Perhaps one of the silliest metaphors, in my opinion, about a company is describing it as a family. Many families by their very nature are somewhat dysfunctional and have the odd black sheep, and some even have skeletons in their closets. It has been said that we can choose our friends but not our family or relatives. Let’s face it; for many people, seeing family is an obligation, and visits from family are treasured—both when they arrive and when they leave!In Fortune (January 19, 2012), Google founder and CEO Larry Page said, “It’s important that the company be a family that people feel that they’re part of the company, and that the company is like a family to them.” Now, I don’t want to pick a fight with Mr. Page, but most companies and families do not have an abundance of free stuff, massages, and a net operating cash flow of 11 billion dollars (2014).Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, gives a more sobering view of an organization. “Try to imagine disowning your child for poor performance: ‘We’re sorry Susie, but your mom and I have decided you’re just not a good fit. Your table-setting effort has been deteriorating for the past 6 months, and your obsession with ponies just isn’t adding any value. We’re going to have to let you go. But don’t take it the wrong way; it’s just family.”
From our observations of the best-run companies in Asia’s pharmaceutical industry, these companies are run like great sporting teams. The country manager or CEO is a great coach looking to have the best talent on the park (company) in any given quarter. They are strategic, looking for weaknesses in their opposition and looking to recruit the best talent, subbing directors to other positions and making way for stars. Sure, they have big hearts, but they are tough. They are great people managers like Alex Ferguson Manchester United.
The aim of a professional sports team is to win. The team has a mission. If the team is going to succeed, then the coaches (line managers) need to be able to bring people together. They can effectively manage big egos and foster talent. Great sporting teams are relentless; once they have an opponent down, they put their foot on their throat and dominate. Coke, Google, Apple, and Microsoft dominate and, ideally, want to create monopolies.
Great companies and sporting teams are disciplined. In the book Good to Great (2001), Collins explains that discipline is not to be confused with a strict authoritarian environment; instead, Collins is referring to an organization in which each employee is motivated by a sense of determination where they are given autonomy to fly.
Highly functioning teams have an abundance of social capital; they’re challenging with high levels of trust. This is no place for passengers; low performers tend to be spat out. Conflict, according to Margaret Heffernan in her TED talk “Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work” (May 2015), is frequent and fostered. Great ideas are often born in the heat of battle. Heffernan explains, “It’s only through the generous contribution, faith and challenge that they achieve their potential. And that’s what social capital supports.”
The next time you hear someone spout that their company is “like a family,” remind yourself that you would like your organization to be as successful as the Chicago Bulls from 1991-1998.
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Morunda www.morunda.com should be your choice of recruiting partner in Japan and Asia Pacific. Why? Because we live and breathe the pharmaceutical industry in Asia and the Pacific—we’re specialists!