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« Can beer distributors handle wine and spirits? | Main | "That’s not fair" and other "irrational" behavior »

Why Management Makes Bad Decisions

There is a classic cartoon in which the first panel shows a group of employees being asked their opinion of a new product.  Their consensus is that it is a piece of shit and should be canned immediately.

The second panel shows the front-line supervisor attempting to tell his boss what the worker bees thought of the new product – he changes shit to excrement to soften the blow.

The third panel shows this manager attempting to tell his boss the feedback on the new product, etc. etc.  In each panel the meaning of the feedback is slightly changed – shit becomes excrement becomes manure becomes fertilizer until it finally becomes growth enhancer.

When it finally reaches the CEO, the new product is a wonderful thing that should greatly enhance the company’s growth.  And the company invests their resources accordingly.  I think everyone in beer wholesaling can find examples of this from various past products. You know what I’m talking about – your entire sales force (and everyone you talk to) states ‘it is a piece of shit” yet your supplier goes full-steam ahead with it.  And then wonders why when it fails!  I somehow doubt this street-level feedback made it to the higher levels of the supplier without some modification.   Wasted money, wasted time, wasted resources, and a slight ding in everyone’s reputation at retail - all because the truth never made it to the top. 

As a side note - Yes, I know another reason for this may be that perhaps senior management really is stupid but since there is nothing we can do about that, the best we can do is to send them the truth and hope for the best.

This is a somewhat crude example of what happens in far too many organizations.  Employees often complain (often rightly) about the stupid decisions the management team makes – but how can they not make poor decisions if they are not being told the truth?  This is why corporate culture is so important.  Employees MUST believe they can state their true feelings regarding the organization.  And here, actions speak much louder than words.

Most organizations will state they welcome feedback from their employees but far fewer really mean it.  Far too many employees know the best course of action is to “crawfish” when asked their opinion – kind of like when your wife asks what you think of her new haircut – the truth may only lead to a night on the couch.  Ask yourself, is your organization like that wife, do you really want the truth?  Or will you only punish those foolish enough to believe you meant what you said. 

The organizational grapevine is an amazing thing – it transmits information at the speed of sound.  It also transmits your true corporate culture at this same speed (whether you are aware of it or not).  Shaping and managing corporate culture should be high on all owner’s agendas, but words and plaques and other things must be supported by actions.  Real, concrete actions.  If you want the truth to flow up to you, you must ensure your words and actions are in complete agreement.  And you have no chance of making consistent good decisions if your decisions are based on illusion.

Also, since the vast majority of your employees have had other jobs before this one, you may be burdened with beliefs which you had no role in creating.  Such is life.  Powerful, positive corporate cultures don’t just happen – work to make certain your’s is what you want it to be.

Let’s have a little fun – below this post you see the word comment, please click on it and let us know your choices for the biggest product fiascos in the beverage world – where the truth MUST NOT have made it to the top (or they really are ….).  I think Zima Gold probably belongs on the list (sorry Molson Coors). 


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Miller Beer (the one in the red can) was the flawed one for Miller in the mid to late 90's. Everyone knows that Miller beer is High Life, except Jack McDonough and his cohorts. That was the one where he said "failure is no option". This might fall under the stupid - won't listen to the truth category.

There are numerous ones for AB, but World Select is a good example.

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