ACTing on the sounds of silence

The first problem addressed in this weeks readings was that of “Operational Silence”.  Operational silence occurs when employees do not speak up about decisions being made by management even when they disagree with them.  There are a number of reasons that this can have a negative impact on a corporation.  Firstly, there really might be a problem.  If a firm is making a poor decision, and someone within that firm knows its a poor decision, then they really should be able to avoid it.  Also, the manager may not even realize that there is a problem.  This is very dangerous.  If a manager is surrounded by yes men, then he will have no idea if he is consistently doing something wrong.  This can lead to a sort of barrier being built up around the manager where they become isolated from not only inputs, but consequences as well.  Bad habits that would normally be stopped can continue and eventually cause decisions with dire consequences.  Lastly, it is difficult for the employees to function optimally in an environment where they feel they cannot express opinions or concerns.  Employees can develop work and performance anxieties.  These anxieties can make them nervous and affect their job performance.

ACT stands for Advanced Change Theory.  ACT is a system involving ten steps that firms are using to implement real, meaningful change where it is necessary in their business.  There are ten steps in the ACT program, each aimed at helping a firm identify, diagnose, and then finally treat a problem.  There are a few points made that echo back to articles and main ideas from earlier in the course.  The first is that in order for the behavior of employees to change, there must also be a change in the structure of the corporation itself.  This advice could be applied to the problem above.  If a firm that was suffering from operational silence wanted to fix the problem, they wouldn’t change the employees who were scared; rather, they would change the system in which those employees function.  If that company were to set up a program were employees could safely provide feedback to their superiors without the threat of disciplinary action, employees would no longer be frightened of managers and their behavior would change.  The second point stressed by the ACT system that has been mentioned many times over in this course is that in order for a manager to change his employee’s behavior, he must change his own as well.  This makes a lot of intuitive sense.  If an employee is told to do something because it “helps the company”, but then sees a superior doing the opposite, they will have good reason to assume that the preferred behavior must not actually be that important.  This also ties into another step of the ACT system which is establishing credibility as a leader.  If employees feel that a manager has their best interests at heart, is willing to sacrifice, and is competent in her position, they will be much more apt to follow her and to trust her.  A credible manager makes any change easier because employes will have more confidence in the person that is implementing the change; and their reasons for doing it.

These articles were given together because the latter (the ACT reading) presents a possible solution for to the former (the Operational Silence reading).  It is easier to think about how a solution to a problem might work when one has a problem to picture it solving.  Although that is just my opinion.  What do you think?  Would ACT be a viable system when solving a case like operational silence?  Should something else be used?  Please feel free to express your take on the matter in the poll below.


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