Silence is approvalBY STUART HARMAN
Any Singaporean organisation seeking to improve the effectiveness of its planning processes will quickly discover that feedback is a vital element of any planning system.
Feedback is vital to ‘close the loop’ in any planning system, yet in my experience there are a number of reasons why organisations don’t get timely feedback on those issues that result in plans not being met.
- Fear of blame
- Worrying about losing face
- Misguided belief that fire-fighting and crisis management activity will result in achievement of the plan
- Reasoning that if the problem is relayed late on, I will only get told off once
- Fear of saying ‘no’ to requests and thus committing to unrealistic deadlines
- Managers and internal customers accepting ‘I’ll do it As Soon As Possible (ASAP)’ as a response, instead of committing to a specific time and date
As a young manager I confused continually checking on my team’s progress against plans with the concept of ‘Managing by Walking Around’.
Not only was this time-consuming, unbeknown to me, it was also a source of negativity in the team, resulting in a lack of appropriate feedback. It was only when I was fortunate to receive feedback from one of my team members that I realised that my repeated checking was a source of demotivation for the team who questioned my trust in their ability and thought my time would be better spent focused on managing strategic issues for which I was responsible.
A principle that many Oliver Wight clients successfully use to address the trust issues outlined above, and provide a more productive and efficient way of working than continual checking, is that of ‘Silence Is Approval’.
In an organisation where Silence Is Approval operates the following applies:
- If you don’t say NO to a request or plan commitment then you mean YES
- If you might not hit the plan then feedback immediately (this is anticipated delay reporting)
- If you can solve the problem there is no need to feedback on the plans
- I will not chase you to do something
The adoption of Silence Is Approval moves the responsibility of checking progress against the plan from the manager (or customer in a process) to the individual, team (or supplier in a process). They have to execute the plan to the agreed timing or else notify the manager, customer or planner as soon as they believe that they may not hit the target.
This change in emphasis, while not an easy step for most organisations, produces an atmosphere of trust, honesty and openness and changes the culture of the organisation into an environment where everyone expects plans to be met.
Having an educated workforce who understand their own roles and responsibilities, as well as the needs and responsibilities of others, and whom are accountable for their part in the process, is vital for implementation to be successful. But the resulting trust within the workplace, renewed focus on hitting plans and overall increased productivity ensure implementation of ‘Silence is Approval’ is well worth the effort.
Stuart Harman, Partner, Oliver Wight