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The VW scandal and how it’s relevant to your business

VW scandal and how it’s relevant to your business… Barely a week has passed since the news was first announced that VW (and subsequently other car makers) were knowingly and intentionally cheating emission standards. Obviously it’s wrong, it shouldn’t have happened, they should face penalties for their actions, but the more telling question is how did it happen? Yes the engineering made it possible, but more importantly the culture, ethics and misguided leadership in VW allowed such actions to take place.

The killer question is: What is stopping your business suffering a similar fate? In one way or another, every business in the UK operates within the parameters of laws, regulations or industry standards. These are the things documented in training manuals, talked about on the first days of joining a business and then all too often are put to one side in the name of getting things done. As a manager or business owner you know the risks and regulations all too well, but how do you know your staff are operating within them? How do you know that today they didn’t breach them and get away with it? Or worse still, like VW, redesign a process in order to potentially bypass regulations going forward?

Here are some critical questions you might want to ask yourself as a business owner or manager:

  • How well do my staff know the rules that govern our business? Do they really understand them? Does my business provide the necessary training to ensure that they are up to date?
  • What standards do we expect as a business? Is corner cutting an acceptable practice or are rules and safety paramount? At all times? At all levels?
  • How transparent is the culture? Does it differ based on our position within the business? Does “them and us” exist within my business?
  • Who do we reward? Is risk taking and output rewarded above quality and adherence to standards?

The simple fact is, as a manager or business owner you will never have full control or visibility of how your business operates. Once you accept that, you can then go about building the right leadership team and culture to get the best out of your business. Here are a few things you might want to consider:

  • Accountability and management: Managers need to understand the difference between being in charge of something and being accountable for something. Manager’s need to be actively engaged in the supervision of quality and adherence to standards, accountability cannot be delegated and excuses of “I had no idea that was happening” are simply bad management.
  • Leaders set the standards: Being a leader is a privilege, it comes with extra responsibility, control and it’s critical that all leaders take that seriously. As a leader you are expected to be the standard bearer for quality and ethics. If you don’t have a strong moral compass then don’t expect your staff to.
  • Test your standards: Think beyond it being the role of external auditors or the quality control team. Consider how you as a manager can check that standards are being met. Use it as a chance to deliver instant feedback (in a positive way) and develop process improvements (whilst avoiding public beatings).

If you do one thing tomorrow, ask yourself and your managers: What type of leader do I want to be? If you can live up to that standard and encourage those around you to do the same, then you are one step closer to ensuring that your business meets its standards and doesn’t suffer a similar fate to VW.

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