Okay, that is a trick question, but why is it a trick question?  Read on, and I will explain.

We are all programmed to want to hear good news. I am no exception.  I love to hear positive feedback about something I did right or about a good result.  It feels good, and it reinforces how we see ourselves in a positive light or that we are achieving.  But simply hearing the Good News isn’t enough.

The real world doesn’t function with only Good Results or Good News.  Problems happen, things go wrong in many ways. It is essential that we hear and that we are open to hearing the Bad News.  More importantly, we hear it sooner rather than later.

I was recently reading Richard Clarke’s new book entitled Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes. (It is a very good read, and I recommend it.)   So, who was Cassandra and what was special about her? According to the Mythology, Cassandra was able to see the future and pending disasters. Unfortunately, she was cursed not to be believed.  As a result, disasters that could have been avoided were not.

Clarke aims to make us aware of the Cassandras amongst us, some potential disasters they see now and to trigger us into taking action before it is too late.

Circling back to my initial question; I conclude that we need to be alert, aware and listening to the Bad News.  I believe it is critically important to hear Bad News as early as possible and hopefully when action can be taken to mitigate/reduce the negative impacts.  Bad News is not like wine. It does not get better with age.

So what does this mean for you? I suggest you ask yourself the following:  Am I getting the Bad News and am I getting it when it is first known?

Reflecting back, I have worked in settings where fear ruled, where a shoot the messenger philosophy lived.  The result was predictable; information was withheld, sometimes because people hoped the situation would improve or because they hoped it would be discovered long after they were gone.  However, I have also worked in settings where the culture (from the top – the place where culture begins) allowed and in fact encouraged people to communicate bad news and to do it early. They created the expectation that problems (i.e., bad news) would be reported right away.  None of that shoot the messenger stuff.  Staff was encouraged to come forward with problems along with recommendations to correct and to request help from above if needed.

So, I ask which scenario describes your organization.  If you answered the latter, then congratulations are in order.  If you answered the former or you are not sure, then you have some work to do, and I can help.

In closing, I hope you found this brief article thought-provoking.  If you would like to discuss in greater depth, I would be happy to do so.   Are you looking for a CFO? Contact us at ineedacfo.com/contact

Ed Musmon, Principal & Founder