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In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high

esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, "Do
you know what I just heard about your friend?" "Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything I'd like you

to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?" "That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say. That's why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now
let's try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend; something good?" "No, on the contrary..." "So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though, because there's one filter left: the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"No not really "Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?"
This is why Socrates was a great philosopher & held in such high esteem.

A global pharmaceutical company has had a more than its share of challenges over the past few years Sales are down, has got bad press, stock is down, complaints about products are up and one major customer has become very negative The company had a proud history Since company is in bad shape, it is expected that its HQs would look like an army HQ in war But it shows nothing of the sort; instead of aiming at enemy lethal weapons are aimed inwards: worker at managers, managers at workers, sales at manufacturing etc In one on one conversations, employees admit there are problems. Then comes the Buts But the whole industry is having these problems. But we really are making some progress. But the problem is not here, its over there in that department. But there is nothing else I can do because of my thickheaded boss

Typical management meeting befools all your data regarding revenues, income, stock price, customer complaint and morale Reference is rarely made to any indexes of unacceptable performances. Issues discussed are of marginal importance. Energy level is rarely high. Discussions become heated only when one manager tries to grab resources from another. And every once in a while you hear someone sincerely make a speech about how good things are. In this complacency filled organization, change initiative is dead on arrival. Even if someone tries to discuss new approach, within few minutes the discussion shifts to some new amiable subject These conditions can be found everywhere!




No highly visible crisis existed. The firm was not losing money. No one had threatened a big layoff. Bankruptcy was not an issue. Employees saw no tornado-like threat. The meeting was taking place in a room which screamed success. The corporate HQ was the same way: marble, rich woods, deep carpets and oil paintings. The subliminal message was clear: we are rich, we are winners, we must be doing something right. So relax The standards against which these managers measured themselves were far from high. It was a common saying profits are up 10 percent over last year. What was not said was that profits were down 30 percent from five years before and industry wide profits were nearly up 20 percent over previous one year

The organizational structure focused most peoples attention on narrow functional goals instead of broad business performance. Marketing had its indexes, manufacturing had a different set, personnel yet another. Only the CEO was responsible for overall sales, net income and return on equity 5. Various internal planning and control systems were rigged to make it easy for everyone to meet their functional goals 6. Whatever performance feedback people received came almost entirely from faulty internal systems. Data from external stakeholders rarely went to anyone 7. When enterprising young employees went out of their way to collect external performance feedback, they were often treated like lepers

Complacency was supported by the very human tendency to deny that which we do not want to hear 9. Those who were relatively unaffected by complacency sources mentioned above went into a false sense of security by senior managements happy talk.

Much of the problem here is related to historical victoriesfor the firm, departments and individuals. Past success reduces sense of urgency and encourages us to turn inwards. For individuals it creates an ego problem and for firms cultural. Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo

Increasing urgency demands removal of complacency or minimize their impact: like eliminating signs of excess, setting higher standards both formally in the planning and informally in daily meetings, changing internal measurement systems that focus on wrong indexes; increasing the external feedback; rewarding honest talk and honest workers; and stopping baseless happy talk from the top

Create a crisis by allowing a financial loss, exposing managers to major weaknesses vis--vis competitors, or allowing errors to blow up instead of correcting at the last minute 2. Eliminate obvious examples of excess 3. Set revenue, income, productivity, customer satisfaction, and cycle-time targets so high that they cannot be reached by conducting business as usual 4. Stop measuring subunit performance based only on narrow functional goals. Insist that more people be held accountable for broader measures of business performance






Send more data about customers satisfaction and financial performance to more employees, especially that demonstrates weaknesses vis--vis the competition Insist that people talk regularly to unsatisfied customers, unhappy suppliers, and disgruntled shareholders Use consultants and other means to force more relevant data and honest discussion into management meetings Put more honest discussions of the firms problems in company newspapers and senior management speeches Bombard people with information on future opportunities

Visible crises can be enormously helpful in catching peoples attention and pushing up urgency levels. A Japanese entrepreneur regularly stopped his management from becoming complacent. Just when people would celebrate their achievements, he would set new standards which on the face of it looked difficult but people trusted his vision. His five year goals became little bombs which periodically blew up pockets of complacency. Real leaders often create artificial crises rather than waiting for one to happen.