Blog

Getting bad news early is good news

In the business world it may seem odd to say that it’s good to get bad news.

As managers, certainly we would always prefer to receive good news, but unfortunately we all know that’s not always the case. The concept of this week’s column is that when bad things happen, such as a project running late, a tenuous meeting with a customer or an expense item that is over budget, as the manager, the earlier you are informed of the issue the easier it is to solve or at least minimize its effect.

Having an early working system within your organization is hard to create and often even more difficult to maintain. It requires a combination of a:

• Willing corporate culture

• Effective process measurement

• High degree of communication at all organizational levels

• Trust

Regarding corporate culture, the general organizational environment must reward and embrace a “tell-it-as-it-is” mentality and punish those who withhold information for personal gain and to the detriment of the organization as a whole. In effect, you need all the members of the group to either be team players or to get off the bus. This means that people have to be willing to communicate problems within their own projects to their boss and others without the fear of disapproval and adverse actions.

Regarding effective process measurement, individual and department processes must be designed in a way that facilities the creation of effective ways to measure and monitor them. This could include numerically based project status reports, statistical monitoring of workflow-based processes, and data collection and analysis used to create usable management dashboards.

Regarding organizational communication, the best statistical analysis in the world can’t overcome employees who are unwilling or unable to communicate in a way that brings attention to existing issues, raises potential solutions, brings together organizational silos and solves problems as a team.

Regarding trust, it’s the glue that holds a positive corporate culture together and the grease that allows communication to flow. Without trust, the members of your team will spend more of their creative thought trying to protect themselves from their follow employees than trying to move the company in a forward direction. When trust is lost, company culture deteriorates and communication transforms from open to guarded, to calculated, to non-existent.

So the question becomes “What can you do as the organization’s leader to create a positive culture, facilitate positive communication, and maximize trust within your group in a way that people are willing to tell you when problems occur?”

The answer to this question begins with you. You are the leader of the band, and as a result, you are the person who is the primary influencer of your team’s culture, willingness to trust and ability to communicate with others. Ask yourself if the members of your team are:

• Willing to bring you bad news without fear that you will shoot the messenger.

• Able to properly assess the status of their projects, budgets and general productivity.

• Able to rely on their fellow employees to help correct issues or will they remain silent due to organizational backstabbing and one-upmanship.

• Are you honest with your staff and willing to admit when you are wrong.

• Telling you when trouble is on the way.

Your answers to these questions will help you decide for yourself if you are helping to facilitate or helping to block your own ability to get the information you need to most effectively run your organization.

Going back to this column’s original thought, yes, it is good to get bad news early so you can fix it, but the real win is in the creation of an organization that facilitates the willingness, comfort and team atmosphere that allows it to happen.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, manage well and continue to build your professional brand.

By Eric P. Bloom, executive director of IT Management and Leadership Institute in Hopkinton, first published on https://sharon.wickedlocal.com/ September 13, 2020