What are the similarities between Manufacturing and the Church?

I have been hearing recently about issues facing a number of manufacturing firms and have been struck by the similarity between that sector and the Church.

Many manufacturing companies have an ageing workforce.  This is because they have been good at retaining employees and have been experiencing static turnover, therefore having little need to recruit.  This has the advantage of having people with experience, although they can be resistant to change.  The big danger is that a lot of them will retire over a fairly short period, creating a recruitment crisis.

Those manufacturers who have tried to recruit young people in recent years have found it surprisingly difficult, even in areas of high unemployment.  This is apparently because manufacturing has a bad image among young people.  It includes:

  • Long hours
  • Poor pay
  • Noisy, dirty conditions
  • No career ladder
  • Bad industrial relations
  • Repetitive, unstimulating work
  • Being undervalued and badly treated.

I am sure most of the above were true in many businesses in the past, but I am aware that the image is out of date.  Most modern manufacturers have addressed all these concerns and take a far more positive approach to the welfare and development of their employees.   The problem is that images tend to take a long time to change. Young people hear horror stories from parents, grandparents and other adults, many of whom are passing on stories from their own elders.  They may also pick up ideas from historical dramas or documentaries.  Some may even have paid attention in history lessons in school.  It is also likely that most teachers have little knowledge of modern manufacturing.  There is probably far less information “out there” about the changes in the Twentieth, let alone the Twenty-first, Century than about the Eighteenth and Nineteenth.

What has this got to do with the Church?

Most churches are full of elderly people.  Young people have a negative view of the Church.   Since they have mostly never been to a church, nor read the Bible, their concept can only be based on some impressions they have gained from the older generation and from the media.  The sort of negative things they imagine include:

  • Old-fashioned language
  • Dreary old hymns accompanied by an organ
  • Meaningless rituals
  • Cold, uncomfortable pews
  • Long boring sermons
  • Judgmental attitudes
  • The need to sit still and be quiet for long periods.

Many people would be surprised to find how far many churches have moved away from all of the above.

Just like manufacturing, however, the image lasts far longer than the reality.

A lot of churches have put a lot of effort into updating their worship but far less into publicising the changes.  On the other hand, there are some which have done the opposite with disastrous results.   Change the image without changing the reality and you destroy your credibility when you get “found out”.

The same is true of manufacturing.  Some firms talk about their modern approach, but a lot of their practices are still Dickensian in reality.  This damages the credibility of the whole sector.

Of course, it would be a big help if teachers kept their knowledge up to date regarding manufacturing and the Church. [Ofsted have criticised the lack of awareness among R.I. teachers.]

The Risk Management message is that you run a big risk if you address the image problem without addressing the underlying reality, but you run an equal risk if you address the reality without doing anything about the image.  They need to move hand-in-hand if you are to be successful.


Is Cyber Risk Management a Waste of Time?

There has been a lot in the news lately about cyber crime and the cyber risk generally.

  • Talk Talk and Vodaphone among others have suffered serious data breaches.
  • Some people are saying that, if such businesses are not safe, how can the rest of us hope to be?

The answer is that there is no such thing as total security, either on-line, off-line or physical.  That is why I offer RISK Management Services and not certainty management.

However you can take appropriate measures to reduce your risks to an acceptable level.

I do not have as much physical security on my house, my office, my computer or my car as I could.  I would not call any of it “state of the art”.  Why do I not do more?

Because of the cost and the likely risk.

  • I do not have such valuable possessions or such valuable data to make it worth anyone’s while going to all that much trouble to break my security.
  • If anyone does do that, they are likely to be disappointed and find what they have gained does not justify the cost and trouble they will have gone to.
  • I do have enough security to prevent casual intruders or hackers.  I am not giving my things away.

Another recent news item was the fine of hundreds of thousands of pounds imposed on the Crown Prosecution Service for losing a lot of highly sensitive files.  The size of the fine reflected both the seriousness of the loss and the negligence in having such poor security.

There are certain reasonable and proportionate measures you can take that are appropriate for your business.

Go to www.metanoia-business-services.co.uk

or www.cyberesentials4u.co.uk

orGoogle Cyber Essentials

Or just have a word with me.

01925 445215

e-mail john@jhmriskmanagementservices.co.uk

Remembrance? What are you going to remember?

On the 11th of November we rightly remember those who died in two world wars and in other conflicts since.  But what do we remember?

  • The loss.
  • The sacrifice.
  • The Horror
  • The waste.

Yes.  All these.  So we should.

All too often we fail to remember:

  • the folly.
  • the mistakes.
  • the lessons we could have and should have learnt.
  • the lessons we still could learn.

Here are some of those lessons:

  • Do not keep repeating the same mistakes
  • Do not look for scapegoats when things go wrong
  • Do know who you can trust

I have written in more detail about these lessons and many more in my book: Be Victorious!: Lessons from World War I for Business and Everyday Life . https://www.createspace.com/4875614

But whether you read the book or not, do not let all the sacrifices be for nothing.  Let us all learn the right lessons in our own lives and let us hope the generals and politicians learn the right ones too.  Sadly it was not the War to End Wars.

Was Guy Fawkes Right?

There are times when politicians make me so angry I can almost sympathise with Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators.  Blow them all up!

Almost but not quite.

I cannot condone violence especially when it would replace whatever we have with something worse.  Some kind of tyranny probably.

What we do need is reform.  The recent conflict between the Government and the House of Lords brought one aspect of this to the fore.

What about your business?

  • Does it need reforming in any way?
  • Are all parts of it fit for purpose.

I said “are” not “were”!  What was state of the art last year, or however many years ago, might not be quite so effective now, if the needs and challenges have changed.  If they have not, what kind of business are you in?

One type of review to consider is a Risk Management review, to ensure you are managing the right risks and are using the right controls.  It might even be time to get rid of a few controls that are no longer needed.

If you want to talk about it give me a ring on 01825 445215

or e-mail john@jhmriskmanagementservices.co.uk

What have you got to lose?

Another way of giving away money inadvertently: by accident!

When looking at the Financial Risk, it is important to remember that Fraud is not the only risk in this category.  Errors of all kinds can have serious financial consequences.  In this article I will tell the story of an unfortunate sequence of events leading to a highly embarrassing outcome.  The one good thing about it was that the financial cost was minimal.  The damage to the organisation’s reputation was the real loss.  I will point out some of the failings and how they could have been avoided, as I see things.  Perhaps you will think of some others.  You may also notice that those same shortcomings could have left the organisation vulnerable to a fraud.

It happened in the early 1970’s when many organisations were just beginning to use computers for their principal financial functions.   In this instance the function in question was creditor payments.  The whole system had been reviewed including the manual operations which linked to the computer.  Like most IT functions at that time, a batch input system was introduced.   A payment slip was stuck onto each invoice to be paid.  A number identifying the creditor had to be entered on the slip as well as the invoice number, an expenditure code and the amount.  It then had to be signed by an authorised person to certify that it was to be paid.

Completed invoices were bundled together into a batch on the front of which a batch-header form was attached giving a batch number and the total of the amounts to be paid, which was produced by using an adding machine.  The batch was then passed to the IT department where all the information on the creditor payment slips and the batch header was input.  The totals had to agree and the other details had to be valid.  The computer then generated a listing of all this data and produced the cheques and remittance advices.  An independent group of people, know collectively a Despatch, checked that the cheques agreed with the list before putting them into envelopes,  and…despatching them.  Where more than one payment was being made to a creditor, the computer combined them onto one cheque but showed the separate amounts on the remittance advice.

A period of parallel running had apparently proven that the system worked properly.   The problem which defied the system concerned a credit note.  The arrangement was that a credit note should be treated in the same way as an invoice but a negative amount shown on the creditor slip.  Usually a credit would be attached to an invoice from the relevant creditor, but that was not considered essential as the computer would automatically deduct the amount from anything being paid to that creditor in the same run, which usually included several batches.  The thing nobody had thought of was how to deal with the situation where a credit note wnt through the system in a week when there was no invoice against which it could be offset.  Inevitably, like most unforeseen circumstances, it occurred in due course.

The computer, unable to produce a cheque for a negative amount, deducted the figure from the highest number it could process.  The system was designed to prevent any payment of a million pounds or more from going through.  In the event of a genuine million pound payment being necessary it would have been handled manually.  Thus a cheque was produced for a million pounds less a penny less the amount of the credit note.  The credit note was for less than a pound.  The creditor took a photocopy of the cheque and sent it to the local paper.  He framed the original.  Had he tried to bank it, it is possible that it would have been queried at that stage.  It is also possible that he could have been charged with fraud, as he must have known he was not owed anything like a million pounds.  The resulting furore and internal enquiry left a lot of blood on a lot of carpets.  You might have a view on whose it should have been.  The programmers and systems analysts were asked why they had not thought of the eventuality which did in fact occur.  So was the system owner, the creditor payments manager.  It should have been possible to arrange for unaccompanied credit notes to be rejected.   The cheque list could have been checked against the actual invoices.  Someone should have noticed that the total far exceeded the batch total.  Someone might have used their “common” sense and queried a payment of nearly a million pounds, especially as the creditor did not supply goods of anywhere near that value.

Perhaps you need to review your financial systems, online and offline, to ensure they are (still) fit for purpose.