The Power of Noticing
Take Off those Blinders and See the Truth
from Soundview Summaries 01 Sept 14 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
Author: Max Bazerman, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is the author of numerous books and founding partner of Think! Inc. In many ways, The Power of Noticing — the latest book from Max will somewhat dishearten his readers — if not enrage them. In sometimes horrific and often damning detail, Max exposes the disastrous consequences of having leaders with blinders on who fail to notice — or pretend not to notice — what is truly happening around them.
From Cheating to Tragedies
The litany of cases described by Max involves many incidents barely known by the public, such as the story of a medicine whose price grew in a few years from $50 per vial to $28,000 — yes three zeroes— per vial; the Harvard professor who was faking his data; and the egregious mis-direction used by politicians & marketers (& magicians) to fool the public. There are also some well-known cases:
● Manufacturer, Morton Thiokol & NASA scientists failed to notice the pattern of low-temperature failures of its O-rings and, as a result, went forward with a low-temperature launch of the Shuttle Challenger. Seven (7) Astronauts lost their lives in the ensuing mid-air explosion.
● Penn State officials & staff, from the president of the university, to the famed coach of the football team, to other coaches, failed to take decisive action, not even calling the police, in the face of recurring reports of rapes of young boys by the assistant coach.
● Enron’s Board of Directors, despite specific accusations from a whistle-blower and a warning from the company’s auditors that Enron was “pushing the limits” of accounting propriety, did nothing to investigate the possibility of wrong-doing.
Solutions for Ending the Madness
Although based at both the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, Max is not an ivory-tower expert criticizing from the sidelines. Instead, he travels the world, pushing for solutions to unethical behavior & decision-making. In this book, Max offers concise suggestions for preventing the abuses & crimes he documents. Three of these suggestions include:
● Ask for the data. Many decisions are made based on the data presented. Decision-makers need to determine if more data is needed and what kind, to request that data. NASA scientists could have received the cold-temperature test results from Morton Thiokol and prevented the loss of seven lives.
● Attack motivated blindness. Often, leaders who look the other way in the face of wrong-doing have deep-seated motivations to do so — such as protecting their university [Penn State] or the church (in the case of the Catholic Church scandal). The solutions are clear: leaders have the responsibility to fully “notice” the facts and to act when it’s appropriate. And those who fail to act on reports of wrong-doing must face clear consequences. Finally, leaders must provide decision-makers in their organizations with the incentive to speak up.
● Systemic changes. Max has been working for years to convince policy makers to reform the auditing industry, in which companies pay the Auditors — thus creating an almost in-surmountable incentive for auditors to please their paymasters. Industry blindness occurs in many other industries and must be equally addressed with reform.
As with most of his works, Max Bazerman offers uniquely qualified insight into how the world works and how it should work to make it better.
Comments: Do you have any ideas of how to “monitor” your Projects to “prevent” disasters?