The Failure to Create Real Knowledge Transfer

Data

Clarity received a call from a group of Middle Managers who were the heart of daily productivity and effectiveness for their company. Business times were increasingly difficult and competition was growing stronger.

While they deeply respected the intentions and knowledge of their otherwise highly effective CEO, she continually failed to create a real senior team among the Middle Managers’ supervisors. The CEO communicated information to her Senior Leaders.

Not coming together as a team and preferring to operate within their own silos, they consistently failed to pass any news down the organization or any “bad news” up to the CEO.

The Middle Managers frequently felt uninformed, surprised, blamed, and de-motivated. Most had been with the company a long time, were committed to the organization’s success, and collaborated because of their personal relationships and their positions in the company.

These Middle Managers were a strong enough team to take the risk of calling Clarity to brainstorm possible solutions.

Insight

The CEO, having grown the company from a tiny startup division of a much larger company into a substantial business, was accustomed to many hallway conversations with people at all organizational levels throughout the day. It was how she kept informed. In many ways everyone in the company felt as though they worked directly for her.

The senior leaders, proud of their personal expertise and titles, often felt blind sided by both their subordinates and their CEO.

The senior leader’s compensation was tied directly to top line revenue only. No rewards for collaboration existed. No one at any level had been fired for non-performance for years. There was no compelling reason for anyone to change behaviors.

The CEO assumed that once she said something to her senior leaders that it was magically as good as done and understood at all levels of her company.

As she later said, “But I told them!”

Who is responsible for knowledge transfer? The teller? The recipient? Both? Telling doesn’t necessarily create knowledge transfer or behavior change.

The CEO was unusually “available” for transformative information and ideas when they were brought to her by one or two people. However, she didn’t like larger groups coming to her, especially emotional groups who unintentionally surprised her with their arrival.

Action

  • An initial one on one meeting – confidential, private, off site – between the CEO and a Clarity Consultant at the request of the two Middle Managers she respected the most. The CEO was very aware of the proliferation of performance problems but completely unaware of her part in creating them. The instant she understood what made the company (and her) successful in the past might now strongly against the company (and her) in the future, she began to see with different eyes and hear with different ears. Head down, bulldozer-like determination evaporated to be replaced by an inspiring desire for insight and new possibilities.
  • Slow careful, well planned introduction of organizational change conversations (see Project Components) between the CEO and her Senior Leaders, all conversations co-lead and co-owned by the CEO and a Clarity Consultant.
  • Creation and implementation of business-driven motivation for behavior change, including compensation and recognition, across the Senior Team.
  • Engagement of the CEO, Senior Leaders, and Middle Managers in an organized, intentional, business-outcome-driven organizational change effort.
  • Transformation of the company’s profitability and position in the market-place driven by the business Insight and business experience from all organizational levels.