As a grandparent I never say no, as a parent I said it a lot,
apparently. As a manager I didn’t like people saying no to me so I
tended to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. As an
experienced manager I liked to be asked for my suggestions. By the
time I was a senior manager yes and no we’re replaced by how and how come.
Some organisation like some managers have a no culture. Only
do what you’re expressly told to do. Some organisations have a yes
culture everything is permissible unless it is expressly
forbidden. Confusingly it is the no organisations that
tend to have a blame culture, whereas
the yes organisations are less interested in who and
more interested in why.
It would seem that a yes organisation is a better place to
work and a yes organisation is more likely to develop the
characteristics necessary to succeed in a fast changing world namely
creativity, agility and resilience. This does mean tackling the
inherent tendency of organisations and therefore managers to be risk
adverse, to be stiflingly bureaucratic, to confuse accountability with
responsibility and to be reactive rather than proactive. Interestingly
organisations that are over cautious are often prone to acting rashly,
having stifled initiative and discouraged debate the reaction of the
leadership to things going wrong is a radical often ill thought out
change of direction, typically reorganisation, merger , or major outsourcing.
Most organisation will be somewhere towards the middle of a continuum
between a no organisation at one extreme and a yes
organisation on the other. The aim in the majority of cases is to
move closer to the yes end. To achieve this change in the way the
organisation operates an organisation needs to review everything, how
support services ( HR , Finance, IT, Communication) relate to
operations, the state of the relationship between the board and the
senior management team, how customers or service users are viewed by
frontline staff and how managers manage.
The most effective way to shift an organisation’s culture is to
invest in developing managers people management skills. The result
won’t be managers who never say no but it will be an organisation
that likes to say yes.
Blair Mcpherson former Director ,author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk