced many creative measures that seemed very prudent to me – and finally he failed regardless. He was unable to change or break the system.

Basically, building a “good enterprise culture” is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. You cannot grow enterprise culture “like in the test-tube” by adding the right ingredients and creating the optimal temperature. Either it will develop by itself or it will not develop at all.

Perhaps the contribution by and skill of the ”leader” – possibly acting a little like the jester – lies in again and again forcing the people to deviate from their daily routines. He constantly has to find and activate new impulses all stakeholders in the enterprise enjoy and draw motivation from. Thus, he has to try and push the enterprise towards ambitious and – above all – exciting projects and challenges at all times.

In the context of these topics, I experienced a nice philosophy seminar a short time ago. It was about morals. Also about enterprise morals as part of enterprise culture. Morals are a dangerous thing, not just for and in enterprises. Values can easily become hardened or turn independent. Or else, they might often cause a less than optimal “This is how you want to do it” or “This is not how you can do it”, thus preventing change.

More often than not, these “basic rules” are then made to become part of a strict system of processes which – well-meant but poorly executed – has been developed from “best practice experience”, but which again seals the system. And thus, it takes away the air to breath for the internal stakeholders. Just take a look at one of those ISO 9001-certifications behind its façade.

However, the “new” enterprise (anti) culture, especially in big enterprises, seems to spring from a totally different source. A few years ago, the entire entrepreneurial world was absolutely keen on the “Balance Score Card“- system. The underlying idea was that everything can be measured and thus evaluated with numbers and digits.

Even the knowledge of an enterprise was to be summarized in a “knowledge balance sheet” (Wissensbilanz). Human resources – note the term -, too, were to be processed by profiling your colleagues in order to find underperformers. And there are still places where this belief is adhered to even today.

This metrication of enterprises causes a totally new form of enterprise morals. Decisions are no longer based on: “This is how you want to do it”, but on the question: “What do we gain by this?”. And the answer to that question should preferably be backed by numbers.

However, numbers as such make no sense. As all metrical measures, they need a unit. And, of course, the unit of entrepreneurial metrics is money (EUROS) – which then quite logically leads to the maxim “shareholder value”. ..

For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

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