I came across this “story” called “In The Beginning” many many years ago and thought it was pretty representative of how communications can get garbled as things move up the chain of command. I have had participants in workshops try to read it out loud, having never seen it before, and they and the other people just begin to giggle at first and then to laugh out loud. It IS really funny as well as representative.
Top management may think they know what is happening down in the organization but that is really a myth and not close to reality, unless they are actively moving out and about away from their desks and doing things like MBWA (from Tom Peters, “Managing by Wandering Around”). Frankly, I have always liked the MBWA 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 — and used to use that a LOT when I was doing the management consulting part of the business process improvement process.
The real issue is one of understanding the perspective of the employee and their view of the world and and their view of their work. Engaging employees and enlisting their energies is very difficult if the level of understanding and trust is low. The gaps can be real! A recent stat found that 35% of US workers would choose to forgo their raise if their boss would be fired — that is really startling!
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.
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.”
What we need to do is clarify the Visions for the hands-on workers to make it current and real. We need to actively involve them in the reality of where they are going and how they can contribute to the overall goal.
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.
We sell some organizational team building and communications toolkits at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Also published on Medium.