Never say No 

How to become an organisation that likes to say Yes

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 

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