Reply to post: What a difference a few generations makes

IBM memo to staff: Our CEO Ginni is visiting so please 'act normally!'


What a difference a few generations makes

One of the reasons that IBM became the behemoth it did was because of the actions of the founder, Thomas J. Watson.

When most members of the company leadership left for the day, they'd take the elevator down to the front entrance, and leave the building, never encountering any of the worker bees. In contrast, when Thomas left, he'd go down the staircase, take his tie off, and wander through the shop floor. Inevitably, he'd strike up a conversation with some floor worker at a lathe or somesuch. Often, the worker wouldn't even know who Thomas was, other than he had a suit. And so he'd be honest with him about what was going on, how likely they were to make the deadlines, and the problems that they were encountering.

Later, when hearing the status reports from other execs, Watson took note of what execs were telling him, compared to what the actual workers had told him. He learned which execs were giving accurate pictures of their projects, and which ones were sugar coating things.

The key thing was that Watson wanted to know what his workers thought, not what their directors thought their vice presidents thought their managers thought their group leaders thought the worker thought. He wanted to know what was going on, and so he talked to his workers directly, and honestly.

The idea of treating the CEO like a visiting dignitary, and dictating behaviour before his or her arrival, is the complete opposite of that mindset. The CEO is not a customer, he/she is not someone that you are trying to impress, the CEO is someone who should be visiting to become informed about the state of the company.

I'm not sure what's worse. The idea that the company is not even hiding the fact that they are trying to impress the CEO, or the fact that CEO takes it as a given.

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