Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Head Nod Worse Than Stare

I often tell staff and clients that I'm not afraid of their questions, complaints, comments. I'd rather have a response than no response at all. At least I know what they think and their position on the ideas being discussed.

Now I've found something worse than a stare. It's the head nod. Apparently, it plagued GM such that the ignition switch problem never got addressed effectively until recently. If this isn't one of the things fixed on Mary Barra's watch, then GM will continue to be plagued.

Apparently GM isn't alone in the problem according to the article. Serious issues faced Avon and other companies and 'no one' did anything about it even though everyone agreed that action would/shoud be taken. And American business people used to accuse Asian business people of this practice of  'saving face' routine--appearing to agree to an action plan with no intent to carry it out: a nod merely means "I see what you're saying. I understand what you're saying...but I'm not committing to doing anything."

The culture needs to be fixed if this is the case in your organization. In one company, we instituted an 'accountability' culture--not head-chopping accountability but taking-responsibility-to-work-toward-results accountability. It was defined as "seeing a problem and taking ownership of it until it's resolved or adequately passed along to a person who can resolve it". Even the pass-along doesn't relinquish the first person's responsibility until the issue is finally resolved. If results don't happen, the first person is accountable for the follow-up. Also, 'waiting' is not an acceptable answer for the lack of action--as in "I'm waiting for the customer/supplier/management to get back to me."

Try it. I'll bet you won't get many head nods that are meaningless.

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