There’s a funny little book called “who moved my cheese” which is about mice trying to cope with change. Link to Amazon books
Worth a read, if you find it difficult to cope with change or you’re a beginner at dealing with change.
Iarnród Éireann staff and managers down in Cork might benefit from reading it.
The unofficial strike again to-day by Cork train drivers shows up the big disadvantage of relying on public services. When management and staff start fighting they forget about the poor customers.
Listening to both sides on the radio today, it’s obvious there’s been a total breakdown in the relationships between them. Reminded me of the film “the war of the roses” The one where Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are a bickering couple who end up dead during one of their many arguments.
The Cork drivers went on unofficial strike last week, after one of their number was suspended for not working as agreed. They said they would return to work yesterday, even though they had secured no concessions. Apparently Iarnród Éireann management then insisted they sign a letter committing to no further unofficial action.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, because
a) these staff have already signed up to a previous agreement which they’ve broken, so
why is signing a new letter going to make any difference?
b) You don’t rub the other side’s nose in it when they’re down
c) When you have to adopt this legalistic approach, as a manager you’ve failed
Good managers try to develop trust and work with staff, so they don’t have to cross every “T” and dot every “I”, documenting everything staff have to do or not do.
The current buzz word for this is “staff engagement”. The fact so many staff were prepared to walk off the job in support of one colleague means there is limited “staff engagement” down in Cork.
Iarnród Éireann Management need to win hearts and minds of the staff, so that every one is working for the interests of customers, not involved in petty point scoring on who moves what train.
Instead of painting the other side as irrational, troublesome etc effective managers try to understand where the other side is coming from. This gives a new perspective which can help resolve difficult situations. It means you have to disengage the emotional part of your brain and look logically at the situation.
You then adopt a carrot and stick approach, using the carrot first, but bringing in a useful stick, when the carrot fails after many attempts. Signing papers is not a useful stick, reducing pay, removing access to promotional opportunities, impacting other work colleagues is.
So organising pay agreements, so that every body suffers financially where there is unofficial or official action, can be a great deterrent -as it creates peer pressure against unofficial action.
When Eircom was Telecom Eireann there used to be similar adversarial relationships. As one ex union guy said to me recently, “ at 22 years old as a shop steward I could close an entire region in Dublin down on a whim”
Then the EU introduced the prospect of competition. So suddenly there was a need for change. Some American, union orientated consultants were brought in to help develop new relationships with a focus on identifying values and goals that could be “shared” between both sides. It was a difficult and time consuming exercise but totally worthwhile. For the first time, I began to understand that union reps were not there to make my life difficult, they also had difficulties, but they could actually help make things happen.
Management and staff had an agreed “vision” for the future, which resulted in the union dictating who the company was sold to and staff getting extra pay.
To this day despite leaving eight years ago and not having full share allocations I still get about €2,000 a year from the employee share option scheme. The new approach was “win, win” rather than win/lose. (The customers still lost out, but the key reason for this is the government decision to sell off their entire ownership, at least however there are no strikes )
This win/win relationship development is the type of activity Iarnród Éireann need to do. Unfortunately they don’t have the same urgency for change- there’s no competition, just poor stranded customers. This is where the Government comes in. They need to establish clear accountable, transparent sanctions and targets for Iarnród Éireann quickly. Diverting some cash to the bus services every time there’s trouble might help.
So, if the Munster rugby team can do the near impossible and deliver the European cup again with the fans acting at the 16th man, Munster people are capable of putting pressure on all the people involved to keep those trains moving.
I’m not saying Iarnród Éireann management are totally to blame, after all the staff member refused to move the train, but that’s why they get paid more - to manage these situations in the customer’s best interest.