Discovery — Getting bad news out in escalations

To really “know” your project, make the project safe for bad news.  I’ve adapted the following — from Scott Kirsner’s 2002 Fast Company piece (here) — seven tips on getting bad news in time to do something about it.

  1. Dead people don’t walk through open doors. I make it very clear that bad news is OK, to the point of encouraging someone who has come to me privately to speak up in a meeting so I can publicly show that it is OK.
  2. Bad news travels in packs. If any bad news does reach me, it probably is traveling with friends.
  3. You must have your ways of finding things out. This works two ways: sometimes you need to socialize topics informally, sometimes you need to have an informal network of frontline contacts who don’t report to you directly.
  4. Join your own organization.  This is harder to do in a virtual organization, but try spending time outside your office, hefting boxes at the loading dock or taking calls in the call center.
  5. Can the canned presentations.  We switch up on use of PPTs…sometimes we use them, but sometimes I ask for impromptu updates w/out slides.
  6. Make bad news legit.  The CIA used to have a group of “Team B” analysts provide contrarian, worst-case perspective.  Team B’s, however, were “too often” right, so the CIA ended the practice.  Learn from that mistake.
  7. Do something. (More on this later…)
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