Battered by Britain's worst strike record and pilloried by a report into its industrial relations, the Royal Mail is seeking help from an American management guru specialising in "spiritual guidance".
Senior managers have decided to enlist the services of Richard Barrett, a self-styled "World-Renowned Visionary" who is apparently capable of transforming business through the judicious deployment of "values-based Corporate Transformation Tools" – for which he has obtained a copyright.
The decision to seek help from Mr Barrett's company, Corptools, was made after an independent three-man team headed by Lord Sawyer, the former general secretary of the Labour Party, declared that the Royal Mail's management style was "frankly dire".
A change of name for the Royal Mail's parent company from the primitive but functional "Post Office" to the inscrutable "Consignia" does not seem to have provided instant salvation.
Mr Barrett believes executives and employees "want to feel a sense of alignment between their personal values and their company's values". He founded the Spiritual Unfoldment Society at the World Bank, Washington, in 1993.
"It was as if suddenly we had given permission for those interest in personal transformation to come out of the closet," he has said.
Corptools will advise Consignia's organisation, design and development unit on how to spread the message throughout the Royal Mail workforce.
Employees will be asked which "positive, love-based values" they want to experience in their workplace and which "negative, fear-based values" they would like to see banished.
All this will not come cheap. Corptools is staging a two-day "corporate culture assessment" in Manchester next month at a cost of £1,000 a head. The consultancy has worked previously for Microsoft, Siemens and Mitsubishi.
Royal Mail may present a different proposition, with more than 62,000 working days lost through walk-outs by postal workers in the past financial year, although only 5 per cent of the stoppages were sanctioned by the Communication Workers' Union (CWU).
Lord Sawyer said industrial relations at the Royal Mail reminded him of the mutual antagonism seen at companies in the 1960s which eventually went out of business. The industry's regulator has threatened to issue licences to competitors unless the Royal Mail gets its act together.
Consignia refused to confirm or deny that they had commissioned Corptools. A CWU spokesman also declined to comment.
But one union source said: "This bloke is going to have trouble explaining Corporate Transformation Tools to the lads on the shop floor. They'd be better off having Mystic Meg in the forward planning department."
IN THE WORKPLACE
The pet food company Thomas's Europe, a Mars GB subsidiary, are among a number of firms which have staff running across hot coals in motivational sessions.
Staff at Standard Life in Edinburgh are regularly given "challenges" such as using a plank of wood to cross a room.
NatWest and Cable & Wireless have engaged the services of Richard Olivier, son of Lord Olivier, who has put on Shakespearean workshops to look for the warrior king among senior managers.
DePuy International, a Leeds-based medical supply firm, had to pay £275,000 compensation to a saleswoman who was left with epilepsy after she hit her head taking part in a "corporate bonding" sumo wrestling bout.
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