Consider this scenario:

Memo: Important Notice concerning new open door policy


All employees:

It has come to our attention that someone in the company recently slammed their finger in one of the doors at the office. This is unacceptable.

Therefore, effectively immediately, we have requested that everyone remove the door to their office; we will also have the doors removed from the front entrance and all rest-room/public areas.

We desire to prevent this unfortunate event from ever happening again.

Thank you for your cooperation.

The management.

PS. There's a rumor that someone got their finger caught in a file drawer; we cannot have this happening. If you have information about this, please come forward. If verified, we will immediately remove all file drawers from the premises, too.

What if that were a true announcement? How would you respond?

Obviously, I paraphrased a true story to illustrate my point, however, I've only slightly changed the facts of a real situation that I see all too often in my eProductivity consulting practice.

Now, consider that the issue was not about doors, but about doorways to information. What if management decided to greatly limit how employees accessed the information they needed to get their job done, simply in reaction to a problem?

What if management looked at the problem differently, with the objective of finding a way to solve it in a context that allows people to get the information that they need, when they need it, and where they need it, while at the same time, addressing security and information integrity concerns that management may have? Wouldn't that be more productive?

Ever heard of the "Shoot the messenger" syndrome, where the bearer of bad news gets executed for reporting the news?  (Nevermind that it was his job).  

In this case, the messenger is the collaborative tool or process and the shooting is done by creating policies counterproductive to knowledge work.

I never cease to be amazed at the new and creative ways that management can find to kill collaboration or squash productivity by overreacting to a problem encountered.

I'm preparing for an upcoming speech and I would like to collect some real-life examples of how bad policy decisions by management have killed collaboration. I invite you to post your stories here. Feel free to do so anonymously, if you wish. I'm just looking for examples.

Discussion/Comments (6):

HG (): 8/27/2007 10:20:05 PM
Tell them you don’t care

So, I've got one:

Tell your employees you could fire them any time you want, that you really don't need them, and that your business would probably be better off if they were not there.

I actually worked for a company where the principal let us know about a "let's-work-together-killer!"

Stephane Cheikh ( 8/28/2007 2:46:05 AM
How to kill collaboration & productivity with bad policy

Very interesting subject/question indeed.

First of all, I am not sure I would ever want to work or continue to work in a company where bad policy decisions by management would kill collaboration.

From my experience, I usually notice companies that DO NOT offer its employees ways and tools to collaborate and increase productivity.

Now if there are existing tools or if a company is in the process of implementing collaboration tool, within or around the corporate Intranet, I find very difficult that on the other hand it another group would create policies counterproductive to knowledge work.

I think that if you are in the process of implementing collaboration tool, you have to do your due diligence, run trough the politics, make sure you have the right support from management for better adoption.

My point – if bad policy decisions by management are killing collaboration, I’ve seen that genuine collaboration users will find another tool that is not under IT management – without any policies and will use that instead of using the official corporate tool(s).

As an example, where I use to work, there was a small community of developers with the need for a BLOG/WIKI tool. Although they had asked many times our IT group to provide something, this IT group was neither ready nor interested in investing on such a tool so this small community of developers bought a BLOG/WIKI tool and service (ASP model) and started using it quite extensively.

KG (): 8/28/2007 1:34:07 PM
How to kill collaboration & productivity with bad policy

I once worked for a government agency that had a stated goal of increasing knowledge sharing. We implemented message boards and got buy in from key managers who would "tend" the messages. The idea was that this would be a place for employees to post situations and receive feedback on how to deal with those situations. THe employees had to deal with years of changing regs, laws and formulas and so figuring out what to do in an unusual case could be a challenge. They already did this to a certain extent in face to face interactions.

However, we wanted to be able to have a way to store these solutions and share them beyond just 2 or 3 employees.

We had a few posts and that was fine. Then, an employee posted a response that was not a complete response. It was not *wrong* but it didn't include some information that the asker needed. Management's reaction? Shut down the thread! There's an error out there, what if someone follows that advice! We can't have that!

Thus, they killed an effort that could have been useful. Instead of *using* the situation to teach the fully correct response they thought that shutting the thread down and removing the answer would solve something. Once the employees saw a message removed w/o any explanation -- the message boards died.

G. Smith (): 8/28/2007 2:27:31 PM
A manager posted that an idea was dumb - killed all collaboration

KG Wrote: "Once the employees saw a message removed w/o any explanation -- the message boards died."

We had a similar situation. Our company uses Lotus Notes for discussion databases. They work great for distributed collaboration. Unfortunately, one of our managers posted in response to a user suggestion "...that's a dumb idea." As in your case, KG, the discussion forum died. A terrible waste of thousands of dollars of investment. A huge cost to the company, too, as I suspect that may people kept their ideas to themselves thereafter.

Kelly (): 8/31/2007 12:16:54 PM
How to kill collaboration & productivity with bad policy

Overly aggressive email deletion policies without giving employees any other means for archiving useful data. What happens is that legacy information is lost and people just recreate what could have been saved. I understand the legal concerns some companies have when enforcing these rules, but what can happen is that is swings so far into deleting the past that the future is just spent recreating it.

Eric Mack ( 8/31/2007 12:17:38 PM
How to kill collaboration & productivity with bad policy

A few years ago, I visited a very large Lotus Notes client with tens of thousands of Notes users. Unfortunately, they had implemented a terribly unproductive policy: to automatically delete everything in the email in-box after 30 days - this included calendar and tasks. <br> When I went to show the users all the things they could do with Notes, they interrupted me and said that they would never use Notes to record their tasks or appontments because they did not trust Lotus Notes. So, rather than using a very capable system to get things done, they resorted to paper, external web apps, or personal solutions. This, of course, was not a Notes problem but a problem of bad policy. Even though management had invested in an excellent system a poorly thought out policy crippled it.

What a waste of a powerful tool.

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