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Case Study: Why Not Speak Up?

Posted By jerrygardner On September 9, 2009 @ 4:32 pm In Case Study | 12 Comments

Charlie Dobbs is in the company conference room attending a meeting called by the Division Vice President. One of the Vice President’s staff members, Shirley Martin, is presenting a project idea she has developed to improve the company’s customer service.

As Charlie listens to Shirley’s presentation he is intrigued by her basic concept. However, as Shirley brings her presentation to a close, Charlie makes a mental note that she made no mention of a critical part of the company’s Customer Service Program. In order for this project to succeed it needs the support of all of the departments of the company. Each department has some information on a customer and a successful program needs the cooperation and collaboration of the people in all departments in this important effort.

In spite of his concern, Charlie decides not to say anything. He has been shot down in the past for raising such issues and he doesn’t want to get shot down again. He has also seen his colleagues similarly shot down. Besides, he doesn’t want to be a naysayer. So, he says nothing and leaves the meeting with his concern given no attention.

Six months later the project has tanked and the company has lost time, money, effort and credibility. The reason for the failure was that critical customer data was not obtained from some of the departments and the data that was obtained was not appropriately screened and utilized.

All this could have been avoided if, six months ago, Charlie had raised his hand and said, “I like this idea and the approach you are taking. However, I am concerned that you made no mention of how you plan to coordinate the customer information that each department has and how to utilize that information in the best interests of this project.

At that time, Shirley may have responded, “Thanks for bringing that up, Charlie. The collection and screening of data from all company departments is critical and Bill Sampson is our customer data guru. Bill is going to develop a process for collecting, evaluating and utilizing all customer data that we have in the company.”

Or, Shirley may have responded, “Hmm. That is a critical issue and something we haven’t given any consideration and we need to do so. Thanks for bringing that to our attention, Charlie. Since this is an area of concern for you would you be willing to work with us on this?”

Bottom Line:

In all organizations we have to create and maintain an environment in which people feel comfortable sharing information. Charlie and his colleagues need to believe that their thoughts and concerns are welcomed, even critical to the ongoing success of the organization. Managers need to know when they are promoting and supporting that belief and when they may be jeopardizing it.


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