In my last post I reported on my visit to Warrigal Care centre. I spoke at their annual dinner and then the next morning I attended a meeting of one of their groups concerned with trying to improve the already high standard of care they offer.

I was really impressed with the way their system works. The meeting was chaired by a senior person who let the others talk and discuss issues, only rarely commenting on the discussion. The rest of the group were all workers at, or almost at, the coal face. If you want to improve your service the only way to do so is to hear the views of those in direct contact with your clients. Unfortunately many managers are so overwhelmed by the fact that they are at the top, or almost there, that they think they know all there is to know about their business. Many would feel it a loss of face to ask for, or take, advice from those below them. I am not saying that this level ‘playing field’ approach Warrigal Care management takes is entirely responsible for their good outcomes but it must go a long way towards it. I remember when school based management was first introduced into ACT schools and Principals were advised that they might feel that they had less power but they had far more influence. This is a difficult idea for anyone obsessed with their position in a company.

Part of the problem is that we live in a world where we tend to assess ourselves, and let others assess us, by the number of material possessions we have, which we tend to buy as a measure of our wealth. This is an incentive for management in many companies to earn as much as they can, including giving themselves and their colleagues huge bonuses. These are often not available to those in the lower ranks. We also forget that rich people don’t ‘make money’, only the mint does that. Rich people can only acquire their wealth by taking money off other people. Even profits come from other people. Looking at what is happening in the poorer parts of the world, and to a lesser extent in parts of Australia, we realise how this imbalance works.

Meanwhile the type of management practised at Warrigal is a good example of how to run a successful business. A win-win situation for the older people for whom they provide care and a feeling of satisfaction in a job being well done for the staff. Giving staff a voice makes a huge difference. As I mentioned previously the large numbers of volunteers is a testament to the staff, paid and unpaid, feeling that they are valued and are involved in something worthwhile.