I came across this “story” (below) many many years ago and thought it was pretty representative of how communications can get garbled as things move up the chain of command.

There is almost always a gap between the views of hands-on workers and the Most Senior Management. As I like to say, the “View from the Front” is different than the “View at the Back.”

Top management may think they know what is happening down in the organization but that is really a myth, unless they are doing things like MBWA (from Tom Peters, “Managing by Wandering Around”). Frankly, I have always liked that approach – talking to the people who are actually doing the work to see what they need to improve and to see how things are going.

So, the real issue is one of understanding the perspective of the employee and their view of the world and work. Engaging employees and enlisting their energies is very difficult if the level of understanding and trust is low. The gaps can be real!

So, here is a story about one way these gaps between organizational reality and the perspective of the workers can be shaped by management:

In the Beginning was The Vision
And then the Assumptions
But the Assumptions were without Form
And the Vision was without substance.

And Darkness was upon the faces of the Workers
As they Spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a Crock of Shit, and it Stinketh, badly.”

So the Workers went to Supervisors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Pail of Dung, and none may abide the Odor thereof.”

And Supervisors went to Managers, and sayeth unto them:
“It is a Container of Excrement, and it is
so very Strong that none may abide it.”

And Managers went to Directors and sayeth unto them:
“It is a vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength.”

And Directors went to Vice Presidents and sayeth:
“It contains that which aids plant Growth, and it is very Strong.”

And Vice Presidents went to Executives and sayeth unto them:
“It promoteth Growth, and it is very very Powerful.”

And Executives went to the President, and sayeth unto him:
“This powerful Vision will actively promote Growth and Efficiency of our departments and our company overall.”

And the President looked upon the Vision
and saw that it was good.

Thus the Vision became The Reality.

What we need to do is clarify the Visions for the hands-on workers to make it current and real:

This wording of “In The Beginning” is available as a pdf file from our website, done up in a cute font, in both A4 and 8.5 x 11 formats. The colored images are part of the toolkits we sell for organizational development and employee engagement. Our team building games are generally focused around these issues of collaboration and communications.

And we actually have a really great and recently updated Mission Statement Development Toolkit that is built around our Square Wheels illustrations and using the Fast Networks and Dot-Voting engagement techniques. You can check it out in the Square Wheels section of our organizational development tools. You can find a blog post on dot-voting (multi-voting) here.

See these tools at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

Elegant Solutions

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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