5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

It’s in the Delivery – Published August 2012

From the archives

Jim, it is not your message we don’t like but it is in the delivery. Usually this is said after the umpteenth time I have tried to deliver the message in the most politically correct way possible. This usually is followed by, “You just don’t understand the circumstances”. As if I had not delivered the same message, about the same situation, a million times before. No, maybe it is not me, but you, that needs to wake up and smell the roses, or usually manure by the time we get to this point.

Here is how it typically goes:

First time: Hey everybody, we better watch out for the cliff coming up – don’t you think? No one listens, over the cliff we go.

Second time: Hey everybody, remember last time we went over the cliff, wasn’t much fun was it? Let’s watch out for that cliff, OK? No one listens, over the cliff we go.

Third time: Hey everybody, I am really tired of warning about the cliff, think we can listen up this time and avoid going over? No one listens, over the cliff we go.

Fourth time: OK, YOU FUCKING MORONS I HAVE WARNED YOU ABOUT THE FUCKING CLIFF SEVERAL TIMES, NOW STOP FUCKING AROUND AND STOP!! Response: Geez Jim, no need to get upset about this and we really don’t appreciate how you delivered the message. Plus, you don’t seem to understand the circumstances that precipitated us going over the cliff previously. We would appreciate it if you would not speak to us that way.

No, I think I understand what the circumstances are – a complete lackadaisical attitude of management to address known problems in a proactive and assertive way. Therefore, the problem continues to cause havoc amongst the staff until someone has the wherewithal to question why we don’t change things. Of course, then you get the “you just don’t understand and we don’t like your delivery” speech. It is always flipped over on to the person raising the obvious as if they should just shut up and go along for the ride over the cliff – over and over and over.

I was asked once by a senior manager why I had to address a situation in such harsh terms. My response, because when I have raised the issue in subtle, but less direct, terms you don’t get it. These are the same people, however, who have adopted the attitude that the person raising the obvious is the problem versus the fact that nothing is done to address the real problem.

A classic moment was at the architecture firm that was trying to implement the new ERP system but did not have a clue they were headed towards the cliff. After several months trying to get upper management to see the impending cliff they hired a new IT manager who was charged with getting the mess organized. He delivered the “your delivery is a problem” speech which set me off on my usual response. It did not matter how the message was delivered – nice, slow, articulate, spelled out, in English, in French, with sugar on top, or laced with invective. Of course, the new guy coming in sees the delivery as the problem when the real problem was the inability of management to listen to the input they were receiving in an intelligent manner. Plus, they had succumbed to groupthink which immediately belittled opposing viewpoints.

Isn’t it funny that the delivery of the message is a sufficient enough excuse for people to ignore the obvious problem multiple times? It becomes the standard excuse for why managers continue to make bad decisions. Well, had he delivered the message to me better I would not have made the same mistakes over and over again – does that really make sense to anyone? Mediocre management relies upon this excuse as a crutch to justify their poor practices.

Lesson Learned: question management that uses delivery of the message as a sufficient excuse for bad practice, it never is. It is the ultimate straw man argument.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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