Monday, November 16, 2009

The Honesty Policy

Last week’s post on Business Cases sparked some interesting feedback with one reader’s assertion being that business cases were always written with a bias benefitting the originator of the case with the committee in charge of analyzing and approving the case, unable to catch the bias and correct it. This got me thinking on the complex people dynamics present at all work environments and the even more complex dynamics present in an IT environment (due to the extraordinarily rapid change ever-present in IT). Honesty is vital for any type of improvement to be successful including IT Processes and I feel this topic deserves a post even if it isn’t “technical”.

I would like to focus on honesty as pertains to evaluating and stating the state of the organizations capability and maturity. I am not focusing on employee theft and feigning a sick day type of dishonesty. Recounting my personal experiences on this issue, I have always suffered whenever I have been honest. No matter how diplomatically or at the other extreme, bluntly, I stated the truth; it wasn’t what people wanted to hear. But I ask myself, would the same people who hated me for speaking the truth would have also liked their doctor to lie to them about the state of their health and sugar-coat their true medical situation? Clearly people do not consider their work and source of income to be as important as their body and health even though it brings home a paycheck. However, the principles of medicine are similar to an organization’s efficiency or process improvement initiative. One must first get an honest and competent diagnosis after which options can be evaluated and a course of treatment pursued. This is true with medicine as well as organizational processes. However, people tend to not welcome an honest approach at the workplace even though it ultimately affects your ability earn and provide for yourself and your loved ones.

Partly, it is the Ostrich approach where an Ostrich buries its head in the sand when it sees a lion attacking. Its logic being that if I can’t see the danger, the danger will pass me by without hurting me. Partly, it is also self-interest in that new methodologies will usher in change that will result in those having a power base within the organization losing it and ending up less powerful than before. Of course, if these folks would simply keep up with the latest techniques, they would never be threatened. However, they wish to reap the fruit of the work without performing the hard work that is keeping up with the latest in their profession. Staying at the cutting edge is hard work which not everyone is willing to perform.

On the other hand, an honest approach is extremely important, even crucial in today’s competitive world. An organization has to make the correct decisions based on the reality of the situation that it is facing. If it doesn’t it will end up fooling nobody but itself and misalignment with the customer’s needs, defects, rework and other assorted problems will inevitably arise. If the competition is brave enough to face its problems squarely and head-on, then the competition will inevitably end up the winners with superior market share. So obviously an environment of honest evaluation must be fostered and maintained.

How might this be achieved? As always, the foundation remains in the hands of top management. They must lead by example and display to the rest of the organization that they stand for honest evaluation and a “don’t shoot the messenger” approach. The implementation and education of the staff of cutting edge methodologies and best practices is also important and sends a positive message across the organization. Moreover, educating the staff, results in improved awareness effectively banishing the fear of the unknown that causes so much staff discontent and resistance. Finally, effective discouragement should be meted out to those who pursue a dishonest approach therefore discouraging any further such behavior from others.

In the end, all members of an organization have to record, evaluate, analyze and report in an honest fashion for the organization to remain competitive and profitable. A dishonest approach results in the organization and ultimately the employee’s loss and misfortune. Truly a dishonest approach is fooling no one but itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment