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Making Noise

Do_not_honkA picture is worth a thousand words... and a few hundred calories when it makes you laugh.

Having just finished giving two presentations about "what your project team isn't telling you," I heard a lot of pain and fear about making noise to the executives.  It seems a few people have witnessed messengers being shot.  Ironically, I saw this sign in New York City this morning, and I just had to share it.  I wonder who is enforcing it, because honking is a language in and of itself in a city that hears about every tongue imaginable spoken.  Somehow I doubt that anybody has collected much money in honking penalties.

So... is your reluctance to speak up and "honk your horn" at work due to "obsolete" signs that should be ignored?  As I told both the audiences, the really good executives will listen when the message is presented intelligently and with an orientation toward solutions.  The times that any executive gets hyper is when she or he is blindsided with a problem that is dumped on his or her lap with no sign of a solution in sight.  The bad executives will blow a gasket regardless of the message or the delivery.

Just something to think about as you are about to deliver bad news.


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Kevin Brady

This is becoming a more and more common problem. Risk and issue managment is a hopeless process /procedure without people feeling they can speakout without fear. Without risk and issue managment then projects above a certain size are a forgone failure before they even start. Give your projects a chance of success. Encourage honesty /integrety and an open working enviroment and you never know some of your projects might become a forgone success :)

Scot Herrick

This requires that a person evaluate the management team and decide to talk or not. That is sometimes a difficult decision to make.

I was in a skip level meeting where something negative about my department was brought up, quite legitimate, and when I told my manager's manager about it as my manager was not in that day, I thought I was doing a good thing by giving a heads up for what was coming.

Instead, that person labeled me as "negative" and "undermining the department" to my manager, as a messenger. Well, you can imagine I never told that person a thing after that.

Communicating bad things early is one of the best things a person can do so that actions can be taken early to help bad things turn out OK. But, if your management team isn't emotionally qualified to handle bad news -- much less bad news early -- you put your career at risk.

I'm not willing to do that with managers who can't handle actionable communication.

Timothy Johnson

Kevin - excellent point. One of Deming's 14 points of quality is to drive out fear from the organization. If there is fear over communication, then a lack of quality cannot be far behind.

Scot - you are very correct... audience assessment is always critical in any kind of communication. Your story drives home the point I'm making though. You never tried again to communicate with that person based on that one incident (and I'm guessing some of your co-workers quit trying as well). Not to defend their bad behavior, but they may have heard things out of context, they may have been having a bad day, or they may have been in a very defensive mood. Executives cannot possibly shoot every messenger and survive long term. The point of this post is to keep trying to communicate. Keep honking, even if there is a fine attached.

Delaney Kirk

You must be doing a great job speaking in NYC. Race Through The Forest sold 20 copies on Amazon yesterday!!

Terry Starbucker

Dude! Looks like you got a lot more out of your visit to NYC than you thought - this is great stuff. Bad news is really good news for a leader. If you are not cultivating that, than you truly are lost in the forest. Sorry I missed you (I was in CO and MT)!



Timothy Johnson

Delaney - great news

Terry - not getting to see you was the only pitfall of the trip to NYC. It was a wonderful experience, and I can't wait to go back.

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