When Execs Arrest the Evolution of the Company

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Barry Horwitz identifies why it is important to address the predisposition to the positive and how it often arrests the growth and improvement of the company. 

Back in the early 90s, I joined the senior management team of a regional retail chain. I was new to the company and had moved there from out of town. The rest of the leadership team was made up of longstanding executives — people who had been there for years (in some cases, decades).

Not surprisingly, my colleagues enjoyed telling the positive story of their achievements. And that was fine, they had certainly accomplished quite a bit.

But the market and competitive landscape were changing; they were blind to the ways in which we were being newly threatened. In my view, if we didn’t evolve our strategic positioning, we were in danger of falling behind, or worse.

Were these executives unusual in this way? Not at all, unfortunately. Organizations work hard to build cohesiveness and teamwork among their employees and people like to feel good about the things they are doing well. Toss in the human tendency for confirmation bias and it’s easy to overlook a lot:

Sales were off a bit last month? That may have been due to bad weather or some other factor — it’s probably just a blip.

Donations are down from prior years? It’s probably the economy or the change in tax laws.

Given this predisposition towards the positive, how do you raise issues and deliver news that may not be welcomed? There is a perceived (often real) risk that by pointing out bad news or blind spots — even if it helps avoid bad things from happening — one will be labelled “not a team player,” perhaps getting sidelined or even fired as a result.

Here then, are some suggestions for highlighting — and slaying — those organizational sacred cows….

 

Key points include:

  • Addressing prior beliefs
  • Structuring recommendations
  • Establishing a safe environment

 

Read the full post, Slay the Sacred Cows, on HorwitzandCo.com.