As a corporate cartoonist-who got my position because I successfully "told
the truth" about a situation-I have to speak up about this "honesty vs
what people want to hear" issue.
On 2 Jul 1996, Keith Cowan related examples of the "balancing act" between
Honesty and what people really want to hear:
> Joan Pomo<email@example.com> raises the issue of honesty:
> >...Many people act dishonestly in order to save their jobs.
> Gary Scherl, GSCHERL@fed.ism.ca then added a thought-provoking example:
> about the Rolex watch on the beach... Take it or pass it by?
> >How many of us really act congruent with our values? How many
> >actually recognize our values?
> Then Dr Ilfryn Price <firstname.lastname@example.org> relates a
> personal experience with honesty on flextime in a related thread:
> >... As a matter of record most were even then working longer hours
> >than the official nine-to-five and any form of official time keeping
> >had withered years previously. However I gave official sanction to the
> >de facto reality of flexitime....
> >By writing down one unwritten rule I broke another and regardless of
> >espoused policies on results and new cultures, the overriding unwritten
> >rule, as in so many companies, was 'don't make the boss wrong'.
> I encountered a salesman who had just lost an order for a new system
> because he told the prospect EXACTLY what was involved in the
> implementation, and the prospect was scared into the hands of a more
> understanding competitor. The salesman was not only absolutely right but
> the competitor had much more trouble implementing than the salesman would
> have. Sometimes it is necessary to tell the truth but not the whole truth,
> at least not until the audience is ready for it! Comments? ....Keith (who
> has been 'lurking' for a week now...)
> Keith Cowan <72212.51@CompuServe.COM>
We've reached a point where TRUTH needs to win. My company has been very
good to me, provided I respect people, and help the management, analysts
and designers tell their stories effectively, but now I'm discovering that
my personal "power" is extending well beyond my small job, into the realm
of "saving the company".
I don't mean to sound arrogant or presumptuous. I'm as surprised as
anyone. In listening this morning to a cassette copy of Peter Senges book
"the 5ths discipline" I came to the place where the idea of vision was
being discussed, and a statement was made that a certain manager saw his
role as the one who had to "ARTICULATE FORCEFULLY" the visions, ideas and
concepts his people generated or discovered.
This morning I woke up to the fact that I have that same role.
While the risk of losing my job has loomed over me on occasion, I'm
finding that I lead others simply by articulating what to me is only
obvious. The company has admitted it must change or risk corporate death.
It's proposed that we all as employees have a part to play in building a
leaner, meaner company, and I'm employed on a major program that is
literally re-inventing major business processes and driving ideas from
scratch. So I have the perfect opportunity.
Yet the same old problems rise. Theory x management, protections of ones
"turf", "Box" thinking, Reacting to demands, conformance to expectations.
I'm a key vision builder. I'm the "leader by enthusiasm" and the dufus
who will actually say the words that are really on every ones mind. (why?
I don't know, maybe I am just a bit stupid, but it's working for me....)
All I know, is that someone has to step up to it. A couple of weeks ago,
we had an all hands meeting, and in attendance was a former CEO of a major
automobile manufacturer who had faced the dragon of change successfully in
the 1980's. He opened up the floor to questions, and I asked how they had
handled the "people issues" so the employees would adapt happily to the
new situation. His answer was only partially satisfying, and left a lot
out. What it did for us however was to highlight our teams opportunity to
do it much better. By asking the "dufus" question, I planted a seed that
stuck, and there has been quite a lot of conversation about it since.
The main idea though is-Honesty has got to win. I have to "gentle it" a
bit sometimes, and I have to respect individual human differences, so I
don't get nasty with my drawings (aka. political satyre), but cartoons
show the pain, express the fears, hopes and challenges, the use of
metaphor or analogy helps us understand the new thing we can't quite get
our minds around, by comparing it to some thing we do know something
My point I think is to encourage you all to get the truth out there where
it can be used, in what ever ways you have available to you. I draw
pictures, a lot of you write, some manage or run meetings. In Keiths
example, the salesman who told the buyer the truth was trying to save the
customer some grief by educating them about the reality they were facing.
Somebody has to do that. Hiding the truth or telling people what they
want to hear only has short term benefits. You won't get yelled at today-
but you might lose your job next month due to bad decision making ...
Think about it. We can conform to the immediate expectatons, and look
good in the short term, or we can make a difference that really matters
(even if no one knows you did-you will know).
I've concluded that my personal vision has something to do with NOT being
content with mediocrity. Remember the movie Amadaus? Mozart was kind of
a goof ball with a passion in a certain area that made him great. I don't
know if my passions will do anything similar, I just know that I can be
dishonest first with myself and later with the rest of the world just by
sitting and doing/saying what is expected, or I can make a difference.
Hey folks, it's time to make a difference, in what ever sphere you have
influence in. We know enough, and as long as we don't go thundering in
like a herd of bison, we have the ability to effect changes for the
Forget the "balance" between honesty and what people want to hear... Even
Ed Demming was "obnoxious" at times with his presentation of truth-if we
expect to survive and thrive, truth has got to win.
Michael Erickson <email@example.com>
Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <firstname.lastname@example.org> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>