Green Beans and Communications Failure

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Saturday was our youngest grandson's second birthday party. My job, during the short drive to the party, was to hold the green bean dish that would be popped into the oven at our daughter's house. All went well until we were within a couple of blocks.

Out of sight, beneath the tin foil, lurked a lot of liquid. A hard right turn sent it and a few beans flowing over the side of the dish and on to my clean khakis. I learned instantly that green beans are not a fashion accessory.

Why didn't my wife warn me about the liquid? She thought I knew it was there. After all, we've had this dish many times.

Why didn't I ask? I didn't think there was anything to ask about. Perhaps next time I'll ask, "Does danger lurk in this dish?"

I've just described why many communications failures happen. Neither party thinks there's a need to communicate something that later turns out to be either important or messy.

After decades in business and life, I can assure you that you will never be able to think of all the times you should give a warning or ask a question. Not only that, if you try to cover all the bases all the time you will become that pain that everyone wants to avoid.

The key to handling these inevitable communications breakdowns is to realize that they will happen and that the important thing is what you do next. Usually anything that involves a raised voice, a pointed finger, or an accusation is a poor choice.

Boss's Bottom Line

Communication breakdowns will happen. Usually no one will be negligent or malicious and the best thing to do is just get on with things.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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  • 12/15/2011 10:01 AM david k waltz wrote:

    I have had a very similar experience with Green Bean casserole - we bring Sweet Potatoes to the party's now!

    I fully agree with the point that every conceivable communication activity will not occur, because nobody is perfect, and we therefore need to exercise tolerance.

    I have seen this used in a negative way during projects. There is always one department or group in the organization who raises the spectre that they were not communicated with, and their questions were not asked or answered, or their concerns addressed, or the project neglected to include critical information.

    In almost every situtation where this occurs, it seems like the department that does not want to change is the one laying this charge, so it is a subtle monkey wrench in the projects objectives.

    Any recommendation as to how to transmit the inevitability of communication breakdowns in a manner that heads off this type of sabotage?
    Reply to this
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