Leading Blog






02.26.09

Why Problems Hide

Leadership Nuggets

Know What You Don't Know
Problems remain hidden in organizations for a number of reasons. First, people fear being marginalized or punished for speaking up in many firms, particularly for admitting that they might have made a mistake or contributed to a failure.

Second, structural complexity in organizations may serve like dense "tree cover" in a forest, which makes it difficult for sunlight to reach the ground. Multiple layers, confusing reporting relationships, convoluted matrix structures, and the like all make it hard for messages to make their way to key leaders. Even if the messages do make their way through the dense forest, they may become watered down, misinterpreted, or mutated along the way.

Third, the existence and power of key gatekeepers may insulate leaders from hearing bad news, even if the filtering of information takes place with the best of intentions.

Fourth, an overemphasis on formal analysis and an underappreciation of intuitive reasoning may cause problems to remain hidden for far too long.

Finally, many organizations do not train employees in how to spot problems. Issues surface more quickly if people have been taught how to hunt for potential problems, what cues they should attend to as they do their jobs, and how to communicate their concerns to others.

Adapted from Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen by Michael A. Roberto

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:51 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leadership Nuggets , Problem Solving



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