We have a phenomenal challenge in France. Our people there ‘don’t get the values’, are very cynical and, to make things worse, the top leadership team is not a very good role model; some of them behave in a way completely opposite to our values
When did you get this? It sounds bad. Is the top leadership that detached?
In the Paris office, people made lots of comments about the values. The Project Leaders were very sceptical, and the top leadership does not help with their own behaviours
Oh, I see, so this is Paris, not the manufacturing plants outside Lyon and the 3 regional offices. I see. So, it was the Project Leaders talking?
People in Project Tiger always talk a lot about the values, how they are not followed by the Head of R&D in the top leadership.
Oh, that Project. Yes, a tricky one. So, she is not taking about the entire leadership tem. She is referring to the Head of R&D. Right? When was that?
At the last project review, the Project Leader of Project Tiger and 2 other team member expressed concerns about the real life of the values, when their boss does not listen to them that much.
Oh, as recent as last Wednesday, I see. 3 people in the Paris office?
In level one assessment of the reality, a catastrophe of colossal proportions is about the happen in the entire operations in France. When prompted, in level two, the tsunami is localized in the Paris office, leaving aside about 75% of the workforce. Next level down, it is a particular Project Team and not the entire leadership team, but the Head of R&D. In one level down, there were 3 people at the last meeting.
You would have thought that the statements refer to four different companies. But, same company, same issue. Sad part is, I am not making it up. In fact, this is a pattern that I encounter all the time, that adds a bit of detective skills to my consulting work.
Key learning for me. Always, always, always qualify any statement, the more grandiose, the more qualification needed. Always qualify gently. ‘I don’t believe you’ or ‘that is not true’ do not work that well. People get defensive.
Narratives of collective failure can be built on 5 guys view of the world. Once they get out, they are tsunami territory. There is no way to lead the organization, let alone ‘change programmes’ with blank statements, and swiping generalizations.
If you look around you’ll see lots of ‘facts’ that have never been checked. Same size at this example or not, the principle stays. The sky may not be falling after all, and the problem has a few names and surnames.
An orphan problem with no names, no time, no size is always a conversation in serious need of characters.