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Confronting Leaders About Their Decisions

How is the culture in your organization when it comes to confronting upper management about decisions or direction that may hurt the company?  Does your culture allow employees to push back on upper management about a decision?  Or does your culture shy away from pushing back afraid the manager will get angry or upset and hold it against them for bringing it up?

We can’t allow our cultures to be afraid to bring up decisions that may be costing the company money.  We have to have the fortitude to raise the question and challenge it appropriately.  I’m not suggesting to confront leadership with every decision or to do it in an emotional way because you have passion about the decision.

There is a proper way to raise an issue.

  1. Understand the Current State – Understand what the decision was and how it is understood to help the organization (grow revenue, cut cost,etc…).  List the ways the decision is affecting the organization in a negative manner (Causing cost in another area).
  2. Gather the Facts – Once you have the list of the benefits and negative impacts you need to quantify them.  How much revenue is the decision actually generating?  How much cost are we saving?  What is the cost in the area being impacted negatively?  How much rework is the decision causing?
  3. Make a Recommendation – If you believe a decision is not what is best for the organization then that suggests you have an idea of what would be better.  What is the recommendation you have?  Quantify what you believe the results would be?  Why do you believe that?
  4. Get Your Ducks in a Row – Think of different angles upper management could take.  What are the facts around those options?  Would they say, “Become more efficient in the other are.”?  If so, how would you become more efficient?  What would it cost to implement the efficient way?  What would be the savings?  When would it pay back?
  5. Present Your Case – Set up a meeting with necessary people and present your findings.  Do it in a business-like manner and stick to the facts.  Don’t let emotion control the discussion.

I have found over the years that approaching situations in this manner usually brings out a great discussion and upper management respects the way you handled the situation.

Nobody likes to be lectured about how the decision they made was wrong.  It can be disrespectful.  Show them it isn’t emotional.  It is factual.  A lot of times they may not have known what their decision was doing to another area or that it was actually costing the company money looking end-to-end.

I have approached different leaders in this manner several times over the years and all but one case the leader changed their decision once they saw the facts.  The other time they still stuck with their decision which was their choice since they were the leader and the decision maker but at least the facts were presented.

How does your organization handle situations like this?


Data and Facts Are Not the Same

Last week Steve Martin had a great post about data and going to see what is actually happening over at theThinkShack blog.  It struck a nerve with me because it reflects something I seen happening on a regular basis.  I am tired of people trying to solve problems while sitting in a conference room.

I listen to comments like, “Well they aren’t using the right codes for the defect.” or “People just need to put the coding in the system properly and we could figure the problem out.”


Don’t misunderstand me.  Ten years ago you would have heard me say some of the same things.  So, I do have patience with teaching people to go and see.  Once I learned to go and see it became very freeing because I didn’t stress about what the data said.  I spoke to facts.

Data is a good thing.  I am not saying we should ignore data, but we need to know its place.  Data can help point us in the direction of problems.  It can tell us where we should go and look for facts.

Facts to me are what you actually see happen.  What you have observed.  It isn’t the hearsay you get in a conference room.   Facts explain what is actually happening and add deeper meaning to the data.

I lived a great example recently.  In a conference room, managers looked at the data and saw a problem that was happening.  They started talking about what was happening and why.  They asked if I would look into fixing it.  I said I would look at what is actually going on.  I spent 2 hours directly observing the work and realized the one problem they were talking about was actually several different problems out on the floor.  I asked the person actually doing the work to take a couple weeks worth of data based on what was actually happening.  The data showed they actually had 2 big problems that made up 80% of the total errors the original data showed.  I then did another hour of direct observation between an area that had the problem and an area that did not.  I was able to explain the problem with facts that I observed and data to support those facts to add concrete to what I observed.  At that point, there was some obvious ways to correct the situation.

Data and facts are different.  They are not substitutes for each other.  Data and facts can be a very strong combination when used together to understand a problem.

data directional

facts truths – use eyes – go and see

Link to Steve Martin’s Blog Post: