What the rest of us can learn from Deutsche Bank’s massive restructure
Tuesday, July 09, 2019
Few of us or our companies share anything obvious in common with Deutsche Bank’s woes or the massive restructure its leadership has initiated. However, we can glean several lessons from the company’s slide and this transformational change on which it is embarking.
Regardless of size, industry, or life-cycle stage, the rest of us can take away several practical lessons from Deutsche Bank.
The value of stakeholders
Stakeholders played a critical role in the Deutsche Bank saga. Regardless of our structure or industry, an important macro-level takeaway is the number and type of stakeholders to which Deutsche Bank was beholden.
Thinking about our own organization from the perspective of a variety of stakeholders can help us lead better in several ways.
For example, depending upon our industry and structure, we may be used to thinking of our board, clients, employees, or community as a stakeholder. However, we would benefit from considering them all as stakeholders, regardless of whether they are officially.
Specifically, while a nonprofit may be used to dealing with a board and the community, a retail store may not think of the local community as a group to which they should be held accountable. Similarly, a hospital may think of the community as both customers and stakeholders but forget their employees and employees’ families are a large and significant group to which they should be held accountable.
Lions, tigers and watchdogs… oh my!
Deutsche Bank played in several of the most highly regulated arenas in the world. While our organization may only be subject to employment laws or industry-specific regulations, another aspect of the Deutsche story that can be helpful to consider is the permeability of borders.
Our ability to operate across the county, country, or world means we not only need to expand who we consider our stakeholders; we also need to reevaluate entities to which we are accountable.
For example, our ability to manufacture in a location different from our headquarters means that we must have a broader approach to human resources management, including salary and benefits differentials, culture, and varying regulations. We need to understand the political and cultural atmosphere within which all our locations operate to ensure our work there is compliant and consistently reflects our intended approach.
Finally, the scale of laying off 18,000 employees is almost incomprehensible to most of us. Yet, what is understandable is the letter from the CEO.
While no one expects that letter to make current or newly terminated employees feel better, everyone does expect the letter. Every stakeholder expects the CEO to communicate as clearly as possible what is happening, why and what is next.
Yet, in small organizations letting go one employee, there is often little or no communication around what happened, why it happened and what either the current or newly terminated employees should expect. Arguably, that communication from leadership is even more important when there are only 100 employees than when there are 100,000.
The bottom line is that, as leaders, we must understand that businesses of any size can have a more widespread impact on more people in more ways than we ever could — we need to start leading in a way that considers this new reality.
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