08 September 2010

When Is It OK To Be Dishonest?

A colleague shared with me an incident that occurred recently on one of her projects. Sally is the lead business process consultant helping a client organization automate a record to report business process. As with many projects of this sort, she has encountered challenges along the way. Some of them have been people related; others have been data related; and still others have been technical.

Yet, the challenge that she struggled with the most was discovering that the project manager and engagement manager had deliberately mislead the entire team. How did she know that they had lied to the team? Both of them announced it during a team meeting.

Sally's concern was how could she believe any communications from these two individuals knowing that they had mislead her and others.

There are several relevant questions here.

  • Why did the managers come clean when they did, instead of staying quiet?

  • What choices are available to a leader/manager when sensitive information cannot be shared?

  • Is it acceptable or desirable behavior to mislead or lie to subordinates or colleagues?
The first question is fairly self evident. Many people when confronted with the probability of a dishonest statement being discovered, eventually correct the statement to one that is more truthful. The exceptions to this observation are sociopaths and habitual liars, which would be a topic for different blog.

The next question regarding choices is much more interesting. Leaders and managers frequently are privy to information or knowledge that cannot be shared ever or perhaps until a later date. To complicate matters, some subordinates are very perceptive and can sense when there are social/political/ organizational undercurrents. The more outspoken subordinates will simply ask a direct question. How does a good leader respond?

My response in those situations has been, "I can't answer that right now. We are working on [the matter/situation] quietly, but this is in the realm of confidential information at the moment and I am not at liberty to share." Are people comfortable with that answer?

Absolutely not! My personal preference is to admit to withholding information or knowledge rather than be dishonest about doing so. The other choice, of course, is to answer dishonestly and pray that you won't need to reverse your stance publicly. Are there options aside from the two discussed above? I'm not certain that there are, but if you are reading this blog post and know of any, I'd be interested in your comments.

The last question perhaps should be two questions. The issue of acceptability raises considerations of a more ethical nature. The notion of desirable behavior leads to discussions around practicality. My purpose here is to provoke discussion about a situation that teams -- leaders, managers, and their subordinates -- encounter rather frequently. So rather than endlessly debate the ethics or practicality of dishonest statements in general, I am asking you, the reader, "What would you say to your team if asked about a sensitive, confidential matter?"

07 September 2010

So, Tell Us What Really Happened at OOW 2010!

OK, FMT's Marketing Director is really after me to say something in one of my blog posts about the next Ask Us Anything Webinar on 29 September 2010. Since this blog is more about my personal passions than an advertisement for FMT Systems, I have been challenged regarding a context for talking about our monthly Webinar.

Enough grousing!

Strangely the idea for Ask Us Anything (AUA) came from the Marketing Director and I talking about giving back to a community that had given our organization so much support. In addition, we wanted to participate in helping the Oracle community as a whole learn more about business process and what it means to be a process focussed organization. This seemed especially important given Oracle's SOA Suite of applications and its focus on its Fusion products.

To single out a few of our esteemed AUA presenters might sound like favoritism or an advertising ploy (FMT's Marketing Director would love it though!). We've had numerous Subject Matter Experts present each month so that the momentum and attendance increase with each session. Instead, I want to send a blanket "Thank you!" to everyone who has participated in FMT's webinars. You know who you are. Further, your generosity and willingness to engage are very much appreciated.

I am also inclined to invite new presenters with cutting edge topics to reach out to our Marketing Director. If you have an interest in presenting a topic for AUA in 2011, contact her through aua at fmtsi dot com.

But more importantly, we want to share the knowledge that we have, with you. Of course, you may not tune in each month as some topics may not apply to you. But we do encourage you to keep an eye out for the invitations and Web site postings each month. Happenings in the business process and IT enabling worlds are numerous and frequent. AUA is a marvelous way to keep informed.

Please visit our events website or click immediate registration to join the September webinar. Now that I've made FMT's Marketing Department happy, I'll be talking about an issue related to team dynamics tomorrow.

03 September 2010

Ideas, Innovation and Implementation - Getting Things Done Better Faster

If we're not getting more better faster
then they are getting more better faster,
then we're getting less better
or more worse.

Tom Peters

Ideas are simply that, "Ideas." The key to success lies in effective implementation.

In most organizations, people find that their managers will put the NO in innovation, roadblocking their individual efforts to make improvements. Take this simple statistic as proof: A Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. (And, 2007 were the good old days when it came to employee engagement and morale, it appears.)

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. And there are broad issues of employee engagement and morale operating in most organizations these days. So it would seem obvious that there are some leverage points in the workplace that we can use effectively to improve how things are working.

The real key is the successful implementation of ideas, either from the view of the entrepreneur or the manager looking to improve performance. It is a tool for employee engagement as well as a way to improve performance and profits.

For almost 20 years, I have been using a simple cartoon to describe how organizations really work -- it is an inkblot for leading discussions as well as a metaphor for how things tend to roll along.

Consider that we are using a wooden wagon. A leader is pulling with a rope and people are behind the wagon, pushing it forward. It is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels, but with a cargo of round rubber tires.

Square Wheels® One, ©Performance Management Company, 1993
Someone said, “Those who do have no clue. Those who lead miss the need.” I think that describes the reality – the view at the back of the wagon (boards and hands) is different than the view at the front. The hands-on people KNOW that things are not working smoothly but have no ability to make the changes. The wagon puller is focused on meeting current goals and there is little time to stop and chat.

The round wheels already exist. In most organizations, the exemplary performers are already doing things differently and their sharing of best practices would be beneficial, if only we had the chance to stop, step back from the wagon, and discuss issues and opportunities.

I successful entrepreneurial businesses, you can see that the good idea(s) are shared with the people and that there is an engaged and involved workforce working to make those ideas a reality. This is the essence of entrepreneurial leadership, IMHO. It is really hard to go it alone, even when your idea is “most fabulous.” You need others to share the vision (and perspective) and to have a sense of ownership and involvement to generate the motivation and peer support to succeed.

Last key point: Nobody ever washes a rental car.

Without a sense of ownership involvement, it is not likely that people will be motivated, and thus the many issues around implementation and rollout of those good ideas will be roadblocks instead of challenges.

The Round Wheels of Today, are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

There will always be opportunities for people to implement and sell better ways of getting things done and improving performance. It is really about wheels and about people…

so, "Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!"

Step back from your wagon, scan the issues, and look for things that could be done differently. Then, involve and engage others in discussions about how to do things differently and how to implement these ideas.

A special thanks goes to Scott Simmerman of Performance Management Company for preparing this post.

See more on this at http://www.squarewheels.com/ and see toolkits of illustrations at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of it!

Square Wheels® is a registered servicemark of Performance Management Company, ©Performance Management Company, 1993