Don’t shoot the messenger. A common phrase in business.

In reality, messengers rarely get shot. However, when it comes to conveying bad news to the boss, there is a strong tendancy to sanitize the information. While being shot is unlikely, a distinctly uncomfortable situation is a real possibility.  This dynamic results in a poorly informed decision-maker.

One of the realities of organizational life is that no one wants to bring the bad news. The information reaching a senior executive is typically filtered – sanitized to keep the messenger from harm. Because this information is biased toward the positive, a business leader can be led into a false sense of security. 

This reality poses great risk to a business. Leaders form opinions and make decisions based on what they know. When what they know about their company’s capabilties to execute comes primarily from what they are told,  the whole truth is kept hidden. 

Armed with this false sense of security, a leader can become rather bullish about the organization’s capabilities to achieve stretch goals and may demand more than can be delivered. I have participated in numerous strategy planning exercises where the outcome is a list of wildly ambitious goals. Without a pragmatic and realistic view into the inner workings of the business (where execution happens) and without the data regarding organizational strengths and weaknesses, big bets are placed on the future with little chance of achievement.

It may be hard to believe that a leader could be kept from the realities within the business, but it is all too common. A leader can’t be everywhere and see everything. Financial reports only deliver lagging indicators – an historical view of performance. If a leader is intent on knowing the details of execution in the trenches on a real time basis and he can’t rely on verbal updates, what is to be done?

Adopt the Organizational Prowess Scorecard

Leaders love numbers. Imagine if you could put a numercial score on the key capabilties needed to drive growth? This would allow a senior team to pinpoint precisely where weakness resides. Resources can then be targeted to the right areas of the business in order to fortify capabilities.

The 3 big capabilties:

  • Strategy Planning
  • Execution Framework
  • Talent

The scorecard measures multiple sub-components within the big 3. Armed with this data, a leader is no longer reliant on the messenger. A clear picture of organizational competence emerges. Actions can now be taken to build capabilities so that ambitious goals can be attained.