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Rule Out Cover Ups to Gain Advantages for Pursuing Powerful Trends

Mar 18, 2008
You can't afford to have anyone think that they can get away with a cover-up, either by keeping things quiet or by avoiding negative consequences. Having reporting methods in place to raise red flags about the potential for covering up and being unequivocal in dealing with anyone who violates company policy concerning covering up are your best weapons in this regard.

How can you improve your ability to detect cover-ups?

Your internal and external auditors and other technical experts can be very helpful to you in setting up measurement and monitoring methods to expose inconsistencies that will suggest that someone may be covering up something. Have them work on the areas where you have the most safety, reputation, and financial exposure.

Before putting these measurements in place, seek the advice of those who work throughout the company about how this can be done in a way that shows a basic trust that people will avoid covering up. Consider the analogy that almost everyone gets a smallpox vaccination, and as a result no one in the firm has to worry about getting smallpox at work, even though no one thinks that anyone now has or is likely to get smallpox.

Carefully keep an eye on those who resist your new measures. They may have something to hide or may want to hide something in the future. Or their values may not match those that you are encouraging. In either case, they may be a source of future problems in this area of cover-ups.

In addition, establish a system for identifying problems based on contacts with customers calling to order from you, ask questions, or complain about deficiencies as a way to keep problems out in the open so that they can't be easily hidden. Certainly, the more visible the performance of each part of the organization is, the less likely it is that a cover-up can occur.

How can you continually exhibit your enterprise's intolerance toward cover-ups?

Making an example of those who violate your organization's policies in this area is critical. The higher the level of the person who is the example, the bigger the impression you'll make.

You'll have to be careful to be fair. If everyone is covering up and continues to do so, you can't just fire one person and expect to make the point. In this situation, you may want to have an amnesty policy for old cover-ups, and a new date after which everyone will be expected to be forthcoming.

Of critical importance is to give the sense that no one is immune from this policy, and that there is always someone willing to listen to problems. For example, in one division a junior executive watched with chagrin as his boss weaved drunkenly into the office every morning, and weaved out to visit a local bar every afternoon after a brief nap on the couch.

Everyone in that part of the company knew that the boss was an alcoholic and was making lots of expensive errors. The junior executive had tried to talk to the boss about the behavior and was brushed off.

After much soul searching, the junior executive shared his concerns with the company's CEO, a man of well-known honor. The CEO warned the junior executive that he should not make such accusations unless he was sure. The junior executive stood his ground, and was soon vindicated in the subsequent investigation.

The CEO insisted that the junior executive receive a promotion and a new boss, because the CEO wanted to send the message that the junior executive had done the right thing and in the right way. The junior executive went on to enjoy a distinguished career, that was always noteworthy for its ethical probity.

Soon, other nonperforming alcoholics in the organization were being turned in by their subordinates as well, and the company sponsored counseling for those troubled executives to help them back to sober reality. Business performance improved.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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