Are their programs successful or not, is everything okay on their staff, will they--without fudging the numbers--meet their performance goals and targets (if they have any), and so on.
People are afraid if they made a mistake or something isn't working as intended that they will be in trouble.
Maybe they will be yelled at, lose authority and power, be sidelined, demoted, or even fired; and their organizations may be downsized, outsourced, consolidated with another, or outright eliminated.
So people hide the facts and the truth--as if, what they don't know, can't harm me.
So everything appears copasetic in organization-land!
But the truth is we need a solid guidepost to know where we are going, which paths are safe, and which are fraught with danger--and that is anchored in open and honest communication.
There is a great story about this in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (15 November 2012) about how in 2006, when ex-Boeing executive, Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford--and Ford was bleeding red ink, facing their largest loss for automobiles in history of $17 billion, that at the executive Thursday morning meetings, the performance scorecard for their initiatives "was a sea of green."
Here the company is bordering on financial collapse, but the executives are reporting--all clear!
The story goes that Mark Fields, head of Ford's North American business stepped up and showed the first red revealing a problem with a problem tailgate latch on their new Edge SVU that would halt production.
With the room filled with tension, Alan Mulally rather than get mad and castigate or punish the executive, what did he do--he clapped!
Mulally said: "Great visibility. Is there anything we can do to help you?"
And what ultimately happened to Mark Fields, the executive who told the truth about problems in his area of responsibility?
Last month, "Ford's board elevated him to chief operating officer," which analysts read as a sign that he will be the next CEO when Mulally is supposed to retire at the end of 2014.
The bottom line is that we cannot fix problems if we can't identify them and face up to them with our people.
While we need good data and sound analysis to identify problems in the organization, problems will remain illusive without the trust, candor, and teamwork to ultimately come to terms with them and solve them.
I love this story about Ford and think it is a model for us in leadership, communication, and performance management. ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)