No News is Good News?
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11TH, 2008
There’s a common belief that “No news is good news.” If you’ve been in business for any time I would suspect that you sense just the opposite is true. It’s another situation that reflects the notion that much of business is counter intuitive. No news generally indicates bad news. In fact if you’re not getting any news you can suspect the worst from your employees, vendors, bankers and customers. Imagine if you never heard from your customers, where would you be? Out of business in short order.
Reading a book entitled Lost Victories by Field Marshal Eric von Manstein provided evidence that business isn’t the only place where no news is not good news. Eric von Manstein is credited with creating the invasion plan at the outset of World War II in 1940 that allowed the Germans to quickly run through Holland, Belgium and France, forcing these countries to capitulate quickly and leaving England alone to fight the Nazi dictatorship. Von Manstein offers insight into battle reports that I believe can be equivocated to business. “A point worth noting in this respect is that the saying about bad news traveling fast seldom applies in the military sphere. Whenever things are going well, news usually find its way back quickly enough. If, on the other hand, the attack gets stuck, a blanket of silence descends on the front, either because communications have been cut or because those concerned prefer to hang on till they have something more encouraging to report.”
When I read this I immediately thought of my own experience in business and to the countless business I coached. How many of you when things are going bad hear reports of it quickly? In sales I can tell you that as a sales manager I rarely heard the bad reports, and always heard the good news. Bad news is something that people avoid, and if you’re a sales person you generally hide when you are not doing well because you are afraid you will be eliminated due to poor performance.
In business, especially in today’s economy when do you need to hear bad news? Immediately! In fact the best case would be to have some warning so you can take preventive measures to ensure the effects can be minimized. Finding out a client is cancelling, or a vendor won’t deliver on time is not something you wish to hear nor want to respond to at the last minute.
How can you avoid not hearing bad news? You can’t of course. If you’re in business you’ll always have bad news. The key is to get it as quickly as possible. You need to develop systems and routines that provide communication from the top of your organization to the bottom so that news travels quickly and efficiently, and so that all news, good or bad is reported.
Pat Lencioni’s book Death By Meeting reflects the horror of meetings and how most businesses abhor the need for additional meetings. Yet he recognizes the value in short, crisp meetings that provide valuable information and add punch and positive consequences to an organization. Such a value he recommends comes from the Daily Huddle which he gives credit to Verne Harnish for extolling in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.
Daily huddles when done correctly require everyone in the organization to synchronize each work day reporting on their priorities, key performance indicators and any place where they are stuck. The numbers are just one of the key places you and your management staff need to pay attention. Priorities could be another and of course people who get stuck or those who never get stuck are important to monitor as well. Chances are if someone is never getting stuck, they’re probably not doing much productive.
Bad news and good news are critical to conduit through your business as quickly as possible. The problem we’ve pointed out here is that seldom does bad news reach the right people quickly enough. A customer may be ignored and important shifts in attitudes for a product or a change in competitions pricing may occur and days go by without anyone responding or taking any corrective action. These bits of negative news can have dramatic impact on the business. In order to make sure this information is being passed on quickly you need to have routine and structure in place so that this data is quickly reported to management so appropriate action and responses can be taken quickly. Meeting rhythms are just one way Gazelles coaches help our clients take action to resolve and make bad news less threatening.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make sure you are getting all the news you need to know from your business?
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