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.Infact, the two other most senior AWACS officers also held ranks thatwere superior to that of the flight lead, Captain Wickson.Status,then, overwhelmed formal rank in the organizational hierarchy in thiscase.More senior officers remained silent, in part because theyallowed status differences to shape their behavior.Similar dynamics occur within many business organizations, oftenwith dysfunctional results.For instance, at Enron in the late 1990s,three separate organizations Wholesale Trading, Gas Pipeline, andInternational competed with one another for resources and talent.The wholesale trading unit became the high-status organizationwithin Enron, despite the fact that the old pipeline business contin-ued to generate the strongest cash-flow margins.Nevertheless, trad-ing represented the future, and with Jeffrey Skilling as its leader, itbecame the darling of senior management and Wall Street analysts.The wholesale trading business became the place to be, and the peo-ple who built that business became legends within the firm.One can-not help but to ask whether the status differences that emergedwithin Enron inhibited candid dialogue about many of the businesspractices being employed in the late 1990s.32Language SystemOrganizations develop their own language systems over time, com-plete with a whole host of unique terms and acronyms.Language sys-tems, particularly as they relate to the characterization and discussionof problems and concerns, can become a powerful barrier to candiddiscussion and critical questioning of existing views and practices.At NASA, for instance, a language system gradually emergedfor labeling and categorizing problems associated with the spaceshuttle.Rather than sticking to the very formal system of declaring anunexpected issue an  anomaly, they began to distinguish between 78 WHY GREAT LEADERS DON T TAKE YES FOR AN ANSWER in-family and  out-of-family events.In-family described thoseproblems that they had seen before, and out-of-family characterizedthe incidents that did not fit within their experience base.Unfortunately, as time passed, managers and engineers began totreat  out-of-family events as if they were  in-family. Sheila Widnallfound this slippery slide rather disturbing, and she offered a word ofcaution about the language system that had developed at NASA.Shefelt that the term family sounded  very comfy and cozy and made iteasier for NASA officials to begin believing that  everything will beokay even though the issue was quite serious.33The United States Forest Service (USFS) experienced a similarlanguage problem during the tragic Storm King Mountain fire of1994, in which 12 wildland firefighters perished in Colorado.In thatincident, investigators concluded that the firefighters had notadhered to standard procedures.However, the language systememployed by the USFS suggests room for a slippery slide similar tothe one experienced at NASA.In 1957, the USFS developed a list of Standard Orders for wildland firefighters.Shortly thereafter, it con-structed a list of  18 Situations That Shout Watch Out. Note theinteresting difference in language.The latter term does not necessar-ily imply a hard-and-fast rule that must always be obeyed.Instead, itconveys the notion of a cautionary guideline rather than a strict pro-cedure that must always be followed.34Of course, we also wrote in an earlier chapter about the languagesystem at Children s Hospital in Minnesota.In that case, the termi-nology often used at the hospital when discussing medical accidentsconveyed a culture of  accusing, blaming, and criticizing individuals.When Morath took charge at Children s, she created a new set ofterms for discussing accidents, with the words chosen carefully so asto stress a systemic view of the causes of medical accidents as well asan emphasis on learning from mistakes.The language shift helped toraise people s willingness to discuss medical errors, and in fact, duringMorath s first year at the hospital, official reports of medical accidents CHAPTER 3 " AN ABSENCE OF CANDOR 79rose considerably.The evidence clearly indicated that people werenot making more errors, but instead, they had become more comfort-able talking about problems in an open, frank manner.35Issue FramingChapter 2,  Deciding How to Decide, discussed how leaders frameissues when they take an initial position on a problem, and how theseframes may constrain the range of alternative solutions discussed bythe organization.However, issue framing occurs at a much broaderlevel as well not only at the decision level but at the level of a multi-year project or initiative.When broad corporate programs and initia-tives begin, leaders often strive to provide ways for people to thinkabout the events that will follow.In short, they provide a frame alens by which people can interpret upcoming actions.These broadframes can have much more wide-ranging and long-lasting effectsthan the frames that may be created by taking a position on a specificproblem at a point in time.36At NASA, when the shuttle program began, the agency justifiedthe huge investment by arguing that the vehicle would eventually payfor itself by carrying commercial and defense payloads into space on aregular basis.When he announced the start-up of the program,President Nixon stated that the shuttle would  revolutionize trans-portation into near space, by routinizing it. 37 Note here the particularuse of language and how it helped to establish a very specific andpowerful frame for the program.The space vehicle was a  shuttlethat would embark on  routine travel beyond the earth s atmosphere.With that, NASA had framed the shuttle as an operational pro-gram rather than as a research and development initiative.38 DianeVaughan explains:The program was framed within the concept of routinespace flight.The shuttle was supposed to operate like abus: transporting things, objects, people back and forth 80 WHY GREAT LEADERS DON T TAKE YES FOR AN ANSWERinto space on a regular basis.And in that sense, thatwhole definition that this program was going to be anoperational system was the beginning of the downfall,because they were really operating an experimentaltechnology, but there was pressure to make it look rou-tine to attract customers for payloads [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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