Posts Tagged ‘management’

text message


Story hitting the streets in Australia of a young lady who sent her boyfriend a text message. Except she sent it to her boss instead. Ooops.

As the AFR reports:

It could be the modern worker’s worst nightmare. A bookkeeper has been sacked for serious misconduct after she accidentally sent a text to her boss calling him a “complete dick”.

The text was meant for her daughter’s boyfriend and now she has lost an unfair dismissal claim, failing to convince the Fair Work Commission that it was a “lighthearted insult”.

Before her dismissal, Louise Nesbitt worked for six years as the office administrator and bookkeeper for small mineral exploration company Dragon Mountain Gold in Perth. She and Rob Gardner, the company’s chairman and managing director, were the sole employees.

 As part of an office refurbishment, Ms Nesbitt arranged for plumbing work to be carried out by her daughter’s boyfriend, Robert Guy. On January 12 last year, Ms Nesbitt sent a text message intended for Mr Guy to Mr Gardner describing Mr Gardner as a “complete dick” before adding “We know this already so please try your best not to tell him that regardless of how you feel the need”.

Realising her mistake, Ms Nesbitt texted Mr Gardner, saying, “Rob, please delete without reading. I am so so so sorry. Xxx.”

She subsequently sent another text message to Mr Gardner which read, in part, “Rob I need to explain … that message came across so wrong … that is not how I feel. My sense of humour is to exaggerate … Yes I do feel that my ideas are all ignored but that’s ok … Please forget it and just go on as normal. I am very very sorry.”

Ms Nesbitt did not attend the office for several days, saying she was working from home.

Mr Gardner told the commission that the text message describing him as a “complete dick” was highly offensive, derogatory and a shock given Ms Nesbitt’s position as an employee and their long working relationship.

Commissioner Danny Cloghan noted that although the text message was the main reason for the dismissal, the working relationship between the duo had deteriorated in previous months.

Commissioner Cloghan said he did not accept Ms Nesbitt’s argument that the text was a “light-hearted insult” or that she lived with young people who put “complete” in front of every second word.

“To call a person a ‘dick’ is a derogatory term to describe them as an idiot or fool,” he said. “The word ‘complete’ is used to convey the message that the person is, without exception, an idiot or fool – they are nothing less than a ‘dick’.

He said he was satisfied that Mr Gardner believed on “reasonable grounds” that Ms Nesbitt’s conduct was serious enough to justify summary dismissal and she had not been unfairly dismissed.

Much easier than calling the boss a complete dick. Even if he is. Perhaps especially if he is.

Much easier than calling the boss a complete dick. Even if he is. Perhaps especially if he is.


It really would have been so much simpler for Ms Nesbitt had she simply purchased her boss a copy of this very excellent book, which was proudly edited at the literary desk of Wellthisiswhatithink. Head to for the best $30 any employee – or employer – ever invested.

Not sure how to give the book to your boss? Well, we suggest buying it and dropping it onto his or her desk anonymously after hours.

Incidentally, we notice Ms Nesbitt’s apology to her boss included the words “Yes I do feel that my ideas are all ignored but that’s ok …”

Memo to bosses: if you wonder why your relationship with your direct reports is declining, that’d be a big problem, right there. Buy the book, find out what to do about it.

Frankly, we feel rather sorry for all concerned and are reminded of that famous old aphorism, “what we have here is a failure to communicate”.

Dunno how he got through life, being so unattractive, an' all.

Dunno how he got through life, being so unattractive, an’ all.

Talking of which, can you remember where that term started out?

It’s actually quotation from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, spoken in the movie first by Strother Martin (as the Captain, a prison warden) and later, slightly differently, by Paul Newman (as Luke, a stubborn prisoner).

The context of the first delivery of the line is:

Captain: You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, Luke. Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking, ’cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.

Luke: I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.

Captain: Don’t you ever talk that way to me. (Pause, then hitting him.) NEVER! NEVER!

(Luke rolls down hill; to other prisoners)

Captain: What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

The Captain’s line is often misquoted as “What we have here is a failure to communicate” (which is more grammatically correct in the United States).

Near the end of the film, when Luke is surrounded in the church and about to be shot, he also says, “What we got here is a failure to communicate.”

The phrase ranks at No. 11 on the American Film Institute list, AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes which makes fun reading for saddos like us.

Seeing as how, like, we work in the good old ad industry thingy to earn a crust, we have remarked many times how in today’s wired-up world one unhappy incident can turn into a worldwide embarrassment.

Ryanair: today, it's all about the, er, cock up.


We can spend millions on advertising and marketing, but it takes just one dis-satified, disgruntled customer to start a hare running that can cause lost custom, a trashed brand, and a story that could run and run for weeks or months, running out of control into the darkest and unreachable corners of the world wide interweb.

One such story about a complaint letter sent to Ryanair was posted to Facebook on April 25th, by James Lockley, and is rapidly going viral, apparently. Indeed, people are re-posting it on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts pleading with people to help the story go viral.

Without commenting on the veracity of the content, the letter is also very funny. You can read the whole letter on James’s Facebook page. It’s been shared over 60,000 times.

Let us make this clear: we weren’t at Stansted airport with James and his missus so we can’t judge the bona fides of the story one way or the other, and in our experience there are always two sides to every story. Our interest is therefore not in the incident itself, but in how social media makes companies’ reputations vulnerable to customers with a gripe, and how they need to be aware of the risk and have plans to mitigate it.

The airline is apparently in touch with the customer. We await further news with interest.

For other F*** Ups just put F*** Up in the search box top left of the page – there are lots to enjoy …

And by the way, we would just like to note that this is the 700th blog on Wellthisiswhatithink – over the last couple of years we have enjoyed many thousands of hits and comments, with a more than healthy number of “followers” and lots of great interaction with you, our much-valued readers. We’d just like to say thank you, and keep reading!


Nick Barnett

Oh well, back to business. I am indebted to my colleague Nicholas Barnett and his team at Insynch Surveys for sending me their latest newsletter which includes this excellent article on the factors that separate really successful, fast-moving organisations from others.

As Insynch have one of the best employee engagement survey businesses around – if not the best – then I find their research really compelling. If you want a copy of their newsletter, or to get the whole report, just flick them an email to It’s always a good read – and if your business or organisation has got some sticky bits that defy improvement, why not ask them if they can help you find out why? Trust me: I’ve been around the tables a few times. They’re good.

I saw lots of graphics for High Performance Organisation and they were all crap and predictable. Then I just saw this and liked it. Is it relevant? Dunno: just a nice illustration, honestly. Yee-har.

Um … I saw lots of graphics for High Performance Organisation and they were all crap and predictable. Then I just saw this and liked it. Is it relevant? Dunno: just a nice illustration, honestly. Yee-har.

Oh. PS. The 7 Habits aren’t rocket science. But they do require a committed focus. How good is your situation, measured against this list?

Article follows:

Our latest research unveils the 7 habits of high performance organisations that have steered them through a low growth economy and an increasingly competitive environment.

The research helps leaders of all organisations, regardless of size or type, understand how to increase productivity, performance and profitability.

Here’s a summary:

1. Live an inspiring vision

An organisation with a clear and inspiring vision is far more likely to gain employee buy-in and the extra discretionary effort, energy and focus from employees that are essential to achieving sustainable high performance. More than half (54%) of employees from high performance organisations believe their leadership team has an inspiring vision, compared to 24% from low performance organisations.

The lesson: High performance organisations understand that they don’t only need to develop a shared, compelling and inspiring vision; they must make a habit of continually espousing that vision and make it integral to everything they do. The vision then becomes authentic, relevant, aligned, achievable and memorable and something all employees can understand and be proud of.

2. Communicate clear strategies and goals

An inspiring vision becomes the single guiding light that points the way for employees. Strategies and goals aligned to that vision add focus and urgency to the individual plans, actions and goals of employees. High performance organisations make it a priority to communicate their strategies clearly. More than two thirds (69%) of their employees are clear on the strategy.

The lesson: High performance organisations engage their employees in developing their strategy which gains their buy-in and increases the likelihood of achieving the strategy. High performance organisations also spend a lot of time considering how the strategy can be simplified and best communicated to all employees.

3. Develop your people

Nearly half (45%) the employees of low performance organisations state that their organisation doesn’t have effective plans for developing and retaining its people, compared to only 19% for high performance organisations.

The lesson: Many executives say that they can’t afford to develop their employees because the investment is often not worth it, as many employees leave too soon after they receive the relevant education and training. This is a “cup half empty” perspective and not conducive to building leadership talent and capability. The concern should not be “what if we develop our people and they leave?”, but “what if we don’t develop them and they stay?”

4. Go out of your way to recognise people

Over half (55%) of employees from high performance organisations believe their senior leadership team goes out of their way to acknowledge and thank people for their contribution. This is compared to 27% for low performance organisations. On this factor alone, employees of high performance organisations are more likely to be engaged and happy to come to work each day.

The lesson: Until acknowledging and thanking people for their contribution becomes a habit, leaders need to consciously make the extra effort to increase the extent to which they recognise their staff. There is very little extra cost, other than a small amount of time, and the payback will be significant.

5. Genuinely care for your people

The psychological contract refers to the often unwritten expectations of an employee towards their employer. If employees perceive that this contract has been broken, their trust in, and commitment to, their employer will be diminished. The majority (59%) of employees in high performance organisations perceive their organisation to be caring and committed to them. There is also a strong reciprocal relationship, with more than three quarters (78%) willing to recommend the organisation as a good place to work to family and friends.

The lesson: Some organisations aim to manage the psychological contract more effectively by making their employee offer explicit (documented), rather than implicit (unwritten). These organisations take great care in crafting and documenting an employee value proposition (EVP) that appeals to the people most suited to working in their organisation.

6. Listen and adapt to customer needs

More than three quarters (79%) of employees in high performance organisations believe that their organisation consistently shows a commitment to achieving long term customer loyalty compared to only 47% in low performance organisations.

The lesson: High performance organisations demonstrate a much greater, more structured and thoughtful commitment to their customers, and take a longer term view to customer loyalty. They are more likely to partner with their clients by getting to know them and how they can service them better. They understand that, as they demonstrate a true understanding of their customers’ needs and deliver services that meet those needs, they build customer loyalty and advocacy.

7. Continually improve your systems

Almost three quarters (73%) of employees in high performance organisations agree that their organisation is committed to continually improving its systems compared to only 41% in low performance organisations.

The lesson: High performance organisations ensure that their systems are fit for purpose and well integrated as a key enabler for improving productivity and customer service. Inadequate systems hinder many organisations in executing their strategy. If you genuinely care for your people (habit 5), you will ensure that they are not frustrated as a result of inadequate systems.

This article was originally published in 2010 in the Australian Financial Review. In it James Strong, chairman of Woolworths and IAG, and former CEO of Qantas, who sadly and prematurely died aged 68 this week, reflects on the value of walking the talk on management style.

A considerable outpouring of sadness reveals how this successful Aussie businessman was widely respected and cherished, and when one reads this article – packed full of commonsense – it is easy to see why.

I have always said I can tell everything from a  potential business contact by how they treat waiters, waitresses and barmen.

The first thing I do in a restaurant is find out the name of the person serving me, as we don’t have the charming American tradition of them introducing themselves. I then use their name throughout the meal, and thank them for the work they are doing on my behalf.  Of such common courtesies is the world built. People who ignore them will genuinely not be the type of people with whom I want to do business.

How do you get to the top? A dash of luck, a lot of determination, and in James Strong's case, by all accounts, vast amounts of commonsense and dignity.

How do you get to the top? A dash of luck, a lot of determination, and in James Strong’s case, vast amounts of commonsense and dignity.

Years ago, I spoke to a group of managers from a telecommunications business on the importance of understanding how your own behaviour sends a message.

Their leader at a subsequent dinner said how he totally endorsed this very personal approach, whilst at the same time disdainfully dismissing with a wave of his hand a young waiter trying to offer him some wine. No eye contact, no acknowledgment that the waiter was a person. My heart sank, as I knew I had wasted my time.

Years later, I recounted this story to 500 guests at a business luncheon. After the event, the hotel manager rushed up to tell me that his entire staff were amused that the audience was suddenly unusually polite to his staff at every table – lots of eye contact, with smiling acknowledgment of service!

Why should that not apply to every person providing service? They could be your son or daughter, niece or nephew. They are entitled to respect.

Very successful groups tend to share a fundamental value in how they operate, implicitly or explicitly.

This is recognition that the key factor in creating high performance is how you treat people, inside and outside the organisation, every day in every way.

The gap between what someone in a leadership position says they believe in and what people actually observe I crudely refer to as the “urinating in a wetsuit” style of management. The person in the wetsuit gets a lovely warm feeling, but no one else from outside can see that anything has changed.

Dang, this Willy Wonka meme is useful ...

Dang, this Willy Wonka meme is useful …

So when a leader promises enlightened and empathetic change, and there is no discernible difference in the organisation, you predictably get “the rolling eyeball effect” as staff mutter “another wanker telling us the same old story, but we know nothing will really change”.

It is behaviour that matters – it’s how you actually treat people, not how you say or think you treat them.

People are much more likely to do their best and deliver extra discretionary effort for an organisation when they experience respect, encouragement, personal development and opportunities to grow.

It is all too easy to underestimate the intelligence or powers of observation of people. All of us are making assessments of people and companies or groups every day – guaging sincerity, credibility and trustworthiness. Where actual daily behaviour and treatment do not match stated value propositions, cynicism and distrust flourish quickly. (And productivity falls vertigionously – Ed.)

Many frothy mission statements or management “manifestos” declare the importance of people, and a set of high-minded values held dear by the organisation. If this is not the actual experience each and every day, it is no surprise that those words mean nothing.

The central proposition should be to establish and display authenticity and believability with people through consistent daily behaviour and powerful personalised communications. The greatest compliment any speaker or writer can receive is a comment such as “I understood everything you were saying”.

During my time at Qantas [Strong was CEO from 1993 to 2001], we evolved a format of presentations immediately after every six-month results announcement. Each forum was attended by 1,000 people from every level and area.

It started with the financial results, then a simple explanation of our profit and loss account, so people saw our costs and revenue streams, taking the profit onto the balance sheet, showing why a company needs profits to invest in its future, dividends to pay its shareholders, plus a cash-flow statement to show the importance of timing in balancing investment, etc. All simplified and easily understandable.

The rest of each day was a report by the CEO on challenges, issues and directions, then an update by the head of every major division of the group – aircraft fleet plans, engineering, IT, marketing, people issues, etc. Always a section by a front-line team telling their colleagues how they had taken on a problem in their area, and what they had achieved. They were powerful messages. From a doubtful “Is this a brainwash?” start, people were bidding from all over the business for an opportunity to attend. They walked out feeling they had been trusted with enormous amounts of information and were now incredibly well informed. The atmosphere was always electric. They had individual kits and an obligation to share with colleagues.

People like to be well informed, to feel like “insiders” as to what is happening, what is planned. It makes them feel they are respected and trusted.

It is very difficult today for CEOs to spend a lot of time speaking directly to staff in groups, but it remains the potentially most powerful way to influence people. Fronting up has great credibility in good times or bad.

Exciting atmospheres can be created by inviting staff to participate in problem identification in their area of work.

For example, Woolworths in the past experienced some difficulties with its huge warehouse distribution system in relation to turnover, absenteeism, productivity and staff engagement.

The senior management backed an outsider with an impressive track record of real cultural change in tough environments to bring about a transformation. In his usual daring form (and with the approval of the CEO), he invited the whole senior management group to hear a presentation by staff from one distribution centre. They were forklift operators, team leaders and others from the front line. They were nervous, but they outlined what they thought were the problems where they worked, and what they would like to have a say in changing.

They told about quality and suitability of equipment, safety and workplace injuries, rostering and manning practices, and being treated as though they had something to contribute. Hallelujah! Amazingly, this matched the management concerns.

They began a process of people in distribution centres forming groups to take responsibility for critical issues such as safety. They also were given data so that today you can walk into any centre and they can tell you their cost per carton handled and how it compares with other sites, with a real competitive edge and attitude of ownership.

Never underestimate people. If things are not as they should be, perhaps the way you are managing is creating a negative atmosphere. Ask them, listen to them.

Warmth, sincerity and good intentions will not convince everyone.

Some resist change and don’t care; some seek to sabotage.

However, genuine chances for people to grow and have greater influence in where they work appeal to most because of that most powerful incentive of personal growth and improvement. It is a positive resource to be tapped in inspiring people to strive to achieve their full potential.



This is reproduced from the January 1, 2006 Harvard Business Review, by Paul Rogers & Marcia Blenko. It was sent to us by a client experiencing the need to clarify their decision-making on a particularly significant marketing matter, and he kindly thought it should be of interest to a wider audience.

We found it fascinating and relevant – and we hope you find it useful, too.

We have seen more chaos caused in organisations by the true decision-maker being obscured (or inadequately supported in their decision-making) than from any other single factor, except, perhaps, confusion over what the decision that is actually being taken really is. Understanding who has the real authority in any decision is vital, as is a formal process to make key decisions.

That’s why a big part of our business isn’t just generating ads – any ad agency worth it’s salt can come up with decent ads. We now spend at least as much time helping our clients decide what those ads should be about, and who they’re talking to, and why, and how the business needs to respond to decisions taken in the marketing area.

Marketing shouldn’t be a silo, but often is. And marketing should really drive every other department – drive the business strategy of the whole organisation – not merely respond to it, like a glorified production centre.

This very clear article solves the first problem – who is really taking the decision – and we recommend it to you.

And crucially, whoever is really taking the decision needs to be on top of it, at every stage.

To help you solve all the other problems about devising a successful business strategy – the end outcome of which is communications – call Magnum Opus on +613 9426 4500.

The Idea in Brief

Decisions are the coin of the realm in business. Every success, every mishap, every opportunity seized or missed stems from a decision someone made-or failed to make. Yet in many firms, decisions routinely stall inside the organization-hurting the entire company’s performance.

The culprit? Ambiguity over who’s accountable for which decisions.

In one auto manufacturer that was missing milestones for rolling out new models, marketers and product developers each thought they were responsible for deciding new models’ standard features and colors. Result? Conflict over who had final say, endless revisiting of decisions-and missed deadlines that led to lost sales.

So how to clarify decision accountability? Assign clear roles for the decisions that most affect your firm’s performance-such as which markets to enter, where to allocate capital, and how to drive product innovation.

Think “RAPID®”.

Who should Recommend a course of action on a key decision? Who must agree to a recommendation before it can move forward? Who will perform the actions needed to implement the decision? Whose Input is needed to determine the proposal’s feasibility? Who decides-brings the decision to closure and commits the organization to implement it?

When you clarify decision roles, you make the right choices – swiftly and effectively.

The RAPID Decision Model

For every strategic decision, assign the following roles and responsibilities:



  • Making a proposal on a key decision, gathering input, and providing data and analysis to make a sensible choice in a timely fashion
  •  Consulting with input providers-hearing and incorporating their views, and winning their buy-in


  • Negotiating a modified proposal with the recommender if they have concerns about the original proposal
  • Escalating unresolved issues to the decider if the “A” and “R” can’t resolve differences
  • If necessary, exercising veto power over the recommendation


  • Executing a decision once it’s made
  • Seeing that the decision is implemented promptly and effectively


  • Providing relevant facts to the recommender that shed light on the proposal’s feasibility and practical implications


  • Serving as the single point of accountability
  • Bringing the decision to closure by resolving any impasse in the decision-making process
  • Committing the organization to implementing the decision

Decision-Role Pitfalls

In assigning decision roles:

  • Ensure that only one person “has the D.” If two or more people think they’re in charge of a particular decision, a tug-of-war results.
  • Watch for a proliferation of “A’s.” Too many people with veto power can paralyze recommenders. If many people must agree, you probably haven’t pushed decisions down far enough in your organization.
  • Avoid assigning too many “I’s.” When many people give input, at least some of them aren’t making meaningful contributions.

An example of the RAPID model in action

At British department-store chain John Lewis, company buyers wanted to increase sales and reduce complexity by offering fewer salt and pepper mill models. The company launched the streamlined product set without involving the sales staff. And sales fell.

Upon visiting the stores, buyers saw that salespeople (not understanding the strategy behind the recommendation) had halved shelf space to match the reduction in product range, rather than maintaining the same space but stocking more of the products.

To fix the problem, the company “gave buyers the D” on how much space product categories would have. Sales staff “had the A”: If space allocations didn’t make sense to them, they could force additional negotiations. They also “had the P,” implementing product layouts in stores.

Once decision roles were clarified, sales of salt and pepper mills exceeded original levels.

Making Critical Decisions the RAPID way

It is increasingly important, no matter what the size and complexity of your organisation is, to have a defined decision-making process.

Having been a leader of extensive global and regional underwriting and marketing business units that require many fast and accurate decisions, our teams had no choice but to establish formal decision-making roles and responsibilities.  In retrospect, while these written authorities provided some clarity, they were fairly one dimensional written “lines of authority”.  To support these basic decision-making rules required constant interaction and an enormous amount of communication.

Executing a strategic plan successfully depends upon the success or failure of the actual people executing the plan to make good decisions.  It stands to reason that if you can improve your team’s decision-making abilities then plan execution and results should also improve along the way.  The RAPID decision-making model goes a few steps further than what we call “written lines of authority” and is an easy but effective way to instil professional decision making within an organisation.

According to a Bain and Company Study, the average organization has the potential to more than double its ability to make and execute key decisions.

On a decision-effectiveness scale of 0 to 100, the best companies score an average of 71, while most companies score only a 28, according to Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers, authors of Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization.

Quick summary of RAPID

  • RAPID was developed by Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko – two Bain & Company Consultants.  Their article: “Who has the D? How clear decision roles enhance organizational performance” which appeared in the January 2006 Harvard Business Review has since become one of HBRs “10 must reads”.
  • The Acronym RAPID describes the various roles and responsibilities for clear decision making within an organization.  With respect to critical decisions, it ultimately shows how power flows through an organization and/or business unit.
  • The objective with this approach is to create a more formalized, participatory approach towards decision-making process within an organization.
    It is also useful as a “post mortem” tool to diagnose failed decisions – to see what element or elements in the RAPID process was/were lacking or missing so the next time a critical decision has to be made so you are not repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
  • Implementing RAPID can be messy; it can reveal a convoluted and faulty decision-making process so there must be a full commitment to “check egos at the door” and accept the need for adopting RAPID as part of an organizational improvement initiative.  If your organization is in flux, it may not be the appropriate time to implement RAPID.
  • The web site designed by Rogers and Blenko can help you assess your decision making prowess and also, do the same type of assessment of your organization.
  • One of the pitfalls of this approach can be that it actually slows decision-making down. Therefore, at the outset of a project it is recommended that you decide which projects will follow RAPID and which ones will not.

Characteristics of High Performance Companies That Use RAPID

High-Performing organizations make good decisions quickly. Some of the characteristics they exhibit are:

  • For complex issues that require rapid decision making, achieving the right mix of control and creative freedom is critical for sustainable success.
  • A list of critical decisions in priority order must be part of the Strategic planning process. Determining which ones will follow the RAPID process is also required.
  • Decisions that build value are most important and thus, have the highest priority on such a list.
  • Action is the Goal.
  • Ambiguity is the enemy.
  • Speed and adaptability are key.
  • Decision roles trump the organizational chart.
  • A well-aligned organization reinforces roles and responsibilities.
  • Practicing beats preaching.  That being said, a communication plan needs to dovetail with the RAPID process.
  • Remember the “Rule of 7”: once you’ve got 7 people in a decision-making group, each additional member reduces decision effectiveness by 10%. Thus, a group of 17 or more rarely makes any decisions.
  • Managers spend 50% or more of their time in meetings, but Bain & Company research shows that two-thirds of meetings end before participants can make important decisions. Not surprisingly, 85% of executives are dissatisfied with the efficiency and effectiveness of their companies’ meetings.

If you think your meetings, strategy planning and decision-making as less than optimal, perhaps RAPID® is the answer?

RAPID® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company, Inc.

Indiana Stage Collapse

The very moment the stage collapsed

What can the collapse of a stage for a rock concert in Indiana tell us about our organisational responsibilities? The answer is, quite a lot.

Imagine you are the cop who happens to be on duty at a local police station when the phone rings. It’s the local weather bureau, and a severe thunderstorm warning comes in.

You know tens of thousands of people have already gathered for the concert, and the storm is still at least 20 minutes away.

Do you immediately evacuate the area?

Who do you call for advice, or to action the evacuation? And how urgently? And what if the storm just blows past?

You don’t want to be seen as the guy who spoiled the fun for everyone. This type of decision is really above your pay grade, but then again, is your chain of command clear? And if you can’t reach your boss, have you got ready access to the organizers at the concert?

Because after all it’s just a few minutes before the headline act is coming on stage. Has your boss got that access?

In short, even if you think you WANT to do something, CAN you?

Now imagine you’re a rigger on the stage. Just an ordinary working guy.

You look over to the approaching storm front, and feel the wind getting up. Dust is blowing everywhere, the sky turns pitch black, and the stage trembles with the force of the elements battering it. But the concert is about to begin. You’re really not sure it should go ahead, but hey … you’re not the big boss. You think about saying something … but you hesitate, looking at the horizon and biting your lip.

Sadly, and ironically, it seems that organizers of the concert were actually considering canceling when an unexpectedly strong gust suddenly blew the stage down, killing at least five people, and injuring 40 more. Inquiries will reveal whether or not they could or should have acted sooner, and if they should have, why they did not.

In our everyday lives, many of us are confronted with situations that may appear less dramatic than an encroaching storm, but which may also have far reaching consequences. And sometimes, we are less than forthright in raising our concerns.

Perhaps our boss “just doesn’t listen to us”. Perhaps we fear being seen as “a trouble maker”. Perhaps what we have uncovered is evidence of sharp practice, or even illegality, in our organization, or one we are related to. Or of unsafe practices.

Perhaps we bury our head in the sand, hoping the problem will go away, and we’ll never get “called out” to explain why we didn’t say anything.

It’s that type of lack of empowerment that leads to disasters, and often those disasters occur in very ordinary situations, when a confluence of events turns bad very quickly.

The navigator who thought the fearsome Captain of the Titanic should slow down and head further south, away from the icebergs, but who kept his own counsel. The junior executives in countless corporate collapses who knew something was wrong, but who failed to tell anyone. The German officers who wouldn’t tell Hitler that D Day was happening in Normandy until it was too late to stop the Allies’ success.

If you run an organization, ask yourself this simple question. “Do the people that work with me trust me enough to bring me bad news, in good time for me to fix things?”

And if you work for an organization, ask yourself this simple question. “Do my bosses really want to know the truth about what’s going on?” (And if the answer is “No”, change jobs.)

Just think. If the stage area in Indiana had been cleared two minutes before that gust of wind, then no one would have been hurt. Two minutes.

The clock is ticking …