A previous post drew attention to the dangers of the threats of ‘triple novelty’ to organisational sensemaking. In part, at least, this can be precipitated by those in organisations who are either, unwilling or unable, to raise uncomfortable truths in a timely manner – effectively creating novelty out of blindness.
Studies of High Reliability Organisations (HRO) – defined as those operating in high risk, technically challenging environments where lives are, routinely, at risk, recognise the dangers of hiding uncomfortable truths. Put simply, more people are likely to lose their lives in high risk environments where traditions, hierarchies or egos are allowed to encroach into operational decision-making. The imperative to maintain consistently high levels of performance ensures that people are provided with the psychological safety necessary to believe that their opinions and insights are valued.
Recent work with the RAF has been instructive to understanding that in order to achieve consistently elite performance, the RAF’s fast jet pilots also depend on a powerful culture of psychological safety. In essence, no one should be afraid to speak their mind or raise their concerns, because their lives depend on getting on it right, and the more voices that are heard, the more likely they are to do so.
Leaders in complex organisations may not be finding themselves in routine life taking or life threatening situations, however, if they wish to emulate consistently elite performance they need to actively search out the uncomfortable truths – before they ‘fly’ into trouble.
Bias Busters: Lifting your head from the sand. Business conversations work better when business leaders actively acknowledge potentially unpleasant information rather than run from it.